Back in 2012, I was invited to spend a few weeks visiting at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), a federally funded Japanese research institute based in the beautiful city of Kyoto. I was invited by my colleague Itsuki Handoh of RIHN. During my visit, Handoh and I came up with an idea for how to fuse two important lines of research on major global threats.
Debate Topic: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted”
Event Synopsis : In his novel the The Brothers Karamazov, Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky asked the question: "how will man be after that? Without God and the future life? It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything?" This quote encapsulates an idea that seems to resonate with many people - if there is no God, there can be no ultimate, objective source for moral values. If there is no God, then everything is permitted.
In this debate, we will meticulously analyse this idea. Can there be an objective grounding for ethics without God? If Atheism is true, does that mean that all moral values are merely subjective opinion? Can there be a secular basis for ethics independent of God? What basis does a naturalist have for thinking one moral system superior to another?
The speakers will first present their arguments, and then each speaker will have an opportunity for rebuttal. There will then be a moderated discussion between the two speakers, promoted by questions from the audience. Join us for what we hope will be both an enlightening and a challenging evening of honest and friendly engagement with this important question.
John studied mathematics and computer science at RMIT, worked as a scientific programmer, studied theology at Moore College, and now pastors Melbourne Evangelical Church. John is married to Bek and they have three kids, with a fourth due in early January. John's area of interests include philosophy, ethics, free will and God's sovereignty.
Against: James Fodor, University of Melbourne Secular Society
James is studying a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne, with a focus on maths, physics, and computing. He is currently president of the University of Melbourne Secular Society, a student club which strives to promote rationality, skepticism, and secularism on campus. His other interests include interfaith dialogue, epistemology, effective altruism, science communication, emerging technologies, and history.
With its 100 million neurons per square inch, the brain is a pretty powerful processor, even if we can’t always beat computers at chess these days. But just how the circuits that make up that wondrous seat of consciousness form themselves has long been anybody’s guess.
Of all the bewildering diversity of new of consumer choices on offer before the middle of the century that would have stunned people from only a generation earlier, none was perhaps as shocking as the many ways there now were to be dead. As in all things of the 21st century what death looked like was dependent on the wealth question.
Statement by H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, on the occasion of the United Nations Day (24 October). UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. 24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by Member States as a public holiday.
The Pilot Episode of Digital Leaders TV, presented by BBC Click’s +Kate Russell will discuss the Internet of Things with a panel of industry experts including Nick Appleyard, Ewan Dalton and Martin Wright.
In 1971, the then president of the United States, Richard Nixon, declared ‘war’ on cancer. Since then, billions of dollars have been poured into cancer research worldwide, but a cure for the disease is still a long way off. In this Nature Video, reporter Lorna Stewart marks the scientific milestones of the past four decades. She explores cancer genetics with Nobel laureate Michael Bishop, vaccines with fellow laureate Harald zur Hausen, and two young researchers tell Lorna about some of cancer research’s greatest success stories.
With futurist thinkers supporting the notion of human upgrading through technological enhancement, what parameters are considered in respect to moral enhancement? What cross cultural barriers and variations in moral reasoning are we targeting for such upgrades? Moreover, is moral enhancement simply a term we fear delving into despite the association it arguably has to almost everything our culture produces?
What kind of society are we creating? With the advent of the internet-of-things, advanced data-mining and predictive analytics, and improvements in artificial intelligence and automation, we are the verge of creating a global “neural network”: a constantly-updated, massively interconnected, control system for the world. Imagine what it will be like when every “thing” in your home, place of work, school, city, state and country is connected to a smart device?
A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing is a book by physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, first published in 2012, discussing modern cosmogony and its implications for the debate about the existence of God.
By Nothing, Lawrence Krauss means a Quantum Vacuum - not the philosophical meaning of nothing, which is ‘not anything’ - he certainly does not mean no physics.
So, Why is there something rather than nothing?
Well, why not? Why expect nothing rather than something? No experiment could support the hypothesis ‘There is nothing’ because any observation obviously implies the existence of an observer.
Is there any a priori support for ‘There is nothing’? One might respond with a methodological principle that propels the empty world to the top of the agenda. For instance, many feel that whoever asserts the existence of something has the burden of proof. If an astronomer says there is water at the south pole of the Moon, then it is up to him to provide data in support of the lunar water. If we were not required to have evidence to back our existential claims, then a theorist who fully explained the phenomena with one set of things could gratuitously add an extra entity, say, a pebble outside our light cone. We recoil from such add-ons. To prevent the intrusion of superfluous entities, one might demand that metaphysicians start with the empty world and admit only those entities that have credentials. This is the entry requirement imposed by Rene Descartes. He clears everything out and then only lets back in what can be proved to exist.
