Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view



UPCOMING EVENTS: Security

Robotic Online Short Film Festival
November 20
Universidad Elche, Spain


Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work Conference
December 5-6
Rice University, Houston, Texas




MULTIMEDIA: Security Topics

Why Drone Operators, Non-Combat Soldiers, and Peace Corps Volunteers Get PTSD

Apple Hasn’t Lost Its Simplicity without Steve Jobs

The Internet Is Still Brand New. Maybe That’s Why We’re All Fighting

Bionic Ear Cuffs Could Stop Soldier Hearing Loss, Save VA Hospitals $1 Billion

Evan Selinger on Algorithmic Outsourcing and the Value of Privacy

The Ethics of A.I. on the Battlefield Are Less Clear-Cut Than You Might Think

Will World War 3 Be Prevented Because of Global Interdependence?

The Rise of A.I., Shifting Economies, and Corporate Consciousness Will Define the Future

A glimpse of the future through an augmented reality headset

This computer will grow your food in the future

Talk Nation Radio: Gregory Shupak on the Case Against Bombing ISIS

Meet the dazzling flying machines of the future

Terrorists Might Be Dumb, but They’re Tech-Savvy

SETI and the Computational Universe

How I started a sanitary napkin revolution!




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Security Topics




Transparent Smart Chargepoints and the Internet of Things

by Thijs Turèl

On the 25 of September Marcelo Rinesi published his article ‘The Price for the Internet of Things will be a vague dread of a malicious world’. With this response, I want to take on the implicit challenge he poses. How can we build an internet of things that will not fill us with dread? This article will present my ideas on a ‘transparent smart chargepoint’. Let me explain what I mean by this. ‘Chargepoint’ refers to the device that is designed for charging for electric cars. ‘Smart’ refers to the fact that the chargepoint optimizes the charging process on various variables – such as the price of electricity, the congestion on the electricity grid. ‘Transparent’ means that it is designed to be open as open as possible about the algorithms that run it.



Transhumanisme et écologie

by Marc Roux

Le mois de décembre 2015 a vu la signature d’un accord dit « universel », par 195 pays, et qui marquera peut-être un tournant dans la manière dont les humains envisagent collectivement leur rapport à la Terre. Les technoprogressistes pourront s’en réjouir à double titre. D’une part il doit permettre de mieux affronter les immenses défis que nous imposent les crises climatiques, mais d’autre part, loin d’un écologisme fondamentaliste, il reconnaît, dans son article 10, « l’importance qu’il y a à donner pleinement effet à la mise au point et au transfert de technologies de façon à accroître la résilience … ».



Is America on the Verge of Civil War?

by John G. Messerly

While the idea may sound absurd, it happened just a few generations ago. The industrial north and the slave-holding, agrarian south couldn’t agree on, among other things, the extension of slavery into new states, as both sides didn’t want the other to gain a congressional voting advantage. A series of compromises over many years maintained the delicate balance, but gradually the two sides became more partisan, the rhetoric more divisive, and civil discourse eventually disappeared. Soon violence would be used to adjudicate their disputes, with the south firing the first shot. Within four years 700,000 Americans were dead, thousands more injured, homeless, widowed or orphaned. If that proportion of Americans were killed today, about 8 million Americans would die. The south thought that slavery and the lifestyle it provided were worth dying and killing for … and die and kill they did.



The Machine Made me Do It: Human responsibility in an era of machine-mediated agency

by John Danaher

[This the text of a talk I’m delivering at the ICM Neuroethics Network in Paris this week]

Santiago Guerra Pineda was a 19-year old motorcycle enthusiast. In June 2014, he took his latest bike out for a ride. It was a Honda CBR 600, a sports motorcycle with some impressive capabilities. Little wonder then that he opened it up once he hit the road. But maybe he opened it up a little bit too much? He was clocked at over 150mph on the freeway near Miami Beach in Florida. He was going so fast that the local police decided it was too dangerous to chase him. They only caught up with him when he ran out of gas.



The World’s Oldest Computer May Have Been Used to Predict the Future

by George Dvorsky

Discovered in an ancient shipwreck near Crete in 1901, the freakishly advanced Antikythera Mechanism has been called the world’s first computer. A decades-long investigation into the 2,000 year-old-device is shedding new light onto this mysterious device, including the revelation that it may have been used for more than just astronomy.



Does Self-Tracking Promote Autonomy? An Initial Argument

by John Danaher

Seneca was a wealthy Roman stoic and advisor to the emperor Nero. In the third of his Letters from a Stoic, entitled ‘On True and False Friendship’, he makes the following observation:

As to yourself, although you should live in such a way that you trust your own self with nothing which you could not entrust even to your own enemy, yet, since certain matters occur which convention keeps secret, you should share with a friend at least all your worries and reflections.



