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Archive for the ‘ethics’ category

Oct 1, 2014

The Abolition of Medicine as a Goal for Humanity 2.0

Posted by in categories: aging, biological, bionic, biotech/medical, ethics, futurism, genetics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, medical, philosophy, policy, transhumanism

What follows is my position piece for London’s FutureFest 2013, the website for which no longer exists.

Medicine is a very ancient practice. In fact, it is so ancient that it may have become obsolete. Medicine aims to restore the mind and body to their natural state relative to an individual’s stage in the life cycle. The idea has been to live as well as possible but also die well when the time came. The sense of what is ‘natural’ was tied to statistically normal ways of living in particular cultures. Past conceptions of health dictated future medical practice. In this respect, medical practitioners may have been wise but they certainly were not progressive.

However, this began to change in the mid-19th century when the great medical experimenter, Claude Bernard, began to champion the idea that medicine should be about the indefinite delaying, if not outright overcoming, of death. Bernard saw organisms as perpetual motion machines in an endless struggle to bring order to an environment that always threatens to consume them. That ‘order’ consists in sustaining the conditions needed to maintain an organism’s indefinite existence. Toward this end, Bernard enthusiastically used animals as living laboratories for testing his various hypotheses.

Historians identify Bernard’s sensibility with the advent of ‘modern medicine’, an increasingly high-tech and aspirational enterprise, dedicated to extending the full panoply of human capacities indefinitely. On this view, scientific training trumps practitioner experience, radically invasive and reconstructive procedures become the norm, and death on a physician’s watch is taken to be the ultimate failure. Humanity 2.0 takes this way of thinking to the next level, which involves the abolition of medicine itself. But what exactly would that mean – and what would replace it?

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Sep 29, 2014

Towards a ‘Right to Science’

Posted by in categories: ethics, genetics, government, law, philosophy, policy, science

In 1906 the great American pragmatist philosopher William James delivered a public lecture entitled, ‘The Moral Equivalent of War’. James imagined a point in the foreseeable future when states would rationally decide against military options to resolve their differences. While he welcomed this prospect, he also believed that the abolition of warfare would remove an important pretext for people to think beyond their own individual survival and toward some greater end, perhaps one that others might end up enjoying more fully. What then might replace war’s altruistic side?

It is telling that the most famous political speech to adopt James’ title was US President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 call for national energy independence in response to the Arab oil embargo. Carter characterised the battle ahead as really about America’s own ignorance and complacency rather than some Middle Eastern foe. While Carter’s critics pounced on his trademark moralism, they should have looked instead to his training as a nuclear scientist. Historically speaking, nothing can beat a science-led agenda to inspire a long-term, focused shift in a population’s default behaviours. Louis Pasteur perhaps first exploited this point by declaring war on the germs that he had shown lay behind not only human and animal disease but also France’s failing wine and silk industries. Moreover, Richard Nixon’s ‘war on cancer’, first declared in 1971, continues to be prosecuted on the terrain of genomic medicine, even though arguably a much greater impact on the human condition could have been achieved by equipping the ongoing ‘war on poverty’ with comparable resources and resoluteness.

Science’s ability to step in as war’s moral equivalent has less to do with whatever personal authority scientists command than with the universal scope of scientific knowledge claims. Even if today’s science is bound to be superseded, its import potentially bears on everyone’s life. Once that point is understood, it is easy to see how each person could be personally invested in advancing the cause of scientific research. In the heyday of the welfare state, that point was generally understood. Thus, in The Gift Relationship, perhaps the most influential work in British social policy of the past fifty years, Richard Titmuss argued, by analogy with voluntary blood donation, that citizens have a duty to participate as research subjects, but not because of the unlikely event that they might directly benefit from their particular experiment. Rather, citizens should participate because they would have already benefitted from experiments involving their fellow citizens and will continue to benefit similarly in the future.

However, this neat fit between science and altruism has been undermined over the past quarter-century on two main fronts. One stems from the legacy of Nazi Germany, where the duty to participate in research was turned into a vehicle to punish undesirables by studying their behaviour under various ‘extreme conditions’. Indicative of the horrific nature of this research is that even today few are willing to discuss any scientifically interesting results that might have come from it. Indeed, the pendulum has swung the other way. Elaborate research ethics codes enforced by professional scientific bodies and university ‘institutional review boards’ protect both scientist and subject in ways that arguably discourage either from having much to do with the other. Even defenders of today’s ethical guidelines generally concede that had such codes been in place over the past two centuries, science would have progressed at a much slower pace.