Bio: Lawrence Maxwell Krauss (born May 27, 1954) is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and director of its Origins Project. He is known as an advocate of the public understanding of science, of public policy based on sound empirical data, of scientific skepticism and of science education and works to reduce the impact of superstition and religious dogma in pop culture. He is also the author of several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing.
Red State conservatives may insist that the rest of us should keep aspirin between our knees and be forced to bear Divine Justice Babies when we don’t. They may refuse to provide cake or flowers for gay weddings, or even to attend. They may pretend that teens won’t do it if we just don’t tell them how.
When Martin Krzywinski took a systems administrator job at Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Center, he didn’t plan on becoming a pioneer of 21st century biological data visualization. In fact, he didn’t even have a biology background: He’d done his graduate studies in physics and math. But it was the late 1990s, and he could handle a computer.
Krzywinski built the Center’s first IT system, beefed up their security, designed optimized keyboard layouts, and generally geeked out. Along the way, he started helping researchers with their projects, getting to know their data and its possibilities. The rest is design history.
Falling DNA sequencing prices and a growing appreciation of cellular complexity soon unleashed a torrent of genetic data. The tools for gathering data, though, had outpaced those for portraying it. “I was frustrated, reading a lot of the scientific papers and not understanding what they were saying. I just wanted them to be simpler,” said Krzywinski. “There’s nothing I can do to make biology simpler, but I started telling people to make clearer figures.”
To do this, Krzywinski developed Circos, an open source visualization tool that arranges tabular data in circular form. It was a simple idea, but transformative: It’s since been used for thousands of visualizations, and its distinctive aesthetic is synonymous with the informational richness of our moment.
University of Michigan School of Public Health experts discuss the meaning of quarantine and isolation, and explain when such actions are appropriate to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like Ebola.
About the book:
“A frightening and fascinating masterpiece of science reporting that reads like a detective story.” —Walter Isaacson
In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host animal. And until we find it, Ebola will continue to strike. Acclaimed science writer and explorer David Quammen first came near the virus while he was traveling in the jungles of Gabon, accompanied by local men whose village had been devastated by a recent outbreak. Here he tells the story of Ebola—its past, present, and its unknowable future.
Extracted from Spillover by David Quammen, updated and with additional material. - Amazon
In the year 2014 A.D, the human species may have expanded completely out of bounds. To transcend boundaries is within and out of nature. That is what we do. It is ordained. It is written. We appear to have transcended many limits imposed upon us by nature. Nature imposes, not out of will, because because of the statistical qualities of what nature is. Humans transcend. Nature constrains. There is no free will involved. There is no intelligence or intelligent designer involved. There is no pre-ordained outcome. So we immediately see the arbitrariness of what is natural and what is unnatural. This makes it so strange why we as humans (especially in the western world) still venerate the “natural” and conversely we abhor what’s labeled “unnatural”.
Some spend a few decades meditating. Others spend an indeterminate amount of time inquiring after their true selves. Still others ingest ayahuasca or other intense psychoactive drugs. All are seeking the same thing: in a word, enlightenment. Now, a robotics engineer out of California is hoping to help seekers find it another way: with technology.
I keep seeing and hearing cynics sigh about how far we have “fallen.” The disease is rampant, on both right and left. The striking thing to me is the inanity of cliches, like: “Isn’t it a shame that our wisdom has not kept pace with technology?” This nonsense is spouted amid the greatest transformation of diversity, inclusion, acceptance, re-evaluation and tolerance in the history of our species! At no other time were so many hoary/awful assumptions - about race-gender and so on - pilloried by light and scrutiny!
Law generally falls into two incongruent categories: the natural law and the positive law. While the natural law encompasses universally accepted moral principles and social sense of justice, reflecting the zeitgeist or the spirit of time, the positive law ignores these premises, focusing instead on human-mad laws, such as statutory and common law.
The paper introduces a novel critique of the Kalam Cosmological argument. Or rather, a novel critique of a specific sub-component of the argument in favour of the Kalam. As you may be aware, the Kalam argument makes three key claims: (i) that the universe must have begun to exist; (ii) that anything that begins to exist must have a cause of its existence; and (iii) that in the case of the universe, the cause must be God.
This is a very cool crowdfunding campaign – you can help create a new cancer drug and at the same make it much cheaper. How? The researchers will not patent the drugs. Like polio vaccine, which was never patented, therefore it was widely available. Check out the website and the video. I loved it and made a donation of $50, because I find projects like this can change the existing paradigm in healthcare when the existing drugs are just deadly expensive. I encourage you to support the project and share it with your friends.
By the way, in aging there are also drugs that can never be patented like aspirin, metformin and rapamycin, but may well extend our lifespan. No pharmaceutical company will be interested in looking at substances that can’t be patented, but this could make our lives longer and healthier.
