Saturday, April 03, 2004

Techno-reality check

"In response to these views, the dissidents wrote a manifesto calling for 'techno-realism' and calling themselves techno-realists. This manifesto—instantly given its own World Wide Web site at http://www.technorealism.org/—rejects the 'louder voices at the extremes' in favor of a more balanced consensus, a 'fertile middle ground between techno-utopianism and neo-Luddism.'"

—Edward Rothstein, "A rather benign declaration on the Internet is treated as a revolutionary manifesto," The New York Times

Few people know this but the Montreal Transhumanist Association strives to represent the technorealist wing of the democratic transhumanist movement.

Friday, April 02, 2004

The MARTUS Project: Human Rights Software

http://www.martus.org/

The MARTUS Project (Greek for witness) provides technology tools to assist the human rights sector collect, safeguard, organize and disseminate violation information.

Human rights groups worldwide collect massive amounts of violation data, but much of it never reaches its intended audience. Timely and accurate information is one of the most powerful weapons available to combat human rights violations. However, much of this valuable information is lost due to confiscation, destruction, or neglect or because grassroots organizations who collect the data lack the resources and infrastructure to document violations systematically.

Martus will bring the power of technology to the field by placing simple yet powerful tools into the hands of human rights defenders around the globe. With the Martus system, violation documentation will be safeguarded and disseminated, accelerating response to violations, and in some cases preventing additional abuses. Martus is not an activist organization or an urgent action network, but rather a tool that addresses the specific technological needs of the human rights community.

The Martus team has met with international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, Open Society Institute, United Nations, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, and grassroots organizations from more than a dozen countries. In addition, we have conducted market research in Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Guatemala, incorporating the recommendations of local activists into the product design.

The Martus Project consists of Open Source development of three key software components:

Ø Software that provides monitors with a simple tool to create text-based bulletins about violations and use built-in encryption to safeguard the data;

Ø A Server that accepts encrypted bulletins, securely backs them up and replicates them to multiple locations, safeguarding the information from loss; and

Ø An Amplifier that provides consumers of human rights information with access to the non-confidential portions of bulletins via the Internet.

These tools will be widely distributed to human rights monitors around the world at no charge. Martus is designed to serve the needs of both information producers and information users (international NGOs (INGOs), the media, academics, activists, etc.). Martus will replace current methods of data collection by meeting the specific needs of the human rights community and providing a level of security unprecedented in the sector.

With a grassroots-driven, Open Source application, Benetech will create critical infrastructure that no single organization could afford to develop. NGOs will benefit from secure storage and efficient organization of their central asset: information about the violations they are organized to combat. INGOs will have the opportunity to offer improved services and added value by providing quality control and analysis on the bulletins created. In addition, the many consumers of human rights data will have greater access to timely and accurate information.

Technology infrastructure provided by Martus will leverage the limited resources of the human rights sector and assist in the reduction of violations. By putting more efficient tools at the disposal of the defenders of human rights, Martus will have a significant positive impact on global society.

For more information, contact marc@benetech.org.

British National Health Service to pay for "designer saviour babies"

Yo Brits! What the frick is going on over there? I thought the HFEA forbad designer savior babies, but here the Birmingham Post says the NHS is going to start paying for them:
Six ‘designer babies’ could be created in the Midlands by the end of the year - on the National Health Service.

Desperate mums are looking to have the children so their bone marrow or cells can be used to help cure siblings of potentially fatal illnesses.

Supporters of the controversial births claim that as well as saving lives the babies will actually save the NHS millions of pounds in the long term.

But opponents say the procedures are morally “dubious” and that babies should not be made to order.

The mums are looking to have the designer babies at the Centre for Assisted Reproduction at Park Hospital in Nottingham.

Appropriate embryos are selected to create the babies after IVF treatment at the centre.

The advanced techniques have been used at the health unit twice before, but parents had to pay for the treatment themselves.

Now the controversial procedures will be funded by the NHS

More evidence Euro-socialism is better for health and longevity than US-style capitalism

I continue to be stunned by the ideological blindness of our friends the libertarian transhumanists, such as comrade Reason over at Fight Aging! who opines this week "small government is good and large government is bad" quoting extensively from some libertarian wanker to make the point that "the winner-takes-all political system," i.e. democracy, is bad for "the future of medical research, human life span and health." Well thank goodness somebody is paying attention to the empirical fact that Europeans, Canadians and the Japanese are all healthier and live longer than free-market Americans, due in large measure to powerful social democratic parties having fought for and secured greater income and wealth equality, strong public health systems, and universal health care.



