Saturday, December 10, 2005

Using Neurotech to Cure Homophobia and Racism

One of the things I mention in Citizen Cyborg, and am generally concerned about, is that we have both (a) an obligation to encourage mental health, compassion, and civic virtues in one another, and that responsibility carries over into a responsibility for even a liberal democratic state to require mental treatment for those who pose a threat to themselves or others, and (b) a responsibility to avoid using new neurotechnologies to impose totalitarian controls on thought and behavior. Figuring out how to preserve cognitive freedom while protecting and serving the public good will be difficult.

Here is a case in point. Is extreme homophobia and racism a sign of mental illness, a form of aggressive and dangerous paranoid delusion? - J.
Psychiatry Ponders Whether Extreme Bias Can Be an Illness

Mental health practitioners say they regularly confront extreme forms of racism, homophobia and other prejudice in the course of therapy, and that some patients are disabled by these beliefs. As doctors increasingly weigh the effects of race and culture on mental illness, some are asking whether pathological bias ought to be an official psychiatric diagnosis.

Advocates have circulated draft guidelines and have begun to conduct systematic studies...If it succeeds, it could have huge ramifications on clinical practice, employment disputes and the criminal justice system. Perpetrators of hate crimes could become candidates for treatment, and physicians would become arbiters of how to distinguish "ordinary prejudice" from pathological bias....

"I think it's absurd," said Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and the author of "PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine." Satel said the diagnosis would allow hate-crime perpetrators to evade responsibility by claiming they suffered from a mental illness. "You could use it as a defense."

Psychiatrists who advocate a new diagnosis, such as Gary Belkin, deputy chief of psychiatry at New York's Bellevue Hospital, said social norms play a central role in how all psychiatric disorders are defined. Pedophilia is considered a disorder by psychiatrists, Belkin noted, but that does not keep child molesters from being prosecuted.

"Psychiatrists who are uneasy with including something like this in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual need to get used to the fact that the whole manual reflects social context," said Belkin, who is planning to launch a study on pathological bias among patients at his hospital. "That is true of depression on down. Pathological bias is no more or less scientific than major depression."...

Opponents say making pathological bias a diagnosis raises the specter of social engineering -- brainwashing individuals who do not fit society's norms. But Dunbar and others say patients with disabling levels of prejudice should be treated for the same reason as are patients with any other disorder: They would feel, live and function better.

World leaders look to tech, not politics


From CNN (January 2004): ""I do not see much hope in the political domain, but a lot of hope in the technological domain," said Shimon Peres last week at a private breakfast he hosted in a knotty wood-paneled ski-hotel dining room in Davos, Switzerland. The problems of the world, the former Israeli Prime Minister and Foreign Minister [known in Israeli politics as a perennial loser], said, "will be solved not by politicians but by technology."

It was the kind of sentiment that one heard often at the World Economic Forum in the late '90s and 2000, and Peres was not alone in returning to it at this year's event.

Tech was back this year at Davos, and in a big way."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Viridian Solution could come from Quebec


A solution to smog, and possibly climate change, could come from my home, the Canadian province of Quebec.

A small company, Econoco, has created a system which, when installed on a car’s engine, brings toxic emissions down to zero!

The same system could also allow savings on gas all while increasing vehicular performance.

The small gadget fragments fuel molecules, once installed on the engine’s gas line of the engine, and then renders them more fluid.

"We break gas to then reorganize it so it burns better. A gas that burns better automatically forms less carbon, which allows us to keep spark plugs longer", claims Gilbert Monge, a representative of Econoco.

Eugenics is the Past. Reprogenetics is the Future


From Wikipedia:

"Reprogenetics is a term referring to the merging of reproductive and genetic technologies expected to happen in the near future as techniques like preimplantation genetic diagnosis become more available and more powerful. The term was coined by Lee M. Silver, a professor of molecular biology at Princeton University, in his 1997 book Remaking Eden.

In Silver's formulation, reprogenetics will involve advances in a number of technologies not yet achieved, but not inherently impossible. Among these are improvements in interpreting the effects of different expressions of DNA, the ability to harvest large numbers of embryos from females, and a far higher rate of reinsertion of embryos into host mothers. The end result, according to Silver, is that those parents who can afford it will be able to pick out the genetic characteristics of their own children, which Silver says will trigger a number of social changes in the decades after its implementation. Possible early applications, however, might be closer to eliminating disease genes passed on to children.

According to Silver, the main differences between reprogenetics and eugenics, the "science" of improving the gene pool which in the first half of the twentieth century became infamous for the brutal policies it inspired, is that most eugenics programs were compulsory programs imposed upon citizens by governments trying to enact an ultimate goal.

Reprogenetics, by contrast, would be pursued by individual parents, who would be trying to improve their children with the same motivations that compel them to purchase expensive courses in preparation for standardized testing (e.g. the SAT).

Eugenics would have required a continual selection for breeding of the "fit", and a culling of the "unfit" while, according to bioethicist James Hughes, reprogenetics would permit the conversion of all the unfit to the highest genetic level in a socially democratic society, but create a two-tiered society of genetically-engineered "haves" and "have nots" in a libertarian society.

The other contrast is that it is now known that the concept of genetic purity through eugenics is misguided: this form of genetic purity, insofar as it is meaningful, is effectively inbreeding and results in poor health and infertility while the end effect of reprogenetics on the gene pool would be reduced incidence of genetic disease and potentially increased genetic IQ."

