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.
Materials and how we use them are inextricably linked to the development of human society. Yet amazing as historic achievements using stone, wood, metals and other substances seem, these are unbelievably crude compared to the full potential of what could be achieved with designer materials.
An ongoing debate in ontology concerns the question of whether ideas or the physical reality have primacy. In my view, the physical reality is clearly ontologically primary, because it makes possible the thinking and idea-generation which exist only as very sophisticated emergent processes depending on multiple levels of physical structures (atoms, cells, tissues, organs, organisms of sufficient complexity – and then a sufficiently rich history of sensory experience to make the formation of interesting ideas supportable).
There was an interesting panel discussion at the Transhuman Visions Conference in San Francisco, February 1, 2014, which got even interesting-er when the following question was posed: “If you knew you could live for 1,000 years or more, would you possibly become so risk-averse that you may be afraid to do anything that is even remotely dangerous and consequently live a long, but very insular and inhibited life?”
A key future use of neural electrode technology envisioned for nanomedicine and cognitive enhancement is intracortical recording devices that would capture the output signals of multiple neurons that are related to a given activity, for example signals associated with movement, or the intent of movement.
On Parfit’s View That We Are Not Human Beings Derek Parfit claims that we are not human beings, but parts of them. Specifically, each of us is the part of a human being that thinks in the strictest sense. This is supposed to solve a number of difficult metaphysical problems. I argue that the view has grave metaphysical problems of its own, that it cannot solve the problems it is said to solve, and that it is inconsistent with the view of our identity over time that Parfit adduces in its support.
Buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice, lies Lake Whillans. Despite being of the most inhospitable places on Earth, Lake Whillans was still thought to contain life. In early 2014 a team of scientists trekked across the ice, tasked with drilling 800 metres down to the lake and looking for evidence of life. Reporter Douglas Fox went with them, and he tells us about his experiences.
This is the sixth part in my series on Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. The series is covering those parts of the book that most interest me. This includes the sections setting out the basic argument for thinking that the creation of superintelligent AI could threaten human existence, and the proposed methods for dealing with that threat.
Socrates of Singularity 1 on 1 interviews Jerome C. Glenn on the current status of the world. Are we winning, losing, or somewhere in the middle? What does that even mean? Find out on this episode of Singularity 1 on 1!
In this second discussion with Glenn we cover a wide variety of topics such as: The State of the Future report; if the world is coming to an end; the definition of war and the conflicts in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine; things that changed and things that did not change since the last interview; infectious disease epidemics and the containment thereof; bitcoin - the currency and the technology; the 15 global challenges and why ethics is one of them; sea/salt water agriculture; the growing rich-poor gap and technological unemployment…
My three most favorite quotes that I will take away from the 2nd interview with Jerome C. Glenn are:
“Science is an epistemology in the house of philosophy.”
“Love works and hate doesn’t.”
[...] and my favorite one:
“What works best is idealism but tempered by realism. [...] Listen to the negative but don’t let it bury you.”
As always you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.
Jerome C. Glenn co-founded and directs The Millennium Project, a leading global participatory think tank supported by international organizations, governments, corporations, and NGOs, which produces the internationally recognized State of the Future annual reports for the past 16 years. Jerome Glenn invented the “Futures Wheel”, a futures assessment technique; Futuristic Curriculum Development, and concepts such as conscious-technology, transinstitutions, tele-nations, management by understanding, feminine brain drain, just-in-time knowledge, feelysis, nodes as a management concept for interconnecting global and local views and actions, and definitions of environmental security, collective Intelligence, and scenarios. He has consulted for governments, corporations, UN organizations, and NGOs. He wrote about information warfare in the late 1980s in his book Future Mind, sent his first email in 1973, and was hired by the Quakers action arm to organize the environmental programs in New England 1971. More recently he led the design and implementation of collective intelligence systems for the Global Climate Change Situation Room in South Korea, the Prime Minister’s Office of Kuwait, and now the Global Futures Collective Intelligence System
Saturday Review named him among the most unusually gifted leaders of America for his pioneering work in Tropical Medicine, Future-Oriented Education, and Participatory Decision Making Systems in 1974. He was instrumental in naming the first Space Shuttle the Enterprise and banning the first space weapon (FOBS) in SALT II. He has published over 150 future-oriented articles, spoken to over 300 organizations, written several books (Future Mind, Linking the Future, and co-author of Space Trek), and is the editor of Futures Research Methodology Version 3.0.