Read the stunning research on anthropometrics, for instance, reviewed in the excellent article by Burkhard Bilger in The New Yorker last week. Bilger focuses on the research on human height gathered by John Komlos:
The graph in question showed the heights of American slaves, servants, soldiers, and apprentices in the early seventeen-hundreds...America was a good place to live in the eighteenth century. Game was abundant, land free for the clearing, settlement sparse enough to prevent epidemics. On Komlos’s graph, even the runaway slaves are five feet eight, and white colonists are five feet nine—a full three inches taller than the average European of the time. “So this is the eighteenth century,” Komlos said, slapping the files. “This is not problematic. It shows that Americans are well nourished. Terrific.” He reached into a cardboard folder and pulled out another series of graphs. “What is problematic is what comes next.”

Around the time of the Civil War, Americans’ heights predictably decreased: Union soldiers dropped from sixty-eight to sixty-seven inches in the mid-eighteen-hundreds, and similar patterns held for West Point cadets, Amherst students, and free blacks in Maryland and Virginia. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the country seemed set to regain its eminence. The economy was expanding at a dramatic rate, and public-hygiene campaigns were sweeping the cities clean at last: for the first time in American history, urbanites began to outgrow farmers.

Then something strange happened. While heights in Europe continued to climb, Komlos said, “the U.S. just went flat.” In the First World War, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimetres a decade, and some Asian populations several times more, yet Americans haven’t grown taller in fifty years. By now, even the Japanese—once the shortest industrialized people on earth—have nearly caught up with us, and Northern Europeans are three inches taller and rising.

The average American man is only five feet nine and a half—less than an inch taller than the average soldier during the Revolutionary War. Women, meanwhile, seem to be getting smaller. According to the National Center for Health Statistics—which conducts periodic surveys of as many as thirty-five thousand Americans—women born in the late nineteen-fifties and early nineteen-sixties average just under five feet five. Those born a decade later are a third of an inch shorter.

Just in case I still thought this a trivial trend, Komlos put a final bar graph in front of me. It was entitled “Life Expectancy 2000.” Compared with people in thirty-six other industrialized countries, it showed, Americans rank twenty-eighth in average longevity—just above the Irish and the Cypriots (the Japanese top the rankings). “Ask yourself this,” Komlos said, peering at me above his reading glasses. “What is the difference between Western Europe and the U.S. that would work in this direction? It’s not income, since Americans, at least on paper, have been wealthier for more than a century. So what is it?”...



As America’s rich and poor drift further apart, its growth curve may be headed in the opposite direction, Komlos and others say. The eight million Americans without a job, the forty million without health insurance, the thirty-five million who live below the poverty line are surely having trouble measuring up. And they’re not alone...

If the poor are pulling all of us down with them, some economists say, why didn’t Americans shoot up after the war on poverty, in the nineteen-sixties? Komlos isn’t sure. But recently he has scoured his data for people who’ve bucked the national trend. He has subdivided the country’s heights by race, sex, income, and education. He has looked at whites alone, at blacks alone, at people with advanced degrees and those in the highest income bracket. Somewhere in the United States, he thinks, there must be a group that’s both so privileged and so socially insulated that it’s growing taller. He has yet to find one.
Although inequality is bad for the health and longevity of everyone in a country, there is also substantial evidence that wealthier people are healthier and live longer, even in more equal, social democratic countries.

Now I'll grant that its hard to be an optimist about the ability of government to promote the public welfare when you live under the nakedly anti-science Bush kleptocracy, with Leon "I love death" Kass as the regime's Minister of Medical Moralism, so I'll cut Reason a little slack. But the empirical evidence is that "smash the state" isn't a good slogan for life extension advocates.