What Is a Global Citizen, and Can it Save Us?

by David Swanson

Headlines this past week claimed that for the first time ever more than half of poll respondents around the world said they saw themselves more as a global citizen than as a citizen of a country. What did they mean in saying that?



A Pro- and Anti-War Dialogue

by David Swanson

Anti-War Advocate: Is there a case that can be made for war?

Pro-War Advocate: Well, yes. In a word: Hitler!



Dangers de l’IA : une prophétie auto-réalisatrice ?

by Alexandre Maurer

En 2014 et 2015, de nombreuses personnalités ont exprimé leurs craintes quant aux dangers de l’intelligence artificielle (IA) : Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Gates… Depuis, ce sujet est devenu très présent dans les médias.



MIT Journal, Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments Call for Papers

Advancements in virtual reality are not only technology driven, but actions within virtual environments implicate numerous issues in policy and law. For example, are virtual images copyrightable? Is the speech produced by a virtual avatar afforded rights under the U.S. and other Constitutions? How does criminal law relate to actions performed within virtual environments, or contract law apply to the lease and sale of virtual objects? These and other questions form the theme for this special issue. Legal scholars and practitioners from the U.S. and other jurisdictions are encouraged to submit.

See CFP here.

Link to Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments



The Ethics of Intimate Surveillance (1)

by John Danaher

Intimate Surveillance’ is the title of an article by Karen Levy - a legal and sociological scholar currently-based at NYU. It shines light on an interesting and under-explored aspect of surveillance in the digital era. The forms of surveillance that capture most attention are those undertaken by governments in the interests of national security or corporations in the interests of profit.



The Habit of Thought That Made U.S. #1 in Prisons and Wars

by David Swanson

I’m going to start with a few brief opening remarks about what I think is the habit of thought that has made the United States #1 in the world in prisons and wars. And then I’ll be glad to try to answer as many questions as you think of. These remarks will be published online at American Herald Tribune.



Predictability and Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS)

by Wendell Wallach

Does predictability provide an overriding concept and perhaps a metric for evaluating when LAWS are acceptable or when they might be unacceptable under international humanitarian law? Arguably, if the behavior of an autonomous weapon is predictable, deploying it might be considered no different from, for example, launching a ballistic missile. This, of course, presumes that we can know how predictable the behavior of a specific autonomous weapon will be.



Blockchains and the Emergence of a Lex Cryptographia

by John Danaher

Here’s an interesting idea. It’s taken from Aaron Wright and Primavera de Filippi’s article ‘Decentralized Blockchain Technology and the Rise of Lex Cryptographia’. The article provides an excellent overview of blockchain technology and its potential impact on the law. It ends with an interesting historical reflection. It suggests that the growth of blockchain technology may give rise to a new type of legal order: a lex cryptographia. This is similar to how the growth in international trading networks gave rise to a lex mercatoria and how the growth in the internet gave rise to a lex informatica.



Bruce Sterling urges us not to panic, just yet

by Rick Searle

My favorite part about the SXSW festival comes at the end. For three decades now the science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling has been giving some of the most insightful (and funny) speeches on the state of technology and society. In some sense this year’s closing remarks were no different, and in others they represented something very new.

Full Story...



Nuclear Waste Pollution is an Existential Risk that Threatens Global Health

by Margaret Morris

Deadly environmental pollution has become an existential risk that threatens the prospect for the long-term survival of our species and a great many others. Here we will focus on the nuclear waste aspect of the problem and ways to mitigate it before there is a critical tipping point in our global ecosystem.

As philosopher Nick Bostrom said in his 2001 paper titled “Existential Risks,” published in the Journal of Evolution and Technology, “Our future, and whether we will have a future at all, may well be determined by how we deal with these challenges.”1

Full Story...



“Intelligence Squared” Artificial Intelligence Debate

by Jules Hamilton

I attended the Intelligence Squared artificial intelligence debate at the 92nd St. Y’s Seven Day of Genius Festival (March 9th) and felt like I had a seat at the edge of the world.

Full Story...



Le progrès n’est plus ce qu’il était. Grandeurs et décadences des risques

by Didier Coeurnelle

A l’aube de l’histoire de l’humanité, l’intelligence de ceux qui nous ont précédés n’était probablement guère inférieure à celle du lecteur de ces lignes. Certains paléontologues pensent même que les capacités de raisonnement de nos ancêtres étaient supérieures aux nôtres.



Review of Phil Torres’ The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us About the Apocalypse

by John G. Messerly

Phil Torres’ new book The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us about the Apocalypse, is one of the most important books recently published. It offers a fascinating study of the many real threats to our existence, provides multiple insights as to how we might avoid extinction, and it is carefully and conscientiously crafted.

