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Archive for the ‘policy’ 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 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?

justice

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 8, 2014

Tesla Versus Chevy Volt, Case Study Part 2

Posted by in categories: business, disruptive technology, economics, finance, innovation, policy

A presentation of the future strategic options available to both Tesla and Chevy Volt, using the Holistic Business Model, as published in the book, Reengineering Strategies & Tactics. Note, correction that GM will be investing an $449 million not $1.4 billion I had stated in the video.

In Part 1, I show the strategic structural positions Tesla & Chevy Volt occupy. In Part 2, I show the future strategic options available to both, and potential mistakes they could be making.

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Aug 8, 2014

Tesla Versus Chevy Volt, Case Study Part 1

Posted by in categories: business, economics, education, innovation, policy

A presentation of the future strategic options available to both Tesla and Chevy Volt, using the Holistic Business Model, as published in the book, Reengineering Strategies & Tactics. Note, correction that GM will be investing an $449 million not $1.4 billion I had stated in the video.

In Part 1, I show the strategic structural positions Tesla & Chevy Volt occupy. In Part 2, I show the future strategic options available to both, and potential mistakes they could be making.

Continue reading “Tesla Versus Chevy Volt, Case Study Part 1” »


Aug 6, 2014

Reengineering Strategies & Tactics

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, disruptive technology, economics, education, innovation, open source, philosophy, policy

I am very pleased to announce the publication of my book “Reengineering Strategies & Tactics”.

The book is based on more than 2 decades in manufacturing & management consulting, and presents the new business model, the Holistic Business Model, that ties together operations, revenue generation and business strategy. It also enables one to do strategy sensitivity analysis, and much more. Watch the video. Buy the book & enjoy rethinking & re-strategizing your company.

I might add that this is much better than anything you can get out of McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Booz Allen Hamilton or Bain Capital.

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Aug 6, 2014

Reengineering Strategies & Tactics

Posted by in categories: business, disruptive technology, economics, education, finance, media & arts, open source, policy

Most of you will know that in December 2012, I wrote 4 blog posts here at the Lifeboat Foundation, explaining why Spaceport Colorado will be an enormous success. The blog posts are:

http://lifeboat.com/blog/2012/12/the-fabulous-spaceport-colorado-part-1

http://lifeboat.com/blog/2012/12/the-fabulous-spaceport-colorado-part-2

http://lifeboat.com/blog/2012/12/the-fabulous-spaceport-colorado-part-3

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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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