What makes a Seattle mother spend her days trying to chip away at Bible belief rather than digging holes in the garden?
When my husband sent me the Pew Report news that the percent of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped from 78.4 to 70.6 over the last 7 years, I responded jokingly with six words: You’re welcome. Molly Moon’s after dinner?
Not that I actually claim credit for the decline. As they say, it takes a village.
The founding of the Transhumanist Party of the United States, the intensifying of the U.S. BRAIN-Initiative and the start of Google’s project “Ending death” were important milestones in the year 2014, and potential further steps towards “transhumanist” politics. The most significant development was that the radical international technology community became a concrete political force, not by chance starting its global political initiative in the U.S. According to political scientist and sociologist Roland Benedikter, research scholar at the University of California at Santa Barbara, “transhumanist” politics has momentous growth potential but with uncertain outcomes. The coming years will probably see a dialogue between humanism and transhumanism in—and about—most crucial fields of human endeavor, with strong political implications that will challenge, and could change the traditional concepts, identities and strategies of Left and Right.
Here’s the question: does the existence of life in the universe reflect something deep and fundamental or is it merely an accident and epiphenomenon? There’s an interesting new theory coming out of the field of biophysics that claims the cosmos is indeed built for life, and not just merely in the sense found in the so-called “anthropic principle” which states that just by being here we can assume that all of nature’s fundamental values must be friendly for complex organisms such as ourselves that are able to ask such questions. The new theory makes the claim that not just life, but life of ever growing complexity and intelligence is not just likely, but the inevitable result of the laws of nature.
THIS IS MY RESPONSE TO THE EDGE QUESTION OF A FEW YEARS BACK: WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? MY ANSWER: The intrinsic beauty and elegance of mathematics allows it to describe nature. Many believe this seeming axiom, that beauty leads to descriptive power. Our experience seems to show this, mostly from the successes of physics. There is some truth to it, but also some illusion.
I had the good fortune to be asked back on to the Robot Overlordz podcast this week. I am the guest on episode #163 during which I chat with the hosts (Mike Johnston and Matt Bolton) about the ethical, legal and social implications of sex robots. We also talk about related issues from the world of AI and futurism.
Novelty and nanotechnology are deeply intertwined. The search for nanostructure-enabled materials has driven research funding in nanotechnology for well over a decade now; the exploitation of novel properties has underpinned the commercialization of nanomaterials; and concerns over potential risks has stimulated widespread studies into what makes these materials harmful. Yet ‘novelty’ is an ephemeral quality, and despite its close association with nanotechnology, it may be an unreliable guide to ensuring the long-term safety of materials that emerge from the field. If this is the case, do we need to find alternative approaches to developing advanced materials and products that are safe by design?
For the first time in U.S. history, a supreme court has granted a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two lab chimpanzees, effectively recognizing them as legal persons. While the future of the chimps has not yet been decided, it’s a huge step forward in establishing personhood status for highly sapient animals.
An advanced artificial intelligence (a “superintelligence”) could pose a significant existential risk to humanity. Several research institutes have been set-up to address those risks. And there is an increasing number of academic publications analysing and evaluating their seriousness. Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies represents the apotheosis of this trend. In this article, I argue that in defending the credibility of AI risk, Bostrom makes an epistemic move that is analogous to one made by so-called sceptical theists in the debate about the existence of God. And while this analogy is interesting in its own right, what is more interesting is its potential implication. It has been repeatedly argued that sceptical theism has devastating effects on our beliefs and practices. Could it be that AI-doomsaying has similar effects? I argue that it could. Specifically, and somewhat paradoxically, I argue that it could lead to either a reductio of the doomsayers position, or an important and additional reason to join their cause. I use this paradox to suggest that the modal standards for argument in the superintelligence debate need to be addressed.
Are there ideas which could prove so incendiary, and so provocative, that it would be better to shut them down? Should some concepts be permanently locked into a Pandora’s box, lest they fly off and cause too much chaos in the world?
Recently the journal Nature published a paper arguing that the year in which the Anthropocene, the proposed geological era in which the collective actions of the human species started to trump other natural processes in terms of their impact, began in the year 1610 AD. If that year leaves you, like it did me, scratching your head and wondering what your missed while you dozed off in your 10th grade history class, don’t worry, because 1610 is a year in which nothing much happened at all. In fact, that’s why the author’s chose it.