A small biotech company in San Francisco is using genetic engineering to develop plants that emit their own light.
Luminosity has a long and storied history in biology, in fact it's even been the subject of a Nobel Prize. Bioluminescence is used as a core tool of molecular biology as it allows scientists to understand the inner workings of the cell.
The first bioluminescent plant was made in 1986, with the addition of firefly luciferine. The plant was very dim, requiring 8 hours of exposure on photographic film. It also required the addition of luciferin to glow as researchers added just a single gene for the luciferase.
More recently researchers at SUNY added the full glowing construct to a gene resulting in the first auto-luminescent plant. This plant had the bacterial lux operon inserted into the chloroplasts (which are like mini-bacteria) and dimly glowed without the addition of any external reagents.
Bostrom writes that the reason A.I. scientists have failed so badly in predicting the future of their own field is that the technical difficulties have been greater than they expected. I don't think so. I think those scientists had a good understanding of what they were trying to build. The reason why "the expected arrival date [of Artificial Intelligence] has been receding at a rate of one year per year" (Nick Bostrom's estimate) is that we keep changing the definition. There never was a proper definition of what we mean by "Artificial Intelligence" and still there isn't.
As autumn descends on the America's capital, people are saying there’s a darkness on the edge of town. It’s born of the fear, pessimism and uncertainty that have become the Republican political brand. And if the polls are right, there’s every chance that its shadow will fall upon Capitol Hill and envelop both houses of Congress.
During my recent visit to the Cryonics Institute I had the chance to do a video tour of CI and learn more about their vitrification procedures and membership policies. I also had the unique opportunity to interview David Ettinger, whose father Robert Ettinger is the “father of cryonics” because he pretty much started the field with his seminal book The Prospect of Immortality. I was also happy to interview David for my Singularity 1 on 1 podcast because we had not only an informative but also very frank and deeply personal interview as to his own story and motivation.
During our 1 hour discussion with David Ettinger we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: what is CI, how and why he got involved in it; how his father – Robert Ettinger, came up with the idea of cryonics; my wife’s journey to embracing the idea and my evil plan to sign up the rest of our family; the definition of cryonics and the process of vitrification; why people are often cryo-convinced but unfortunately not cryo-committed; prices and procedures for joining the Cryonics Institute as well as options for people outside of the US; the slow pace of progress in cryo-biology and related research; betting on life vs betting on death; volunteering and the CI business model; David’s take on transhumanism and the technological singularity…
My favorite quotes that I will take away from this interview with David Ettinger are:
“Being frozen is a horible thing, it’s just that the alternative is even worse.”
“If you’re counting on something other than cryonics extending your life, you are not covering your bets.”
David Ettinger is an attorney, a founding member of the Cryonics Institute and the son of Robert Ettinger, the founder of the cryonics movement. David has served as CI’s attorney since 1977, and has been an advocate and spokesperson on cryonics issues since he was 15 years old (when he did his first television interview on the subject).
In his “day job”, David is an antitrust lawyer who has litigated a wide range of major cases in more than 30 states. Among his achievements, David may be the only lawyer in the United States who has won antitrust merger cases on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants.
Every year more than 750,000 American teens become pregnant, and over 80 percent of these pregnancies are unplanned. That may be about to change. If teens take to the latest wave of birth control technologies the way they’ve taken to cell phones, unplanned pregnancy could go the way of landlines and stretchy handset cords.
There are tree lectures about the mitochondria in my course. Dr. Pinchas Cohen, the Dean of Davis School of Gerontology, talked about the role of mitochondria in disease and pathology. Mitochondria have essentially three major functions. They are responsible for cellular respiration, integration of apoptotic signals, which means they control cell death, and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Mitochondrial function declines with age as a result of accumulated mutations in the mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial disfunction is common in diseases, such as diabetes, neurodegenerative pathologies and cancer.
In this episode, we discuss the meaning and origins of the term ‘transhumanism.’ We summarize the primary transhumanist goals of increased longevity, greater intelligence, and enhanced wellbeing. We also explore some of the other implications of transhumanist philosophy, such as a commitment to rationalism, morphological freedom, respect for sentience, and avoidance of existential risk.
It is a risky business trying to predict the future, and although it makes some sense to try to get a handle on what the world might be like in one’s lifetime, one might wonder what’s even the point of all this prophecy that stretches out beyond the decades one is expected to live? The answer I think is that no one who engages in futurism is really trying to predict the future so much as shape it, or at the very least, inspire Noah like preparations for disaster.
A critical note on transhumanist organizational structure. I am always a bit amused upon hearing other people’s concerns about transhumanism and even transhumanists themselves (depicted as influential, intimidating and even dangerous). Although many transhumanist ideas may sound disruptive and revolutionary to the average citizen, transhumanists themselves are far less the doers, but rather passive observers and theorists.