Archive for the ‘ethics’ category

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)


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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Jul 1, 2014

Data Science: What the Facebook Controversy is Really About

Posted by in category: ethics

— The Atlantic

Facebook has always “manipulated” the results shown in its users’ News Feeds by filtering and personalizing for relevance. But this weekend, the social giant seemed to cross a line, when it announced that it engineered emotional responses two years ago in an “emotional contagion” experiment, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Since then, critics have examined many facets of the experiment, including its design, methodology, approval process, and ethics. Each of these tacks tacitly accepts something important, though: the validity of Facebook’s science and scholarship. There is a more fundamental question in all this: What does it mean when we call proprietary data research data science?

As a society, we haven’t fully established how we ought to think about data science in practice. It’s time to start hashing that out.

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Jun 30, 2014

New book: The Beginning and the End by Clément Vidal

Posted by in categories: alien life, complex systems, ethics, philosophy, physics, posthumanism, singularity

By Clément Vidal — Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.

I am happy to inform you that I just published a book which deals at length with our cosmological future. I made a short book trailer introducing it, and the book has been mentioned in the Huffington Post and H+ Magazine.

Inline image 1
About the book:
In this fascinating journey to the edge of science, Vidal takes on big philosophical questions: Does our universe have a beginning and an end, or is it cyclic? Are we alone in the universe? What is the role of intelligent life, if any, in cosmic evolution? Grounded in science and committed to philosophical rigor, this book presents an evolutionary worldview where the rise of intelligent life is not an accident, but may well be the key to unlocking the universe’s deepest mysteries. Vidal shows how the fine-tuning controversy can be advanced with computer simulations. He also explores whether natural or artificial selection could hold on a cosmic scale. In perhaps his boldest hypothesis, he argues that signs of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations are already present in our astrophysical data. His conclusions invite us to see the meaning of life, evolution, and intelligence from a novel cosmological framework that should stir debate for years to come.
About the author:
Dr. Clément Vidal is a philosopher with a background in logic and cognitive sciences. He is co-director of the ‘Evo Devo Universe’ community and founder of the ‘High Energy Astrobiology’ prize. To satisfy his intellectual curiosity when facing the big questions, he brings together many areas of knowledge such as cosmology, physics, astrobiology, complexity science, evolutionary theory and philosophy of science.

You can get 20% off with the discount code ‘Vidal2014′ (valid until 31st July)!

Jun 12, 2014

Could a machine or an AI ever feel human-like emotions ?

Posted by in categories: bionic, cyborg, ethics, existential risks, futurism, neuroscience, philosophy, posthumanism, robotics/AI, singularity, transhumanism

Computers will soon be able to simulate the functioning of a human brain. In a near future, artificial superintelligence could become vastly more intellectually capable and versatile than humans. But could machines ever truly experience the whole range of human feelings and emotions, or are there technical limitations ?

In a few decades, intelligent and sentient humanoid robots will wander the streets alongside humans, work with humans, socialize with humans, and perhaps one day will be considered individuals in their own right. Research in artificial intelligence (AI) suggests that intelligent machines will eventually be able to see, hear, smell, sense, move, think, create and speak at least as well as humans. They will feel emotions of their own and probably one day also become self-aware.

There may not be any reason per se to want sentient robots to experience exactly all the emotions and feelings of a human being, but it may be interesting to explore the fundamental differences in the way humans and robots can sense, perceive and behave. Tiny genetic variations between people can result in major discrepancies in the way each of us thinks, feels and experience the world. If we appear so diverse despite the fact that all humans are in average 99.5% identical genetically, even across racial groups, how could we possibly expect sentient robots to feel the exact same way as biological humans ? There could be striking similarities between us and robots, but also drastic divergences on some levels. This is what we will investigate below.

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Jun 10, 2014

RE: Does Advanced Technology Make the 2nd Amendment Redundant?

Posted by in categories: drones, ethics, government, law, law enforcement, military, policy
#Exclusive: @HJBentham @ClubOfINFO responds to @Hetero_Sapien @IEET
After the reprint at the ClubOfINFO webzine of Franco Cortese’s excellent IEET (Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies) article about how advanced technology clashes with the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, I am interested enough that I have decided to put together this response. Changes in technology do eventually force changes in the law, and some laws ultimately have to be scrapped. However there is an argument to be made that the Second Amendment’s deterrent against tyranny should not be dismissed too easily.
Franco points out that the Second Amendment’s “most prominent justification” is that citizens require a form of self-defense against a potentially corrupt government. In such a case, they may need to take back the state by force through a “citizen militia”.

