Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies



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



UPCOMING EVENTS: Security

“A Dangerous Master” by Wendell Wallach (Lecture & Book Signing)
May 5-
Connecticut Science Center | Downtown Hartford, CT


Wendell Wallach @ Connecticut Science Center
May 5
Connecticut Science Center


Star Trek Symposium @ Malta
July 16-17
Malta


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




MULTIMEDIA: Security Topics

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!

Life After Extinction: Posthuman Enhancements for a Neo-Human Species

Why Apple is Rejecting FBI’s Request for Universal Access to iPhones

Capitalism will eat democracy—unless we speak up

Cloud-Brained Humanoid Robots Are Right around the Corner

More Than Star Dust, We’re Made of the Big Bang Itself

Shape-shifting tech will change work as we know it

A delightful way to teach kids about computers




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Security Topics




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.

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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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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System safeguards for A.I. are unlikely to make any difference

by Khannea Suntzu

A decade ago AI research wasn’t as hot as it is now. But right now, in 2016 AI is very much a profitable endeavor. Many now argue that with regards to AI there is a risk for: (a) mass unemployment, (b) mass political destabilization (for instance mass-abuse of intelligent drones by terrorists), or even (c) a hard take-off of self-improving AI triggering a so-called “singularity”, which (in very short) is something we might simplified describe as “a point beyond we don’t have a clue what happens next”.

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‘I’m Glad the Future Doesn’t Need Us’ - Bill Joy’s Pessimistic Futurism

by John G. Messerly

In his well-known piece, “Why the future doesn’t need us,” Bill Joy argues that 21st century technologies—genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechnology (GNR)—will extinguish human beings as we now know them, a prospect he finds deeply disturbing. I find his arguments deeply flawed and critique each of them in turn.

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Summary of Michio Kaku’s, Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century

by John G. Messerly

Michio Kaku (1947 – ) is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York of City University of New York. He is the co-founder of string field theory and a popularizer of science. He earned his PhD in physics from the University of California-Berkeley in 1972.



A New Doomsday Argument

by Phil Torres

I want to elaborate briefly on an issue that I mentioned in a previous article for the IEET, in which I argue (among other things) that we may be systematically underestimating the overall probability of annihilation. The line of reasoning goes as follows:

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Summary of Marshall Brain’s, “The Day You Discard Our Bodies”

by John G. Messerly

Marshall Brain (1961 – ) is an author, public speaker, and entrepreneur. He earned an MS in computer science from North Carolina State University where he taught for many years, and is the founder of the website HowStuffWorks, which was sold in 2007 to Discovery Communications for $250,000,000.



Cyberspace is the Child of the Industrial Age - Defining it as Independent is Nonsense

by Woody Evans

In February, 1996, John Perry Barlow (of Grateful Dead, Electronic Frontier Foundation, etc.) declared cyberspace to be independent of states and their industries, economies, and politics.  He was wrong.  “Cyberspace” (and we’ll use the same term here, for what it’s worth) is an expression of fleshly and natural and mechanical processes; it is derived from human politics and industry, and it cannot be independent of it.

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Transcending Overpopulation With a Bionic Future

by B. J. Murphy

Recently, in response to the article, “Humai’s Vision of the World of Tomorrow,” I was asked an excellent question by Jaspreet Saluja; he asked: Why would the govt. want to allow HUMAI, given the unsustainable population that it will bring given that nobody dies?

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Why Stopping Killer Robots Is A Battle Worth Fighting

by Daniel Faggella

In the 1980s, the movies Terminator and Robocop introduced the world to the concept of the killer robot. While those films and others represented the peak of science fiction for many in the 80s and 90s, in reality, the militarization of robots and development of automated weapons systems has been going on for more than 15 years, according to Researcher and Activist Noel Sharkey. That buildup of weapons, he believes, poses a great danger to society.

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Justice-Related Objections to Effective Altruism

by John Danaher

This post is the first substantive entry in my series about effective altruism. In a previous post, I offered a general introduction to the topic of effective altruism (EA) and sketched out a taxonomy of the main objections to the practice. In that post, I adopted a ‘thick’ definition of EA, which holds that one ought to do the most good one can do, assuming a welfarist and consequentialist approach to ethics, and favouring evidentially robust policy interventions.

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