Thursday, March 03, 2005

Journalism's Future May Be Wikipedia

From The Tyee:
On the morning of September 1, 2004, a small armed force captured a school in western Russian town of Beslan, taking hundreds of students hostage.

One day later, a small article describing the event appeared on, an open-source encyclopedia. Over the next 24 hours, Wikipedia users compiled the information from other news reports together into one article, revising and expanding it 46 times.

People coming to the article from Wikipedia's "CurrentEvents" page could read a concise summary of the event, with links to the history of the region and the ongoing war. This was old school, just-the-facts reporting., an online hypertext encyclopedia to which anybody can add and edit information, could be the future of journalism. Wikipedia is not only a reference work, it also makes a pretty good newspaper.

The article on democratic transhumanism is very interesting but deserves to be expanded like all articles of interest to progressive transhumanists.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Onion on Bush science policies

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Blogging Biopolitics

TangoMan at Gene Expression maps out the coming biopolitical realignment of the blogosphere:

After the realignment I see four subgroupings forming two sides of the new political spectrum. The Progressives will be an alliance of the Libertarian Right, bloggers like Megan McArdle, Rand Simberg, and Glenn Reynolds who value freedom and liberty and would be against state intervention in human procreation and the New Liberals, bloggers like Butterflies & Wheels, Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman and Matthew Yglesias (unsure of Matt after his performance on the Summers flap) whose aim in politics is to use the state to help individuals and who would likely embrace genetic engineering as a vehicle to remediate many social problems and push for government funding for the disadvantaged.

Opposing the Progressives will be the Dogmatists. This side of the political spectrum will see a heretofore unthought of alliance between the Religious Right and the Race, Gender & Culture Warriors of the Left for whom political identity is impossible without an enemy to battle against. The Religious Right will be comprised of anti-evolutionists who simply couldn't tolerate human intervention in what they see as their god's perogative and these bloggers are represented by The Evangelical Outpost, Tacitus, Hugh Hewitt, Donald Sensing and Ben Domenech. The Leftist contingent will be comprised of bloggers like those at Crooked Timber, Daily Kos and Atrios who share the Marxist perspective of shaping mankind through ambitious social and political efforts and can't abide the notion that substantive differences are the result of evolutionary pressures.

This breakdown diverges slightly from the Technoprogressive / Bioconservative axis that CybDem readers are familiar with, in that it locates the root of the left wing divide not on the man vs. nature spectrum, where the anti-technology environmentalists are at odds with technoprogressives, but on the nature vs. nurture spectrum, where parts of the intellectual left are at odds with evolutionary science. Fairly, both dynamics are at frequently at play and vary depending on whether the issue is GMOs, nanotech or genetic engineering.

In the same post (quoting Godless Capitalist) we get this speculation on how the prospect of genetic enhancement will transform the "Marxists" into bio-utopians and lead to an even more unlikely coupling: that of the 'sociobiology right' and the far left:

While the far right's embrace of eugenics has been well documented, the far left may appear to be strongly opposed to such a notion. I submit that this is simply an illusion. Fundamentally, Marxism is committed to the reshaping of man through radical changes in the environment as promulgated by Lysenko. However, such radical changes were never enough to alter the nature of man. As E.O. Wilson famously said in reference to the evolutionary success of ant colonies, "It would appear that socialism really works under some circumstances. Karl Marx just had the wrong species." It is thus the bulwark of human nature that has served as a barricade against extremism.

In my opinion, the reason that "genetic" is a bad word in universities today is that it is synonymous with "immutable" and is thus anathema to extreme nurturists. Once genetic engineering is demonstrated to succeed, those who opposed IQ testing and sociobiology out of pique over the "unfairness" of inborn differences will change their positions overnight. The last barricade will have fallen.

The connection to Marxism and transhumanism has been made before but the idea of a commingling of the sociobiology right with the egalitarian left strikes me as about as likely to happen soon as mind uploads jupiter brains reversible cryopreservation well, take your pick. In Godless' defense though, the first shot in that direction has been fired.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Posthuman equality: the final frontier

The Guardian asked a dozen leading scientists what the next big frontier is for the human race after the Copernican and genetic revolutions. One answer was offered by Norbert Gleicher, director of the Centre for Human Reproduction, in Chicago:
We will change our genetic makeup

The next revolution will come from a combination of huge advances in genetics and stem cell research. It will lead to a more egalitarian society.

Assuming that all humanity has access to these advances, everybody will benefit
from regenerative medicine, which means we'll cure disease at an accelerated rate, we'll live longer and finally we'll be able to affect our genetic makeup. Once we can affect our genetic makeup we'll become more similar to one another because everybody will want the same thing.

We are not at the point yet where we can define genetically what makes Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player that ever lived, but theoretically, in the not too distant future, we'll understand what it was in the genetic makeup that made him such a talent. While genetics is not everything, we will be in a position to say that if somebody has these genes, that person's ability to jump or play music, or do other things will be advanced.

Once we identify the genetic background for any kind of human capability, we can, at least theoretically, manipulate the genetic makeup of humans by substituting that genetic background into the makeup of the person. It raises huge ethical issues.

There are strong voices in the community who do not wish mankind to achieve these abilities. But we're in an accelerated evolutionary phase and I don't think it can be stopped.

Other answers offered:

- 'We will invent our successors' Seth Shostak, astronomer
- 'The end of the individual' Susan Greenfield, neuroscientist
- 'Humans become a collective intelligence' John Barrow, mathematician
- 'Conscious machines' Igor Aleksander, cognitive scientist

Nature of the Universe
- 'The existence of parallel universes' Michio Kaku, physicist,
- 'We will find out if we are alone' Colin Pillinger, space scientist
- 'Higher dimensions' Lisa Randall, physicist

Brain Science
- 'We will understand the human mind' John Sulston, founder - Sanger Institute
- 'A biological basis for religion' Nancy Rothwell, neuroscientist
- 'What it means to be a person' V S Ramachandran, cognitive scientist
- 'We'll understand thoughts and feelings' Steven Pinker, psychologist
- ''Humans are less miraculous than we thought' Stephen Wolfram, mathematician