Science to build a prosperous and sustainable future for all

From EurekAlert: For two days, scientists from around the world gathered at Columbia University to examine the relationship between the human condition and the condition of the Earth. These leading experts assessed how science and technology can best be mobilized to achieve sustainable development.
This will require multilateral approaches, and a strong United Nations system, since the scale and nature of problems necessarily transcend national boundaries and require global solutions. Both rich and poor countries must heed the lessons of science and foster the benefits of under-utilized and yet-to-be developed technologies. We must support increased national and international scientific and technological efforts to achieve technological breakthroughs in energy systems, food production, health care, and water management. Read the full report STATEMENT OF THE STATE OF THE PLANET 2004: MOBILIZING THE SCIENCES TO FIGHT GLOBAL POVERTY.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Dale on embracing our queer, black, feminist brothers and sisters in faith

Dale writes:
Spend an afternoon reading the archives at http://www.afrofuturism.net and
following its links and you'll begin to get the feeling that transhumanism
by other names is definitely already happening! I agree, though, that both
as a matter of strategic organizational practicality and cultural vitality
transhumanism needs to make more active efforts at outreach. For me Octavia
Butler and Sun Ra are already transhuman exemplars so I don't think it's so
much a question of reinventing the wheel as of availing ourselves of
*conspicuous* connections we've been unaccountably slow to pick up on. I
felt a comparable perplexity when I was asked how transhumanism could find a
way to speak to queers (my answer: recognize that Oscar Wilde and Valerie
Solanas were already queers speaking to transhumanism) or to feminists (my
answer: recognize that Donna Haraway and Allucquere Rosanne Stone were
already feminists speaking to transhumanism).

So, the first thing to say is, avoid the tourist and tokenist pitfalls of
early efforts at outreach by first educating yourself
not so much about why some communities seem not to resonate to our message
but about what needs to happen for us to become sensitive to the ways in
which those communities *have* been resonating to the questions that
interest us too.

Also, I think we need to come to terms with some thorny questions:

One: Transhumanism as a secular scientific technological liberal (many
valid construals of that word!) movement has to come terms with the
spirituality of many/most traditional communities. I personally believe
that atheists (of whom I am one, remember!) and nonbelievers who see
themselves riding a wave of secularization into a more enlightened society
have to make an accommodation with traditional cultures and individual
spiritual practices that view such an attitude as literally genocidal. I
believe that the enlightenment benefits of the secularization of civil
society require only the *privatization* of spiritual practice and belief,
not the denigration or diminution of those practices and beliefs. While
this produces a kind of aestheticization of the spiritual which will still
disgruntle many believers I think the extent to which technology now
confronts communities of conflicting belief with the problem of peaceful
co-existence this privatization will finally seem reasonable to them even
without contemplating its benefits for nonbelievers like me.

Two: Transhumanism needs to recognize that the language and history and
values of technological self-improvement and self-enhancement are going to
take on genocidal and eugenic overtones no matter how careful we are, and
that the way to deal with it is to recognize *why* this is, to *always*
regard the worries as legitimate, and to respectfully work our way through
the anxieties in a sensitive and generous way *whenever* they come up.
Non-defensive, good-faith dialogue is the only way forward on this question.
Also, we need to be more alive to why flashy press releases about medicines
coming out of the rain forest or the patenting of the genetic code of
indigenous people makes our job on this front harder every damn time it
happens. History makes some things easy and some things hard. There is
simply no way around the difficulties on this one, and no way to pre-empt
them.

Three: Transhumanism needs to remember the extent to which the word "race"
is one of the ways America allows itself to talk -- to the extent that it
talks at all -- about "class". Technological development is a space of
social struggle. Technological development always involves real costs, real
risks, and real benefits. When benefits accrue disproportionately to those
who risk less or pay less this has to be part of what we talk about when we
tell ourselves the story of technological development as a story of
progress. Once we get more sophisticated about this we will be in a better
position to understand why not everybody is as optimistic about technology
as we are. I am living proof that a person can come through an engagement
with all of these painful critiques still believing absolutely in the
libertory promise of technology. A more nuanced transhumanist politics of
technological development will do wonders for outreach to communities who
currently view our hopes with suspicions and hostility. And although my own
political sensitivities are obviously liberal democratic -- I want to say
that I am certain that it is possible for a whole spectrum of transhumanist
political sensitivities (conservative to revolutionary) to speak in a more
attentive and nondismissive way to these complexities of developmental
politics in a way that will draw people into our conversation.