Recently, I tuned in to watch a 60 Minutes television story on a experimental cancer treatment being tested that was being hailed as near miraculous. As I saw the face of one white patient after another white patient who was cured by injecting the polio virus into a brain tumor, I started to wonder: where are all the black people? Or Hispanics or Asians? It brought to mind the popular campaign and twitter hashtag, Black Lives Matter
Did a recent graphic by the anti-gay, pro-religious-freedom American Family Association make their intentions a little too clear? The American Family Association (AFA) proudly describes itself as one of the largest and most effective “pro-family” organizations in the United States. This doesn’t mean that AFA advocates for healthcare or paid family leave or family planning or education funding or laws that protect abused children, or aid to dependent children, or other evidence based services that promote family flourishing. Nope; it means they use their legal clout and broadcast media to oppose gay rights in places like Indiana, obstruct access to abortion care, repeal universal healthcare, and defund public services and regulations.
I’ve seen some pieces in the media lately questioning this, so allow me to point to some facts based on real-world data. tl;dr: We’ll probably never power the world entirely on solar, but if we did, it would take a rather small fraction of the world’s land area: Less than 1 percent of the Earth’s land area to provide for current electricity needs.
Despite the power of incumbency, the backing of President Obama, and an array of wealthy and powerful backers, Rahm Emanuel nevertheless became the first mayor in Chicago history to be forced into a runoff. Sure, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia’s defeat was a setback for the left, but Emanuel’s struggle to retain his office is a warning for politicians everywhere: Corporate Democrats are likely to find themselves on the defensive in 2016 and beyond.
Money has long fascinated me, and not for the obvious reasons. Although I’d like to have more of it, my interest is largely philosophical. It is the ontology of money that has always disturbed me. Ever since I was a child, collecting old coins and hoarding my pocket money, I’ve wondered why it is that certain physical tokens can function as money and others cannot. What is money made from? What is it grounded in? Why do certain monetary systems fail and others succeed?
We have previously announced that the Transhumanist Party will be supporting an independent candidate in the UK national elections next month, and are now glad to announce that this will be a founding party member, Alexander Karran, in the seat of Liverpool Walton.
When Crystal O’Connor, the owner of an Indiana pizza parlor said she wouldn’t cater a gay wedding because she is a Christian, the story went viral. Not surprisingly, one immediate response was derision: “What gay couple would have pizza catered at their wedding?” “Wedding pizza—is that a thing in Indiana?”But not all comments and reactions were good humored, and daunted by an outpouring of indignation, hostility and sarcastic Yelp reviewsand pro-gay anti-religion photos, Memories Pizza closed their doors, saying they might not reopen. Some on the Left relished the thought that bigotry might have a tangible pocketbook price.
They are glib and superficially charming. They have a grandiose sense of self worth. They are often pathological liars and routinely engage in acts of cunning and manipulation. If they do something wrong, they are without remorse.
Let's say that you have children, and you would like to help them learn computer programming at a youngish age. As the father of four kids, I have tried to approach it from several different angles. What I would like to do here is collect some ideas for parents who are looking for different options.
You would be writers out there, of both fiction and nonfiction! Have a look at George Orwell's wonderful advice to writers of English prose—Politics and the English Language. It is 95% spot on — valuable for those who want to communicate, instead of being pompous!
Blockchains are a new form of information technology that could have several important future applications. They could be an explosive operational venue for new kinds of autonomous agents like DACs, distributed autonomous corporations. A DAC is a corporation run without any human involvement through a set of business rules based in software code. It is called a ‘corporation’ because it typically engages in corporate operations like fundraising, providing services, and making profits for shareholders. Blockchains are a software protocol upon which digital cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin run.
Transhumanism has historically been an effectively apolitical movement, focussed on technological improvement of the human condition. While some political obstacles to that goal have been recognised, Transhumanists’ political views have traditionally covered a broad range, making the emergence of a unified Political Transhumanism seem highly problematic. A paradigm shift appears to have occurred in 2014, with the establishment of the Transhumanist Party in the USA by Zoltan Istvan. Subsequently a number of related groups have rapidly appeared around the world, in an entire new movement dedicated to the idea of Political Transhumanism, with the Transhumanist Party as its primary vehicle in any given country.
Freedom to discriminate with impunity? It’s worse than that. Almost universally, the religious freedom claims pursued in the U.S. over the last two decades seek the freedom to do harm, most often the freedom to harm queers, women, children or religious outsiders or our secular government institutions.
I hear expressions like “I don’t see race” or “I’m color-blind” a lot from people who want to ignore the issues of structural power imbalance or privilege in race issues. The same people are fond of equating racism to simple bigotry; by this standard, white bigotry against blacks and black bigotry against whites are equally “racist.” “Racism” is just a matter of individual attitude, not structural power or history, and the only thing needed to fix it is to get people’s heads in a better space.