“Every office full of ambitious people has them. And we have all worked with at least one—the co-worker with an inexplicable ability to rise in the ranks,” wrote the Wall Street Journal recently in an article entitled What Corporate Climbers Can Teach Us. “‘How do they do it?’ we may ask ourselves or whisper to friends at work,” it continued. “They don't have more experience. They don't seem that brilliant.”
We created the Achieving Personal Immortality Roadmap. It represents the general view on the tasks of transhumanism. It is not enough detailed, because each line requires a larger amount of texts to explain it. At some point of time we will present the plans of action on the key points and will explain how and why they need to be implemented. Nonetheless, we believe it is important to demonstrate the comprehensive view on the problem of achieving physical immortality.
The Roadmap to Personal Immortality is list of actions that one should do to live forever. The most obvious way to reach immortality is to defeat aging, to grow and replace the diseased organs with new bioengineered ones, and in the end to be scanned into a computer. This is Plan A. It is the best possible course of events. It depends on two things – your personal actions (like regular medical checkups) and collective actions like civil activism and scientific research funding. The map is showing both paths in Plan A.
However, if Plan A fails, meaning if you die before the victory over aging, there is Plan B, which is cryonics. Some simple steps can be taken now, like calling your nearest cryocompany about a contract.
Unfortunately, cryonic could also fail, and then you can move to Plan C. Of course it is much worse – less reliable and less proven. Plan C is the so called digital immortality, that means one could be returned to life based on the existing recorded information about that person. It is a not the best plan, because we are not sure how to solve the identity problem, which will arise, and also we don’t know if collected amount of information would be enough. But it is still better than nothing.
Lastly, if Plan C fails, we have Plan D. It is not a plan in fact – it is just hope or a bet that immortality already exists somehow, maybe there is quantum immortality, or maybe the future AI will bring us back to life.
All Plans demand particular actions now – we need to prepare to all of them simultaneously. All of the Plans will lead to the same result – our minds will be uploaded into a computer and will merge with AI. So these plans are in fact multilevel defense mechanisms against death structured in the most logical way.
This map is the political program of the Longevity party – this is what we are going to do. We presented the Roadmap together with Alexei Turchin near the White House as an action to increase public attention for life extension.
Aging is the main cause of death. Slowing down aging is an extremely complicated task that requires collaboration of hundreds of scientific labs and clinical facilities. It is not going to happen on its own. Active members of the society must signal that they are ready to fight for their right to live.
That’s why Alexei Turchin and I came to the White House on August 16 to set an example for transhumanists of the world how one should fight for their interests. We presented the Achieving Personal Immortality Roadmap and “I demand funding for anti aging research” and “Immortality” posters. The Roadmap reflects our point of view on what each person should do to preserve their life.
We call upon everyone who shares the ideas of radical life extension to do street actions with us. Let’s do poster sessions in front of the White House, rallies, art actions, simply meet on a regular basis in bars. Join our Facebook group – Longevity Party. Together we will change the situation and will help raise enough funding for scientific research in human longevity.
Self-control and attentiveness are cornerstones of moral character, and our capacity for these virtues are about half hard-wired. A child’s capacity for self-control predicts their adult likelihood of a successful life, and of myriad bad habits. I discuss the relationship of attention to moral behavior, the ways we can build a more mindful society, and how we can practice self-control and mindfulness with techniques like fasting, exercise and meditation. But many of us, even if we have above average capacities for self-control and attention, will also benefit from the growing number of technologies that enable self-control, from stimulant medications and treatments for addiction to gene therapies and brain-machine devices.
Within the next few years, autonomous vehicles—alias robot cars—could be weaponized, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fears. In a recently disclosed report, FBI experts wrote that they believe that robot cars would be “game changing” for law enforcement. The self-driving machines could be professional getaway drivers, to name one possibility. Given the pace of developments on autonomous cars, this doesn’t seem implausible.
I had the opportunity to see Wally Pfister’s Transcendence, with Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, and Morgan Freeman, only last week, more than three months after the film’s release in theaters. Before seeing the film I satisfied my Transcendence cravings with an old, still unnamed copy of Jack Paglen’s script that can be found online (it appears that Paglen’s screenplay was part of what is known as the Black List, a list of popular but unproduced screenplays in Hollywood).
The transfer of used military equipment from the armed forces to police departments around the country has been accompanied, at least to a certain extent, by a shift in public thinking. The news media have played a critical part in that shift, both in its coverage and in what it chooses not to cover.
The recent sci-fi movie Lucy includes questionable science, laugh-out-loud dialogue, strange psychedelic graphics, a well-worn plot, an idiotic chase scene, and ridiculous violence, but I liked it a lot. It is a guilty pleasure on a par with G.I. Jane and T2.
