Two weeks ago we asked how pills that safely “make people nicer by increasing their patience and empathy” should be regulated. Of the more than 250 people who voted, two thirds endorsed wide access to such drugs. (We will be sponsoring a conference at NYU in two weeks to discuss the topic of moral enhancement.)
One of the most vexing questions for technoprogressives and transhumanists is how to maintain the hard-won gains toward political equality among citizens as we become more diverse in our bodies and abilities. Francis Fukuyama pointed to the challenge in Our Posthuman Future, and Nicholas Agar addressed the issue in Humanity’s End. Technoprogressives believe that an expanded transhuman solidarity is possible if enhancement is made widely and equitably available, and if we we fight for a society committed to the rights of all persons. But it won’t be easy. In this story David Brin reflects on political and even theological challenges of the advent of a society with radical enhancement.
A scientific study has now confirmed what many women have known for ages, which is that certain types of exercise can induce orgasm. Indiana University health researchers Debby Herbernick and Dennis Fortenberry have just conducted a study of hundreds of women who report “exercise induced orgasms” (EIO), or “coregasms.”
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Joel Rudinow who teaches Philosophy and Humanities at Santa Rosa Junior College. He is also author of Invitation to Critical Thinking. The topic of the interview is about the Posthuman mind and how critical thinking applies to such a concept. We discuss important issues from whether or not the Posthuman will be friendly to the evolution of critical thinking.
There is a domain of creatures that diffusively encircles an entire planet. There are so many of them that they occupy every conceivable ecological niche. Yet, despite their countless numbers they are so in tune with their local ecology that they have become an intrinsic part of it. Those that live in rural locations greatly outnumber those that inhabit strange cites, which are gregarious, smart and even have their own personalities. The cities consider themselves as being independent from their inhabitants, yet share their nutrition with them. They have a diurnal waste cycle that removes debris and also makes room for a new influx of city dwellers. Mature cities can even reproduce to make new ones that are immediately available for the city inhabitants to colonize.
Fear this? Mutant, homicidal wasps employed as border guards. Eavesdropping optimized birds spying on civilian activists. Hybrid human/beasts annihilating drafted youths on reality TV. All this DNA mayhem, and more, occurs in the bestsellers by Suzanne Collins, who replays an ancient device utilized in the classic myth of the Minotaur, a bull-man fusion that lurked in the Labyrinth of Crete.
Although I have used a version of utilitarianism to argue for both transhumanism and social democracy, and for the technoprogressive hybrid of the two, research in hedonic psychology and emerging neurotechnologies make utilitarianism an unattractive moral logic. Instead, I now argue that a version of Sen and Nussbaum’s capabilities approach better supports the technoprogressive endeavor. The capabilities approach argues for both social and technological enablement of human abilities. When the capabilities approach is combined with the idea that virtues are social capabilities, one conclusion is that “moral enhancement,” the use of neurotechnologies to enhance moral sentiment, cognition and behavior, is a social obligation. A schema of virtues to be enhanced, and relevant therapeutic morally enhancing neurochemicals, are discussed.
Depending on how you want to think about it, it was funny or inevitable or symbolic that the robotic takeover did not start at MIT, NASA, Microsoft or Ford. It started at a Burger-G restaurant in Cary, NC on May 17, 2010. It seemed like such a simple thing at the time, but May 17 marked a pivotal moment in human history.
Creatine is quickly becoming one of my favorite supplements, and not just because of the way it helps me in the gym. It’s been shown that creatine can also be used as a nootropic and as a way to stave off potential neurodegeneration. Because earlier reports of damage to the kidneys and liver by creatine supplementation have now been scientifically refuted, creatine is becoming increasingly accepted as a powerful and multi-faceted daily supplement.
These medical breakthroughs aren’t necessarily transhumanist in nature, but they certainly all contribute to the general goal of better healthcare and are but a few steps away from some truly amazing technologies. So, without further ado, the Top 10 Medical Stories in My Queue:
Piracetam has been around since the 1960’s and is regarded as a pioneer “smart drug.” It enjoys a popular, international following, its record as a treatment for cognitive disorders is impressive, and scientific exams haven’t flagged any dangerous side effects. But is Piracetam truly the intelligence booster many of us eagerly want?
I think abortion should be allowed. And I think prenatal harm (especially that caused by ingesting various legal and illegal substances while pregnant) should not be allowed. Some accuse me of hypocrisy or, more accurately, maintaining a contradictory position: either women have the right to control what happens to their bodies or they don’t. No problem. Women, and men, have that right except when it causes harm to someone else: I can move my arms any way I want except straight into your face.
What is more intimate to each person than the very skin of the body - the sensuous touch, taste and smell of our skin? The skin, visible and exposed, displays our character and emotions. Yet, it is hidden and private as it covers the curves and creases of our bodies and responds to each breath, sigh and quiver.
These words are being written from the veranda of a small house in an African valley, in the hour just before dawn. In the past week I’ve met people from Pakistan, Great Britain, Iraq, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries, as well as South Africans from all backgrounds. And they’ve all asked me the same thing: What’s going to happen with the Occupy movement?
I watched George Carey‘s film “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” aired by the BBC last year on the 50th Yuri’s Night. The one-hour film is recommended to all those who are interested in space, the history of the Russian space program, the amazing beautiful philosophy known as Russian Cosmism (and, more recently, just Cosmism), our place and future in the universe, technological immortality and resurrection.
The most interesting event at SXSW I heard of was: “Robot panelists, AI and the future of identity,” with Bruce Duncan, Managing Director of the Terasem Movement Foundation, bringing us up to date on Terasem’s amazing LifeNaut project.
Our built environment doesn’t have to be static. With the right synthetic biology, it can respond automatically to changes in temperature or moisture level, and even react to natural disasters, hunkering down during earthquakes or removing toxins after a toxic spill.
It has been suggested by Peg Tittle in her recent article that the prefixes Ms. and Mr. be abandoned, on the grounds that they reinforce discrimination between sexes. What this and most other contemporary debates about gender might be missing, however, is that the whole concept of gender may be about to go the way of the dodo.
We have faith, even the most atheist among us. Our faith is not necessarily explicit or associated with “God”, and hopefully it’s not irrational or dogmatic. Yet we must trust, and we do trust, to the extent that we act, speak or even think. In the least, we trust in the possibility of meaning, even if it’s no more than something like a hope for or will toward a primitive connectivity or a basic cooperation within experience.
David Pearce, in his Hedonistic Imperative, believes that through such technological manipulations as genetic engineering, better drugs, and precise stimulation of various localities in the brain, human beings (just for starters) can live in a sort-of paradise in which all unpleasant states of consciousness have been banished to the old “Darwinian Era.” These new-found paradisical brain-states will exist within the context of an advanced, nanotechnologized society in which oppressive external conditions have also been eliminated.
While the world turned its attention to the frightening prospects of a nuclear catastrophe in post-tsunami Japan, another crisis was being dealt with, quietly, humbly, and with pragmatic determination.
Professor Sylvia Law, a noted legal scholar, argued that “a core feminist claim is that women and men should be treated as individuals, not as members of a sexually determined class.” This is also a theme that Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphasized in her lawsuits as a women’s rights advocate: “Nurturing children in my ideal world would not be a woman’s priority, it would be a human priority.” This feminism rejects sex-based differences among people as wholly irrelevant to any socioeconomic purpose. As Simone de Beauvoir noted some four decades ago: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”