A guide to hosting your own transhumanist arts center


A guide to hosting your own transhumanist arts center by Justice De Thezier

You dream of turning a hot spot into the transhumanist arts and culture center of your city for a week or month, a space where digital imagery artists meet i-wear fashion designers, who meet experimental electronic musicians, all high on the postcyberpunk zeitgeist!

Through the concept of a temporary nomadic cultural center, you can set out to build this new art scene and bring people from disparate social circles together under one roof. Here's a guide to setting up your own temporary transhumanist cultural center in six easy steps.

Solidify your concept. "Promoting the creation, dissemination and preservation of transhumanist arts and culture" sounds great but you have to figure out exactly how you want to go about it. Take your big dreams and fit them into one paragraph - careful planning at this stage will help you get sponsors later on. Be creative and be rebellious. Remember that everything is possible. But plan everything, make a budget and put everything on a timeline. Get a mentor to guide you. Ask questions and seek criticism.

Image is everything. Transhumanists should always strive to be seen as people of style and tech sophistication: the embodiment of the geek AND chic. So it's time to go shopping!

Find the key players. With your newly solidified concept, hip wardrobe and confident attitude, connect with the artists and musicians that will help make your idea come to life. It's also time to start spreading the word. Call all your friends and get them involved. Exchange skills with them.

Find a space. Securing a space first will help you snag sponsors. Take a walk or a bike ride in your neighbourhood. Look for places for rent by the landlord since it's easier to deal directly with the owner. Ask for capacity, look for a fire exit, exit signs, multiple bathrooms, all the things you would find in any commerce. Once you've found the space and the landlord agrees to the terms in writing, call the municipality and outline your event. They'll send over an inspector and he'll tell you what you need to get it in working order - fire safety is their major concern. Be prepared to spend money on an occupation permit and temporary liquor licence from the municipality if necessary.

Find sponsors. With the space secure it's time to alleviate some of the costs. Alcohol sponsors are key. They'll exchange deals on products such as drinks, sound equipment, etc. for exposure through logos on flyers, posters and banners at the space. Don't forget to approach small businesses that might share your aspirations and inspirations. Hustle. Be prepared to spend your own money.

Promote. Go outside your circles and target people you wouldn't normally talk to - it's the greatest opportunity to meet new friends. Use as many media outlets as possible to reach your public effectively, and do it in advance. Personally invite and call as many people as you can to create genuine connections inside and outside the communities and networks you live in.

Have fun. Be fuelled by passion, inspiration and emotion, then you're sure to throw a great event. Don't be afraid to try to make money. Don't be modest, but be honest. Smile and, above all, enjoy!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Technology helping blind, deaf enjoy movies


From CNN: "Did you catch the new movie that everyone's talking about at school and at work? If you're visually or hearing impaired, there's a good chance you couldn't. But that's slowly changing.

Nationwide, more than 150 movie theaters have added special systems to help the deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, according to the nonprofit National Center for Accessible Media.

Most of those theaters are in major cities that made the move voluntarily, but states are now putting pressure on theater chains to spread the technology much farther or risk discrimination lawsuits."

Towards a global ruling class?


From Towards a Global Ruling Class?: Globalization and the Transnational Capitalist Class by William I. Robinson & Jerry Harris (Science and Society, Vol. 64, No. 1, Spring 2000, PP. 11-54) :

"A transnational capitalist class (TCC) has emerged as that segment of the world bourgeoisie that represents transnational capital, the owners of the leading worldwide means of production as embodied in the transnational corporations and private financial institutions. The spread of TNCs, the sharp increase in foreign direct investment, the proliferation of mergers and acquisitions across national borders, the rise of a global financial system, and the increased interlocking of positions within the global corporate structure, are some empirical indicators of the transnational integration of capitalists. The TCC manages global rather than national circuits of accumulation. This gives it an objective class existence and identity spatially and politically in the global system above any local territories and polities. The TCC became politicized from the 1970s into the 1990s and has pursued a class project of capitalist globalization institutionalized in an emergent transnational state apparatus and in a "Third Way" political program. The emergent global capitalist historic bloc is divided over strategic issues of class rule and how to achieve regulatory order in the global economy. Contradictions within the ruling bloc open up new opportunities for emancipatory projects from global labor."

Why I am a democratic socialist...


From After Neoliberalism: Empire, Social Democracy, or Socialism? by Minqi Li (Monthly Review, January 2004):

"In the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China the corrupt capitalist privatization processes are extremely unpopular. Should new social revolutions take place, one can expect the renationalization of all the illegally privatized assets to be among the top popular demands. The renationalized assets then would form the basis of a new socialist economy. The revival of socialism in the periphery and the semiperiphery may set in motion a new wave of world socialist revolutions.

Can the next round of socialist revolutions do better than the twentieth century revolutions? In what way can socialism prove itself to be better than capitalism? Summarizing the historical lessons of Soviet socialism, David Kotz argues that, in purely economic terms, centrally planned state socialism was a viable system. The Soviet system disintegrated because a procapitalist political alliance (including the majority of the bureaucratic elite) arose and gained power. Kotz suggests that for a future socialism to be viable, it must have a democratic state and other institutions that prevent the development of a privileged and dominant elite."