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Sep 27, 2014

Getting Apple, Microsoft and Fortune-500s to Uninterruptedly Buy From You!

Posted by in categories: business, computing, disruptive technology, economics, education, electronics, engineering, ethics, information science, science, scientific freedom

Getting Apple, Microsoft and Fortune-500s to Uninterruptedly Buy From You!

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Apple, Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, Mitsubishi Motors, Honda, Daimler-Chrysler’s Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company, Google, Xerox, Exxon-Mobil, Boeing, Amazon, Procter & Gamble, NASA and DARPA, Lockheed Martin, RAND Corporation and HUDSON Institute, Northrop Grumman Corporation, GEICO, Microsoft, etc.

FOREWORD:

You are going to need to prepare thyself breathtakingly. You will need a Brioni suit and a silk tie and understand, later on below this material, how to get lucky via Rampant Rocket Science.

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Sep 26, 2014

Review: When Google Met WikiLeaks (2014) by Julian Assange

Posted by in categories: big data, bitcoin, computing, encryption, ethics, events, futurism, geopolitics, government, hacking, internet, journalism, law, law enforcement, media & arts, military, transhumanism, transparency
Julian Assange’s 2014 book When Google Met WikiLeaks consists of essays authored by Assange and, more significantly, the transcript of a discussion between Assange and Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.

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Sep 25, 2014

Question: A Counterpoint to the Technological Singularity?

Posted by in categories: defense, disruptive technology, economics, education, environmental, ethics, existential risks, finance, futurism, lifeboat, policy, posthumanism, science, scientific freedom

Question: A Counterpoint to the Technological Singularity?

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Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science at Indiana University, indicated about The Singularity is Near Book (ISBN: 978–0143037880),

“ … A very bizarre mixture of ideas that are solid and good with ideas that are crazy. It’s as if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can’t possibly figure out what’s good or bad …”

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Sep 18, 2014

Why Superintelligence May Not Help Us Think about Existential Risks — or Transhumanism

Posted by in categories: alien life, biological, cyborg, defense, disruptive technology, ethics, existential risks, futurism, homo sapiens, human trajectories, internet, military, philosophy, policy, posthumanism, science, singularity, transhumanism

Among transhumanists, Nick Bostrom is well-known for promoting the idea of ‘existential risks’, potential harms which, were they come to pass, would annihilate the human condition altogether. Their probability may be relatively small, but the expected magnitude of their effects are so great, so Bostrom claims, that it is rational to devote some significant resources to safeguarding against them. (Indeed, there are now institutes for the study of existential risks on both sides of the Atlantic.) Moreover, because existential risks are intimately tied to the advancement of science and technology, their probability is likely to grow in the coming years.

Contrary to expectations, Bostrom is much less concerned with ecological suicide from humanity’s excessive carbon emissions than with the emergence of a superior brand of artificial intelligence – a ‘superintelligence’. This creature would be a human artefact, or at least descended from one. However, its self-programming capacity would have run amok in positive feedback, resulting in a maniacal, even self-destructive mission to rearrange the world in the image of its objectives. Such a superintelligence may appear to be quite ruthless in its dealings with humans, but that would only reflect the obstacles that we place, perhaps unwittingly, in the way of the realization of its objectives. Thus, this being would not conform to the science fiction stereotype of robots deliberately revolting against creators who are now seen as their inferiors.

I must confess that I find this conceptualisation of ‘existential risk’ rather un-transhumanist in spirit. Bostrom treats risk as a threat rather than as an opportunity. His risk horizon is precautionary rather than proactionary: He focuses on preventing the worst consequences rather than considering the prospects that are opened up by whatever radical changes might be inflicted by the superintelligence. This may be because in Bostrom’s key thought experiment, the superintelligence turns out to be the ultimate paper-clip collecting machine that ends up subsuming the entire planet to its task, destroying humanity along the way, almost as an afterthought.

But is this really a good starting point for thinking about existential risk? Much more likely than total human annihilation is that a substantial portion of humanity – but not everyone – is eliminated. (Certainly this captures the worst case scenarios surrounding climate change.) The Cold War remains the gold standard for this line of thought. In the US, the RAND Corporation’s chief analyst, Herman Kahn — the model for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove – routinely, if not casually, tossed off scenarios of how, say, a US-USSR nuclear confrontation would serve to increase the tolerance for human biological diversity, due to the resulting proliferation of genetic mutations. Put in more general terms, a severe social disruption provides a unique opportunity for pursuing ideals that might otherwise be thwarted by a ‘business as usual’ policy orientation.