The Red-Green Divide Over Human Enhancement

In the excellent article "The Red-Green Divide Over Human Enhancement" Jim Pethokoukis argues today in Tech Central Station that transhumanism and the fight over human enhancement has demographics working against it. He points out that blacks and Hispanics will make up a growing proportion of the U.S. population, and that they are more religious than whites, and that the more religious are opposed to human enhancement. Therefore
it appears likely that over the coming decades both demographic and technological trends will turn America's current red-blue divide into a red-green divide (like the colors in a traffic light) -- "red" for those religious Hispanic, blacks and evangelical whites who will want to stop human enhancement, and "green" for those more secular Hispanics, blacks and whites who will want to go forward with it. And unlike abortion which is not a deciding political issue with most Hispanics and black votes -- both groups tend to vote heavily for the pro-choice Democratic party -- human enhancement will be an inescapably critical issue since it may well lead to a "post-human" race and the eventual extinction of the evolutionary dead end known as homo sapiens.
Then he notes that the X-men come up in a lot of discussions with transhumanists, and says
I thought such a metaphor was over the top until I attended a transhumanist conference last year at Yale University. In a debate with Stock, bioethicist George Annas, who favors a ban on enhancement technologies like germline engineering, stated that such laws are needed precisely to prevent "a group of super individuals who view us as defective from subjecting us to their genetic genocide." Apparently, both sides are worried about the other imposing their beliefs about technology on them. Could the inevitable political conflict over enhancement actually turn violent? Perhaps -- if you think those "small feet" of history are wearing jackboots.
Kudos to Jim on this essay and the plug for transhumanists. We need to be doing more thinking along these future-oriented political/demographic lines. However I think his thesis is wrong for a couple of reasons.

First, as he points out, blacks and Hispanics have generally supported Democrats who increasingly represent secularism in politics. In the last presidential election church attendance jumped to be one of the principal predictors of who voted for Bush v. Gore among whites, and blacks and Hispanics lined up solidly with the secular whites. I don't see that changing any time soon and it spells bad news for the Republicans. The same thing is true broadly in Europe where immigrants are generally more religious, but generally back secular social democrats against Christian Democrats and the neo-fascist right. And the rightists are generally the ones banning embryonic stem cell research and reprotech access, as in Italy, while the Social Dems are legalizing it from Norway to Spain to Sweden.

Second, and this is what underlies the dynamic above, the struggle for a more tolerant, pluralistic society, a struggle that shapes black, Hispanic and Asian politics in the US, is very closely tied to the transhumanist struggle for tolerance of individual diversity. Higher education is an even stronger driver of belief in civil liberties and diversity than ethnicity, so educated whites are more civil libertarian than less educated (and therefore more religious) blacks and hispanics. But you can see the countervailing influence of minority ties to civil libertarian whites in the debate on gay marriage: blacks are generally even more homophobic than whites, but because of strong ties built between black and gay civil rights leaders people like Coretta Scott King have come out for gay marriage.

Third, as Jim suggests, I don't think it will be very hard to make the case for longevity, enhanced well-being and a better future for their kids to whites or browns no matter how religious they are. The abstract issue of fetal and posthuman rights will certainly be religiously driven, but the practical issue of using health care will not. Rather what is likely to drive the debate about enhancement in the US is whether they are only available to the affluent, and since blacks and browns are disproportionately uninsured they are likely to be on the side of expanding universal access to the benefits of technology.

Finally, whites, browns and blacks are all becoming more secular. The National Opinion Research Center has asked a sample of Americans every year since 1972 about their religiosity. Since 1972 the percent of "nones" has risen from 5% among whites and 4% among blacks to 15% among whites and 12% among blacks in 2000 (the most recent year available online). They also asked whether the religiosity of those with a faith was "fundamentalist" "moderate" or "liberal":



Asians and Hispanics are even less likely to say that they are fundamentalist.

So I think we're still on the side of history.

GRAND THEFT AMERICA

Check it out. This should scare the bejesus out of any patriotic American:

GRAND THEFT AMERICA

Homage to Catalonia

On Monday morning I got back from Barcelona, to find Mrs Early asleep, Master Early asleep, and Zhukov (the Early dog) very much awake. Stitch and Split was interesting and worthwhile. Its poster deserves to become a classic of SF art, though even with the full-size version you may need a magnifying glass to spot some of the jokes, like the Culture ship names in tiny print, and the Giant Egg-Laying Insect, and the sunken city of Shanghai. My participation was invited, and expenses and fee paid for, by the Fundacio Antoni Tapies, to which much thanks.

I arrived in Barcelona on a rare (they say) wet weekend, so felt quite at home. It wasn't raining when I arrived, so there was no problem taking a bus in and lugging my stuff from Catalunya square to the Hotel Banys Orientals. It's a good modern hotel, where I found a handy pass for free lunches and dinners and a couple of faxes of directions from the organiser, Nuria Homs. So I left my luggage, looked at the map, and slogged off up the road a mile or so to the Fundacio Antoni Tapies, where the event was taking place.

