The Obama administration’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues held a session on the ethical issues of cognitive enhancement, as part of the ethical, social, legal issues wing of the federal BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative. IEET co-founder and author of the new bestseller SuperIntelligence, Nick Bostrom was one of four asked to testify. His comments focused on the importance of ensuring egalitarian access to and benefits from cognitive enhancement.
The growth of our empathetic ability may have been key for the growth of civilization, and civilization may have selected for it. Two social policies that we can implement today to further empathy are reducing inequality, and screening and treating autism and psychopathy.
This book offers a colossal synthesis of history, biology, philosophy, psychology and neurophysiology. Surprisingly, the latter is the least plausible region of the book (we still know too little about the book). But by mixing historical facts and evolutionary theories and using a bit of logical thinking, Pinker comes up with great insights into human nature. Pinker synthesizes the work of (literally) hundreds of thinkers and researchers and draws his own original conclusions.
Without clear rules for cyberwarfare, technology workers could find themselves fair game in enemy attacks and counterattacks. If they participate in military cyberoperations—intentionally or not—employees at Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Sprint, AT&T, Vodaphone, and many other companies may find themselves considered “civilians directly participating in hostilities” and therefore legitimate targets of war, according to the legal definitions of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.
The police response to protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri were filled with images that have become commonplace all over the world in the last decade. Police dressed in once futuristic military gear confronting civilian protesters as if they were a rival army. The uniforms themselves put me in mind of nothing so much as the storm-troopers from Star Wars. I guess that would make the rest of us the rebels.
Continuing our series on co-veillance, sousveillance and general citizen empowerment, on our streets… last time we discussed our right and ability to use new instrumentalities to expand our ability to view, record and hold others accountable, with the cameras in our pockets.
Empathy draws on both mammalian circuits that we share with other animals and cognitive abilities that only appear to be present in our closest relatives, the great apes and and cetaceans, and ourselves. As with happiness and self-control, there is strong evidence that differences in our capacity for compassion and empathy are tied to differences in the brain structures and neurochemistries that they depend on.
Our economy is broken. There’s one economy for the wealthy, and another for the rest of us. This division has been worsened by the behavior of corporate executives who manage their corporations for short-term personal gain rather than for long-term fiscal soundness.
This isn’t a complete review of Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence (2014), but a summary of the thoughts that came to my mind while and after reading the book. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (2014) opens with a cautionary fable: a group of sparrows consider finding an owl to assist and protect them. Only the more cautious sparrows see the danger – that the owl may eat them all if they don’t find out how to tame an owl first – and Bostrom dedicates the book to them (and of course to the cautious humans afraid that superintelligent life forms may destroy humanity if we don’t find out how to control them first).
Last week, I published a guest post at Wired UK called It's Time to Consider Restricting Human Breeding. It was an opinion article that generated many commentary stories, over a thousand comments across the web, and even a few death threats for me.
“This year alone, there have been 17,000 cases of meningitis in Nigeria, with nearly 1,000 deaths”. It’s a statement that jumped out at me watching a video from this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival by my former University of Michigan Public Health student Utibe Effiong.
The paper tries to fuse traditional concerns about the problem of evil with recent work in population ethics. The result is an interesting, and somewhat novel, atheological argument. As is the case with every journal club, I will try to kick start the discussion by providing an overview of the paper’s main arguments, along with some questions you might like to ponder about its effectiveness.