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Jun 1, 2014

Is it possible to build an artificial superintelligence without fully replicating the human brain?

Posted by in categories: automation, computing, ethics, existential risks, futurism, hardware, human trajectories, neuroscience, robotics/AI, security

The technological singularity requires the creation of an artificial superintelligence (ASI). But does that ASI need to be modelled on the human brain, or is it even necessary to be able to fully replicate the human brain and consciousness digitally in order to design an ASI ?

Animal brains and computers don’t work the same way. Brains are massively parallel three-dimensional networks, while computers still process information in a very linear fashion, although millions of times faster than brains. Microprocessors can perform amazing calculations, far exceeding the speed and efficiency of the human brain using completely different patterns to process information. The drawback is that traditional chips are not good at processing massively parallel data, solving complex problems, or recognizing patterns.

Newly developed neuromorphic chips are modelling the massively parallel way the brain processes information using, among others, neural networks. Neuromorphic computers should ideally use optical technology, which can potentially process trillions of simultaneous calculations, making it possible to simulate a whole human brain.

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May 21, 2014

VIRUS: Rebutting the fear of synthetic biology @HJBentham @IEET

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, disruptive technology, economics, energy, ethics, existential risks, futurism, genetics, science

- @ClubOfINFO — A recent massive leap forward in synthetic life, recently published in Nature, is the expansion of the alphabet of DNA to six letters rather than four, by synthetic biologists – the technicians to whom we entrust the great task of reprogramming life itself.

Breakthroughs such as the above are quite certain to alert more and more people to synthetic biology and its possible consequences. For as long as such breathtaking discoveries continue to be made in this area of research, it is inevitable that latent fears among society will come closer to the surface.
There is likely to be a profound distrust, whether inculcated by religion or by science fiction horror movies and literature, towards the concept of tampering with nature and especially the very building blocks that brought us into existence. While the people with this profoundly negative reaction are not sure what they are warning against, they are motivated by a vitalistic need to believe that the perversion of life is going to provoke hidden – almost divine – repercussions.
Is it really true that no-one should be meddling with something so fundamental to life, or is synthetic biology the science of our century, our civilization’s key to unlimited energy? Whatever the answer may be, the science enabling it already exists and is growing rapidly, and history seems to show that any technology once invented is impossible to contain.
The fact that synthetic base pairs now exist should confirm, for many, the beginning of humanity’s re-engineering of the structures of life itself. As it is unprecedented in our evolution, we are presented with an ethical question and all points of view should be considered, no matter how radical or conservative they are.

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May 15, 2014

The Mathematics of Murder: Should a Robot Sacrifice Your Life to Save Two?

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI

— Popular Science

It happens quickly—more quickly than you, being human, can fully process.

A front tire blows, and your autonomous SUV swerves. But rather than veering left, into the opposing lane of traffic, the robotic vehicle steers right. Brakes engage, the system tries to correct itself, but there’s too much momentum. Like a cornball stunt in a bad action movie, you are over the cliff, in free fall.

Your robot, the one you paid good money for, has chosen to kill you. Better that, its collision-response algorithms decided, than a high-speed, head-on collision with a smaller, non-robotic compact. There were two people in that car, to your one. The math couldn’t be simpler.

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May 6, 2014

Affirmation / ES Technical Note on LHC Collider Safety (p-p/MBH)

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, ethics, existential risks, particle physics

Although I have already mentioned a recent technical note on the application of Astronomical Observation to LHC/Collider Safety in comments to other posts here and there, I have not posted specifically about it until now. So finally, a short mention:

The technical note follows on from a modest paper I wrote in 2012 (Discussions on the Hypothesis that Cosmic Ray Exposure on Sirius B Negates Terrestrial MBH Concerns from Colliders), which concerned micro-black hole (MBH) production and the white dwarf safety assurance. There I demonstrated that not only are most white dwarf stars not suitable as a safety assurance, but that those hand-picked for the 2008 safety report had magnetic field strength measured to just 99% confidence within the range for safety assurance. That is not to say that the LHC safety argument was only 99% reliable — just that one of the cornerstone assurances was. The affirmation of these measurements was needed for a safety assurance to LHC p-p collisions based on astronomical observations – as a safety assurance that is not based on Hawking Radiation theory — but based on verifiable measurement. The technical note captures the official LSAG (CERN) response on the matter after internal review at CERN in late 2012, which had remained archived from email discussions until recently, when those conclusions were formalised into this technical note:

Link to the technical note:

mostly harmless

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