Dr. Rachel Armstrong, Senior TED Fellow and Living Architect, is a Black Sky Thinker, whose ambition and work pushes the boundaries of thought far beyond the blue sky. In this video she discusses ideas for organic like living environments and buildings that integrate themselves with nature.
One example of Rachel’s Black Sky work is as Project Leader for Persephone. Persephone is a crewed interstellar craft, to be assembled in Earth’s orbit, within a hundred years. Rachel is responsible for designing and implementing a giant natural computer that will form the interior of a space ship. The craft or ‘Worldship’ will feature a new approach to building materials called ‘living architecture’. Pioneered by Dr. Armstrong, it suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems.
Rachel has a diverse and exciting portfolio of internationally recognised, multi-disciplinary inpossible work and projects. These are characterized by their audacity and visionary long-term goals, with ever changing outcomes that have presented new discoveries within their development. A selection of which can be explored here.
On August 9, at around 12 in the afternoon, Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were attacked by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. With his hands in the air, telling Officer Wilson that he was unarmed, the officer shot Brown several times, killing him as a result. This was the eyewitness account told by Brown’s friend Dorian.
Nikola Danaylov (a.k.a Socrates) talks with Jonathan Mugan about his book The Curiosity Cycle and how to teach children about important concepts related to the world of science and technology. They also discuss the importance of the future of learning and methods on how mind’s will evolve.
During our 30 min conversation with Mugan we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: his journey from the “soft” half of knowledge – arts, into the “hard” half – science; his book The Curiosity Cycle; building smart robots and educating children; why he focused on “curiosity” rather than “intelligence” and “cycle” rather than a “score”; tips for teaching your kids in the most effective manner, dealing with automation and technological unemployment…
(You can listen to/download the audio file above or watch the video interview in full. If you want to help me produce more episodes like this one please make a donation!)
Who is Jonathan Mugan?
Dr. Jonathan Mugan is a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning. He is the author of The Curiosity Cycle: Preparing Your Child for the Ongoing Technological Explosion. Dr. Mugan received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin. His thesis was centered in developmental robotics, which is an area of research that seeks to understand how robots can learn about the world in the same way that human children do. Dr. Mugan also held a post-doctoral position at Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked at the intersection of machine learning and human-computer interaction (HCI) as a member of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory. His work focused on enabling devices such as smart phones to learn a user’s privacy preferences. He received his B.A. in Psychology and his M.B.A. from Texas A&M University. He has three children.
Positive moods are a virtue, both in enabling enjoyment of life and in supporting prosocial behavior. But it is not the only kind of happiness, and in excess can be quite excessive. Along with positive moods we also want to cultivate flourishing, a sense that overall our lives are meaningful and going well. What are the public policies and life behaviors that support positive moods and flourishing lives? As we enter a “hedonistic imperative” future in which we are able to tweak our moods with “happy-people-pills-for-all” how will we find the right balance of positive mood to achieve flourishing lives?
The WHO medical ethics panel convened Monday to discuss the ethics of using experimental treatments for Ebola in West African nations affected by the disease. I am relieved to note that this morning they released their unanimous recommendation: “it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.”
MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte discusses what it means for the atomic world to turn digital.
Nicholas Negroponte, founder and Chairman Emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, as well as the founder of the One Laptop per Child Association, seems to think so. Negroponte spoke to Big Think about the transformative power of technology and how it can help feed the world in a sustainable way. Grazing livestock, for instance, puts stress on the environment; since the 1970s, the Amazon rainforest lost an area the size of California to deforestation, driven in large part by making room for cattle. We need these trees to absorb the excess CO2 warming up our atmosphere.
Human beings seem to have an innate need to predict the future. We’ve read the entrails of animals, thrown bones, tried to use the regularity or lack of it in the night sky as a projection of the future and omen of things to come, along with a thousand others kinds of divination few of us have ever heard of. This need to predict the future makes perfect sense for a creature whose knowledge bias is towards the present and the past. Survival means seeing enough ahead to avoid dangers, so that an animal that could successfully predict what was around the next corner could avoid being eaten or suffering famine.
The resilience of our entire civilization is increasingly reliant on a fragile network of cell phone towers, which are the first things to fail in any crisis, e.g. a hurricane or other natural disaster… or else deliberate (e.g. EMP or hacker) sabotage.
Everyone knows by now that self driving cars are coming soon. Somewhere in the next 3-20 years, the human driver will become a thing of the past. What will happen when these capabilities come online? We talk through the obvious and not so obvious consequences of self driving car technology, from unemployment of taxi drivers to reclaiming parking spaces from idle vehicles — and ultimately theorize that the ownership model will change drastically.