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Archive for the ‘ethics’ category

Mar 27, 2017

Rejuvenation would cause cultural stagnation

Posted by in categories: ethics, life extension

Is the risk of cultural stagnation a valid objection to rejuvenation therapies? You guessed it—nope.


This objection can be discussed from both a moral and a practical point of view. This article discusses the matter from a moral standpoint, and concludes it is a morally unacceptable objection. (Bummer, now I’ve spoiled it all for you.)

However, even if the objection can be dismissed on moral grounds, one may still argue that, hey, it may be immoral to let old people die to avoid cultural and social stagnation, but it’s still necessary.

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Mar 21, 2017

10 people to follow if you want a career in AI

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI, space

Want a career in AI and robotics? One of the best ways to enrich your knowledge about the sector is to follow these AI influencers.

March of the Machines

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Mar 17, 2017

Scattered thoughts on self-awareness and AI

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI

A few ideas on self-awareness and self-aware AIs.


I’ve always been a fan of androids as intended in Star Trek. More generally, I think the idea of an artificial intelligence with whom you can talk and to whom you can teach things is really cool. I admit it is just a little bit weird that I find the idea of teaching things to small children absolutely unattractive while finding thrilling the idea of doing the same to a machine, but that’s just the way it is for me. (I suppose the fact a machine is unlikely to cry during the night and need to have its diaper changed every few hours might well be a factor at play here.)

Improvements in the field of AI are pretty much commonplace these days, though we’re not yet at the point where we could be talking to a machine in natural language and be unable to tell the difference with a human. I used to take for granted that, one day, we would have androids who are self-aware and have emotions, exactly like people, with all the advantages of being a machine—such as mental multitasking, large computational power, and more efficient memory. While I still like the idea, nowadays I wonder if it is actually a feasible or sensible one.

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Mar 9, 2017

Why and How Investors Use ESG Information: Evidence from a Global Survey — By Amir Amel-Zadeh & George Serafeim

Posted by in categories: environmental, ethics, governance

“Using survey data from a sample of senior investment professionals from mainstream (i.e. not SRI funds) investment organizations we provide insights into why and how investors use reported environmental, social and governance (ESG) information.”

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Mar 4, 2017

Transhumanism: More Nightmare Than Dream?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, cyborgs, ethics, law enforcement, life extension, policy, robotics/AI, transhumanism

A new well written but not very favorable write-up on #transhumanism. Despite this, more and more publications are tackling describing the movement and its science. My work is featured a bit.


On the eve of the 20th century, an obscure Russian man who had refused to publish any of his works began to finalize his ideas about resurrecting the dead and living forever. A friend of Leo Tolstoy’s, this enigmatic Russian, whose name was Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, had grand ideas about not only how to reanimate the dead but about the ethics of doing so, as well as about the moral and religious consequences of living outside of Death’s shadow. He was animated by a utopian desire: to unite all of humanity and to create a biblical paradise on Earth, where we would live on, spurred on by love. He was an immortalist: one who desired to conquer death through scientific means.

Despite the religious zeal of his notions—which a number of later Christian philosophers unsurprisingly deemed blasphemy—Fyodorov’s ideas were underpinned by a faith in something material: the ability of humans to redevelop and redefine themselves through science, eventually becoming so powerfully modified that they would defeat death itself. Unfortunately for him, Fyodorov—who had worked as a librarian, then later in the archives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs—did not live to see his project enacted, as he died in 1903.

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Feb 28, 2017

Do Robots Deserve Rights?

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI

Super-smart robots with artificial intelligence is pretty much a foregone conclusion: technology is moving in that direction with lightning speed. But what if those robots gain consciousness? Will they deserve the same rights as humans? The ethics of this are tricky. Explore them in the video below.

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Feb 22, 2017

Why I Will No Longer Do Research Sponsored By The Department Of Homeland Security

Posted by in categories: education, ethics, government, security

“As academics we can sign petitions, but it is not enough.”

As academics we can sign petitions, but it is not enough. Scott Aaronson wrote very eloquently about this issue after the initial ban was announced (see also Terry Tao). My department has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of applicants in general and not just from Iran. We were just informed that we can no longer make Teaching Assistant offers for students who are unlikely to get a visa to come here.

The Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated its blatant disregard for moral norms. Why should we trust its scientific norms? What confidence do we have that funding will not be used in some coercive way? What does it say to our students when we ask them to work for DHS? Yes, the government is big, but at some point the argument that it’s mostly the guy at the top who is bad but the rest of the agency is still committed to good science becomes just too hard to swallow. I decided that I can’t square that circle. Each one of us should think hard about whether we want to.

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Feb 20, 2017

Moral implications

Posted by in categories: ethics, life extension

Here’s my take on why the overpopulation objection to rejuvenation is morally unacceptable.


In this article, I’ll try to show that the overpopulation objection against rejuvenation is morally deplorable. For this purpose, whether or not the world is overpopulated or might be such in the future doesn’t matter. I’ll deal with facts and data in the two other articles dedicated to this objection; for now, all I want is getting to the conclusion that not developing rejuvenation for the sake of avoiding overpopulation is morally unacceptable (especially when considering the obvious and ethically more sound alternative), and thus overpopulation doesn’t constitute a valid objection to rejuvenation.

I’ll start with an example. Imagine there’s a family of two parents and three children. They’re not doing too well financially, and they live packed in a tiny apartment with no chances of moving somewhere larger. Clearly they cannot afford having more children, but they would really like having more anyway. What should they do?

The only reasonable answer is that they should not have any more children until they can afford having them. Throwing away the old ones for the sake of some other child to be even conceived yet would be nothing short of sheer madness.

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Feb 20, 2017

There are people who want to make gene editing a human right

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, ethics, genetics

Cool story!


Biohackers push back as the scientific establishment charts a course through the ethics of genetic interference.

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Feb 11, 2017

Value Conflicts surrounding the Meaning of Life in the Trans/Post/Human Future

Posted by in categories: biological, cryonics, cyborgs, economics, environmental, ethics, futurism, governance, health, homo sapiens, law, mobile phones, policy, posthumanism, security, theory, transhumanism

Posthumanists and perhaps especially transhumanists tend to downplay the value conflicts that are likely to emerge in the wake of a rapidly changing technoscientific landscape. What follows are six questions and scenarios that are designed to focus thinking by drawing together several tendencies that are not normally related to each other but which nevertheless provide the basis for future value conflicts.

  1. Will ecological thinking eventuate in an instrumentalization of life? Generally speaking, biology – especially when a nervous system is involved — is more energy efficient when it comes to storing, accessing and processing information than even the best silicon-based computers. While we still don’t quite know why this is the case, we are nevertheless acquiring greater powers of ‘informing’ biological processes through strategic interventions, ranging from correcting ‘genetic errors’ to growing purpose-made organs, including neurons, from stem-cells. In that case, might we not ‘grow’ some organs to function in largely the same capacity as silicon-based computers – especially if it helps to reduce the overall burden that human activity places on the planet? (E.g. the brains in the vats in the film The Minority Report which engage in the precognition of crime.) In other words, this new ‘instrumentalization of life’ may be the most environmentally friendly way to prolong our own survival. But is this a good enough reason? Would these specially created organic thought-beings require legal protection or even rights? The environmental movement has been, generally speaking, against the multiplication of artificial life forms (e.g. the controversies surrounding genetically modified organisms), but in this scenario these life forms would potentially provide a means to achieve ecologically friendly goals.

  1. Will concerns for social justice force us to enhance animals? We are becoming more capable of recognizing and decoding animal thoughts and feelings, a fact which has helped to bolster those concerned with animal welfare, not to mention ‘animal rights’. At the same time, we are also developing prosthetic devices (of the sort already worn by Steven Hawking) which can enhance the powers of disabled humans so their thoughts and feelings are can be communicated to a wider audience and hence enable them to participate in society more effectively. Might we not wish to apply similar prosthetics to animals – and perhaps even ourselves — in order to facilitate the transaction of thoughts and feelings between humans and animals? This proposal might aim ultimately to secure some mutually agreeable ‘social contract’, whereby animals are incorporated more explicitly in the human life-world — not as merely wards but as something closer to citizens. (See, e.g., Donaldson and Kymlicka’s Zoopolis.) However, would this set of policy initiatives constitute a violation of the animals’ species integrity and simply be a more insidious form of human domination?

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