In an auditorium under an art gallery I met three young Belgians, Laurence Rassel, Nicolas Maleve and Pierre de Jaegger, who introduced me to Nuria. Pierre took me out for a beer and we'd just got in a second when Nicolas arrived to advise us that the show was starting. Jordi Sanchev-Navarro talked about cyberpunk films. Laurence translated for me while he was talking. Every time a film clip came on - no matter how interesting or bizarre - I went out like a light, but she was too polite to comment. Every so often Laurence would break off her translation to say 'But you know this!' This was being polite too. For me it was all educational.

After the talk we went to a nearby bar and I asked Jordi if he knew of a film festival called Dead By Dawn. 'Of course,' he said. 'I know Adele!' We all talked for a bit and Laurence, who'd read all my books, asked: 'But what I want to know is, how did you become a feminist?'

This was a difficult question to answer since nobody had ever called me a feminist before.

The Belgians then took my out to a fine restaurant above a bookshop, where I ate fish. This was to become a theme of the weekend. Back at the thotel I crashed out, and woke in time for breakfast. I'd intended to wander around, and I did, as far as the rain allowed, to the foot of the Rambla (antique market, a lift up the column and a lot of photographs of Barcelona in the rain) and part of the way up. Umbrella sellers came out like mushrooms. By lunchtime I was feeling hungry and the hotel's adjacent restaurant was on the list that my card gave me a pass for, so I went back and ate fish. Out in the rain again and up La Rambla, and on to the Fundacio again, where I read, snoozed, and got ready for my talk. This involved selecting passages from my novel The Stone Canal for Laurence to photocopy for the translators, who were on hand to provide simultaneous translations over nifty skiffy radio headphones into Spanish and English, and who (in the event) did their job well. A little later, as the hall filled up, I met an enthusiastic reader, Professor Louis Lemkow, and a Spanish SF publisher (not mine) Miquel Barcelo Garcia, and the rest of the panel.

The other members of the panel were Manuel Moreno, Jordi Lamarca i Margalef, and Carme Gallego. Carme kicked off with a refreshing Enlightenment attack on the whole notion of identity, starting from the insight of the Scottish philosopher David Hume that even personal identity is a fiction. Collective identities, she argued, merely multiplied the fiction.

Jordi spoke about one of his interests, autobiography, and its role in shaping identity and the quest for what he called a 'middle term' between collective and individual identities. (The vagueness is all mine.)

I then, bracketted with readings from relevant passages from The Stone Canal, said something like this:
Is it possible for human personalities to be recreated in computer systems? Personally, I doubt it. To create a software model of the brain and its body and environment is difficult enough even in principle, let alone in any foreseeable practice. To enable that programme to run, to iterate, to take even one step, is a difficulty of a far greater order. Perhaps I'm just being stubborn, but I remain unconvinced that it's possible at all. To claim that human personalites, with real continuity with those they've been copied from, can exist in a virtual environment raises philosophical questions far deeper than most stories on the subject even consider, and far too deep for me to go into here.

Nevertheless, I think it's worthwhile and legitimate to write science fiction stories that assume it is possible, as I've done in The Stone Canal and elsewhere. As the American SF writer Kim Stanley Robinson points out in this context, science fiction provides us with metaphors for the mundane, and for the changes in our daily lives. When aviation was changing the world, science fiction wrote about space travel. When space travel was not changing the world, and medicine and drugs were, science fiction wrote about Inner Space. When computers were changing the labour process in factories and offices, science fiction wrote about cyberspace. Now that much of our work and leisure and relationships are mediated by computer networks, and much our lives lived online, science fiction talks about 'uploading' human personalities into virtual reality. It's a metaphor for what has already happened. In emails and newsgroups, websites and weblogs, many of us - deliberately or otherwise - project an 'online persona' which has a far from simple relationship with our actual selves. How many of us have had the experience of meeting someone we have come to know online and found them quite surprisingly different from the person we had imagined? As used to be said back in the early nineties, on the Internet nobody knows you're a dog.