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Sep 11, 2014

Justice Beyond Privacy

Posted by in categories: computing, disruptive technology, ethics, government, hacking, internet, law, policy, privacy, security

As the old social bonds unravel, philosopher and member of the Lifeboat Foundation’s advisory board Professor Steve Fuller asks: can we balance free expression against security?

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Justice has been always about modes of interconnectivity. Retributive justice – ‘eye for an eye’ stuff – recalls an age when kinship was how we related to each other. In the modern era, courtesy of the nation-state, bonds have been forged in terms of common laws, common language, common education, common roads, etc. The internet, understood as a global information and communication infrastructure, is both enhancing and replacing these bonds, resulting in new senses of what counts as ‘mine’, ‘yours’, ‘theirs’ and ‘ours’ – the building blocks of a just society…

Read the full article at IAI.TV

Aug 21, 2014

Getting Sexy and the Undivided Attention of Your Fortune-500 Client CEOs! Aug 22 2014

Posted by in categories: architecture, big data, business, complex systems, disruptive technology, economics, education, engineering, ethics, existential risks, finance, futurism, government, information science, innovation, physics, science, scientific freedom, security

Getting Sexy and the Undivided Attention of Your Fortune-500 Client CEOs! (Excerpt from the White Swan book) By Andres Agostini at www.linkedin.com/in/andresagostini

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(1.- of 17 ).- If you want to seize the undivided attention of top executives at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Procter & Gamble, talk to them through the notions of and by Process Re-engineering.

(2.- of 17 ).- If you want to seize the undivided attention of top executives at GE, talk to them through the notions of and by Six Sigma, and Peter F. Drucker’s Management by Objective (MBO). While you are with them, remember to commend on the Jack Welch’ and Jeff Immelt’s master lectures at GE’s Crotonville.

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Jul 15, 2014

Political futurism, ethics energized by sci-fi

Posted by in categories: entertainment, ethics, existential risks, philosophy, transhumanism
.@hjbentham . @clubofinfo. @dissidentvoice_ . @ieet. #scifi. #philosophy. #ethics.
Literature has served an indispensable purpose in exploring ethical and political themes. This remains true of sci-fi and fantasy, even if there is such a thing as reading too much politics into fictional work or over-analyzing.


Since Maquis Books published The Traveller and Pandemonium, a novel authored by me from 2011–2014, I have been responding as insightfully as possible to reviews and also discussing the book’s political and philosophical themes wherever I can. Set in a fictional alien world, much of this book’s 24 chapters are politically themed on the all too real human weakness of infighting and resorting to hardline, extremist and even messianic plans when faced with a desperate situation.

The story tells about human cultures battling to survive in a deadly alien ecosystem. There the human race, rather than keeping animals in cages, must keep their own habitats in cages as protection from the world outside. The human characters of the story live out a primitive existence not typical of science-fiction, mainly aiming at their own survival. Technological progress is nonexistent, as all human efforts have been redirected to self-defense against the threat of the alien predators.

Even though The Traveller and Pandemonium depicts humanity facing a common alien foe, the various struggling human factions still fail to cooperate. In fact, they turn ever more hostilely on each other even as the alien planet’s predators continue to close in on the last remaining human states. At the time the story is set, the human civilization on the planet is facing imminent extinction from its own infighting and extremism, as well as the aggressive native plant and animal life of the planet.

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Jul 1, 2014

E.Q.-Focused Nations (suboptimal) Versus I.Q.-Centric Countries (optimal)

Posted by in categories: business, defense, economics, education, ethics, existential risks, science, scientific freedom, security

E.Q.-Focused Nations (suboptimal) Versus I.Q.-Centric Countries (optimal)

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1.- E.Q.-Focused Nations argue that the millenarian applied terms such as: Prudence, Tact, Sincerity, Kindness and Unambiguous Language DO NOT SUFFICE and hence they need to invent a marketeer’s stunt: Emotional Intelligence. I.Q.-Centric Countries argue that the millenarian applied terms are beyond utility and desirability and that stunts are to social-engineer and brain-wash the weak: Ergo, all of these are optimal: Prudence, Tact, Sincerity, Kindness and Unambiguous Language, as well as plain-vanilla Psychology 101.

2.- E.Q.-Focused Nations are mired with universal corruption, both in private and public office. I.Q.-Centric Countries are mired with transparency, accountability and reliability, as well as collective integrity and ethics.

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