Full Story...



Political Delusions - Do we just rationalize our emotional decisions?

by David Brin

I’ve long maintained that humanity’s greatest gift and greatest curse are one and the same - our prodigious talent for delusion.  For believing things - passionately - that are belied by both logic and evidence. This is the wellspring of great art. Indeed, as a novelist* I cater to the desire of my own customers to - temporarily and knowingly - believe they are experiencing other realities and the thoughts of credible characters, engaged in barely plausible adventures.

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The Problem of AI Consciousness

by Susan Schneider

Some things in life cannot be offset by a mere net gain in intelligence.

The last few years have seen the widespread recognition that sophisticated AI is under development. Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and others warn of the rise of “superintelligent” machines: AIs that outthink the smartest humans in every domain, including common sense reasoning and social skills. Superintelligence could destroy us, they caution. In contrast, Ray Kurzweil, a Google director of engineering, depicts a technological utopia bringing about the end of disease, poverty and resource scarcity.

Full Story...



Who’s Afraid of Existential Risk? Or, Why It Is Time to Bring the Cold War out of the Cold

by Steve Fuller

At least in public relations terms, transhumanism is a house divided against itself. On the one hand, there are the efforts of Zoltan Istvan – in the guise of an ongoing US presidential bid — to promote an upbeat image of the movement by focusing on human life extension and other tech-based forms of empowerment that might appeal to ordinary voters. On the other hand, there is transhumanism’s image in the ‘serious’ mainstream media, which is currently dominated by Nick Bostrom’s warnings of a superintelligence-based apocalypse. The smart machines will eat not only our jobs but eat us as well, if we don’t introduce enough security measures.

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Wendell Wallach at Connecticut Science Center

IEET Fellow Wendell Wallach will be speaking at the Connecticut Science Center on May 5, 2016.

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Satoshi Roundtable: Is Bitcoin Dead due to Scalability Issues?

by Melanie Swan

Scalability was the most prominent issue discussed at the February 26-28, 2016 Satoshi Roundtable (the Bitcoin industry’s annual technical meeting).

This is expected as scalability is an ongoing issue to be resolved for any cryptocurrency to achieve mainstream adoption.

Full Story...



Will Strong AI Development Weaken or Bolster Humanity?

by Daniel Faggella

AI has come a long way since 2010. If you were to travel back in time six years and ask an artificial intelligence researcher about the future of AI, it’s likely he or she would have predicted that it would never reach its full potential as originally envisioned by its founders.

Full Story...



The Killer Drone Lovers Have Their Movie

by David Swanson

If the recent spate of anti-drone movies and plays was making you feel warm thoughts about U.S. culture, you’ll want to avoid seeing “Eye in the Sky,” starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul. This is what “Zero Dark Thirty” was for torture lies. This is what “The Interview” was for hatred of North Korea. The Director of “Eye in the Sky,” Gavin Hood, openly brags about having had military advisors on this film, just as those films had their government advisors. And it shows.

Full Story...



Why I’m Starting the First AngelList Cleantech Syndicate

by Ramez Naam

I’ve been writing and speaking about the incredible pace of solar, wind, and storage for years. I’ve been quietly investing in startups in that space as well.

Today I’m taking a new step: I’m launching an AngelList Syndicate specifically focused on investing in clean energy technology. If you’re an angel investor, I invite you to come join me.

Full Story...



Goodbye, Little Green Men

by Susan Schneider
They’re big-eyed and slight of build. They’re the grim, greenish beings that every moviegoer recognizes as aliens—the inscrutable inhabitants of a distant world. Playing supporting roles in countless films and TV shows, these hairless homunculi have become iconic.< But we've never seen a real alien. Indeed, we don't even know if real aliens exist.
this essay was co-written with Seth Shostak

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Smart machines are our allies against dumb machines

by David Orban

The trend is clearly visible: sensors, and actuators, together with computation, memory and communication capabilities, are making all the objects around us smarter and smarter. Too many times, wether we call them robots, or AIs, the trend is depicted in menacing tones, represented in the dystopian futures preferred by Hollywood movies, and shape the gut reactions of policymakers eager to please the reactionary impulses of their electorates.

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Introducing the Subfield of Agential Riskology

by Phil Torres

The field of Existential Risk Studies has, to date, focused largely on risk scenarios involving natural phenomena, anthropogenic phenomena, and a specific type of anthropogenic phenomenon that one could term “technogenic.” The first category includes asteroid/comet impacts, supervolcanoes, and pandemics. The second encompasses climate change and biodiversity loss. And the third deals with risks that arise from the misuse and abuse of advanced technologies, such as nuclear weapons, biotechnology, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence.

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