But it's not simply a question of dissembling, of faking an identity, of anonymity or pseudonymity. To the extent that it has real effects, on other people and on the world, your online persona is your real self. You are responsible for it. There is no evading that. And these effects can be serious, can be very much 'part of the real world'. We're often reminded of the dark side of this, in fraud and entrapment and so forth, but we should also remember the bright side. Think of Salam Pax, the famous 'Baghdad Blogger'. As a young gay man in Iraq, he was able to use the Internet to both conceal his personal identity, and to reveal it, to come out before thousands and thousands of readers - and to affect quite profoundly the way in which many people saw the war. Here for the first time was somebody writing, almost intimately, in real time, to people in the attacking countries as the bombers took off from England and he - and we - could count the hours until they arrived, and worry when his messages stopped. Think of how emails and newsgroup messages directly affected how people outside the United States experienced the September 11 attacks and their consequences - many them anxiously seeking news of people they had never met in person, only online, but who were their friends or acquaintances nonetheless.

On the other side of the screen, so to speak, the Internet has changed many people's very personalities and identities - 'identity' this time meaning how they see themselves, and what they identify with. Again, we are often reminded of the dark side - of how people with warped and anti-social characters, ideas and impulses can find each other. But here, as in the real world, misanthropy is misguided. As the English historian Henry Thomas Buckle said, acts of virtue must far outnumber acts of vice, or humanity would long ago have perished. There are online communities of evil or disturbed people, for sure. But they are far outnumbered by the online communities of good people, whose interests are innocent. If you're innocent and isolated, discovering that you're not alone is an immense relief and can be the beginning of liberation. Minorities - sexual and political, religious and anti-religious, intellectual and artistic - can share their interests and legitimise themselves in their own eyes and those of the rest of the world. Not all of this is good, but most of it is.

Even the science-fiction idea of electronic immortality for digitized personalities is a metaphor for real life. We can't be sure, but we may suspect, that everything sent across the Internet is stored somewhere. Our newsgroup postings are now permanently archived in public, there to entertain or embarrass us for the rest of our lives. Perhaps the dark archives of the security services hold all our private messages, and represent the only immortality most of us will ever have. Who knows what intelligences, human or artificial, will in some distant future study these scraps of our souls as we study cave-paintings and bone-carvings, and wonder about the strange people who created them, back in the dawn?
Manuel Moreno followed up with an entertaining survey of 'selves and territories' in the form of aliens and their environments, taking classic SF examples such as Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity and Frederick Pohl's Man-Plus, as well as amusing examples of getting it wrong, from Barsoom to Hollywood.

Discussion, as you might expect, followed. Then another visit to the bar, and another seafood dinner. I had forgotten what fresh mussels taste like, and never known what razor-shell clams (wasted as bait in all my experience) taste like. And other alien life-forms ... 'You are a marine biologist,' said Nicolas. 'You must know how to dissect a lobster!' I did my best.

In a wine-bar found by Louis, much later, I heard about the events of two weekends ago, which - tragic though their impetus was - were for a few hours revolutionary, as millions of people in the street discovered through rumour and text message and website that they'd been lied to, and that much well-meant comment was misinformed. 'Even your weblog - !' Laurence had said earlier, to my embarrassment. The city, I should say, is spray-bombed with graffiti, its shop and office windows postered with anger and mourning, the black ribbon and the Catalan flag.

I said goodbye outside the hotel to Louis and the Belgians, finished my wine left over from lunch and read Buckle. The following morning, mercifully sunny, I shopped for gifts in the back streets and then headed for the airport. My flight to Heathrow was delayed long enough to make me miss the last flight to Edinburgh. Iberia, the airline responsible, put me up for the night in the Radisson Edwardian, a hotel I's last been in at a long-ago Eastercon, Evolution. When I walked into the bar I laughed out loud. Everything was still the same: the saddle-shaped bar stools, the seating, the paintings of horses. Entire conversations flashed back. I spent two quid on a half pint and went to bed; woke at 4.30 and caught the first plane home.

In the late evenings at the hotel and waiting for flights I'd finished reading Buckle's History of England, Volume 3, the one about Scotland. Its reading has, I think, changed my entire sense of identity, but that's another story.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Direct brain-to-computer control without surgery

Ooh! Teknolust: Mind Balance

Theworldvotes.org - Let the World Vote for the King of the World

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Swedish Social Democrats legalize embryonic stem cell cloning research

Thank you Swedish Social Democrats.
Sweden backs research into therapeutic cloning

The Swedish government said it would submit a bill to parliament that would allow research on cloning of early-stage human embryos for therapeutic purposes, also known as somatic nuclear cell transfers.

Sweden is a world leader in stem-cell research.

The bill, which will be presented on Monday and which is expected to be passed into law, would however strictly forbid any medical application of the research for the time being, as well as any human reproductive cloning.