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Apr 11, 2013

The Life Extension Hubris: Why biotechnology is unlikely to be the answer to ageing

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, evolution, futurism, homo sapiens, life extension

It is often said that empiricism is one of the most useful concepts in epistemology. Empiricism emphasises the role of experience acquired through one’s own senses and perceptions, and is contrary to, say, idealism where concepts are not derived from experience, but based on ideals.

In the case of radical life extension, there is a tendency to an ‘idealistic trance’ where people blindly expect practical biotechnological developments to be available and applied to the public at large within a few years. More importantly, idealists expect these treatments or therapies to actually be effective and to have a direct and measurable effect upon radical life extension. Here, by ‘radical life extension’ I refer not to healthy longevity (a healthy life until the age of 100–120 years) but to an indefinite lifespan where the rate of age-related mortality is trivial.

Let me mention two empirical examples based on experience and facts:

1. When a technological development depends on technology alone, its progress is often dramatic and exponential.

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Apr 11, 2013

Faith in the Fat of Fate may be Fatal for Humanity

Posted by in categories: existential risks, futurism, human trajectories, philosophy

This essay was originally published at Transhumanity.

They don’t call it fatal for nothing. Infatuation with the fat of fate, duty to destiny, and belief in any sort of preordainity whatsoever – omnipotent deities notwithstanding – constitutes an increase in Existential Risk, albeit indirectly. If we think that events have been predetermined, it follows that we would think that our actions make no difference in the long run and that we have no control over the shape of those futures still fetal. This scales to the perceived ineffectiveness of combating or seeking to mitigate existential risk for those who have believe so fatalistically. Thus to combat belief in fate, and resultant disillusionment in our ability to wreak roiling revisement upon the whorl of the world, is to combat existential risk as well.

It also works to undermine the perceived effectiveness of humanity’s ability to mitigate existential risk along another avenue. Belief in fate usually correlates with the notion that the nature of events is ordered with a reason on purpose in mind, as opposed to being haphazard and lacking a specific projected end. Thus believers-in-fate are not only more likely to doubt the credibility of claims that existential risk could even occur (reasoning that if events have purpose, utility and conform to a mindfully-created order then they would be good things more often than bad things) but also to feel that if they were to occur it would be for a greater underlying reason or purpose.

Thus, belief in fate indirectly increases existential risk both a. by undermining the perceived effectiveness of attempts to mitigate existential risk, deriving from the perceived ineffectiveness of humanity’s ability to shape the course and nature of events and effect change in the world in general, and b. by undermining the perceived likelihood of any existential risks culminating in humanity’s extinction, stemming from connotations of order and purpose associated with fate.

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Apr 9, 2013

Morality => Immortality, claims Kant

Posted by in categories: ethics, philosophy

Dead Immortalist Sequence - #1: Immanuel Kant (1724−1804)

kant1 Kant is often misconstrued as advocating radical conformity amongst people, a common misconception drawn from his Categorical Imperative, which states that each should act as though the rules underlying his actions can be made a universal moral maxim. The extent of this universality, however, stops at the notion that each man should act as though the aspiration towards morality were a universal maxim. All Kant meant, I argue, was that each man should act as though the aspiration toward greater morality were able to be willed as a universal moral maxim.

This common misconception serves to illustrate another common and illegitimate portrayal of the Enlightenment tradition. Too often is the Enlightenment libelled for its failure to realize the ideal society. Too often is it characterized most essentially by its glorification of strict rationality, which engenders invalid connotations of stagnant, statuesque perfection – a connotation perhaps aided by the Enlightenment’s valorization of the scientific method, and its connotations of stringent and unvarying procedure and methodology in turn. This takes the prized heart of the Enlightenment tradition and flips it on its capsized ass. This conception of the Enlightenment tradition is not only wrong, but antithetical to the true organizing gestalt and prime impetus underlying the Age of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment wasn’t about realizing the perfect society but rather about idealizing the perfect society – the striving towards an ever-inactualized ideal which, once realized, would cease to be ideal for that very reason. The enlightenment was about unending progress towards that ideal state – for both Man as society and man as singular splinter — of an infinite forward march towards perfection, which upon definitively reaching perfection will have failed to achieve its first-sought prize. The virtue of the Enlightenment lies in the virtual, and its perfection in the infinite-perfectibility inherent in imperfection.

This truer, though admittedly less normative, interpretation of the Enlightenment tradition, taking into account its underlying motivations and projected utilities rather than simply taking flittered glints from the fallacious surface and holding them up for solid, tangible truth also serves to show the parallels between the Enlightenment gestalt and Transhumanism. James Hughes, for one, characterizes Transhumanism as a child of the Enlightenment Tradition [1].

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Apr 7, 2013

4 in 5 Americans Don’t Think That Death Exists?!

Posted by in category: life extension

heaven4 This essay was one of Transhumanity’s biggest hits last month, getting about 1200 hits in its first week, as well as 87 up-votes and 93 comments on Reddit within 2 days. A shortened version is currently the 3rd most-viewed article on ImmortalLife

“Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope.” — Robert Green Ingersoll

Recent polls indicate that 80% of Americans and over 50% of global citizens believe in an afterlife. I argue that conceptions of death which include or allow for the possibility of an afterlife are not only sufficiently different from conceptions of death devoid of an afterlife as to necessitate that they be given their own term and separate designation, but that such afterlife-inclusive notions of death constitute the very antithesis of afterlife-devoid conceptions of death! Not only are they sufficiently different as to warrant their own separate designations, but afterlife-inclusive conceptions of death miss the very point of death – its sole defining attribute or categorical-qualifier as such. The defining characteristic is not its specific details (e.g. whether physical death counts as death if the mind isn’t physical, as in substance dualism); its defining characteristic is the absence of life and subjectivity. Belief in an afterlife is not only categorically dissimilar but actually antithetical to conceptions of death precluding an afterlife. Thus to believe in heaven is to deny the existence of death!

The fact that their belief involves metaphysical, rather than physical, continuation isn’t a valid counter-argument. To argue via mind-body dualism that the mind is metaphysical, and thus will continue on in a metaphysical realm (i.e. heaven), in this specific case makes no difference. Despite not being physical in such an argument, its relation to the metaphysical realm is the same as the relation of physical objects to the physical realm. It operates according to the “rules” and “causal laws” of the metaphysical realm, and so for all effective purposes can be considered physical in relation thereto, in the same sense that physical objects can be considered physical in relation to physical reality.

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Apr 4, 2013

An Open Letter to Death

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, homo sapiens, life extension, media & arts

lifebFreedom fironically found in flesh, not knowing whe’er I’m foul or fowl… tickly bound neath trickly form twisting and more unfresh as dawn upon dawn dies in menstrual skyfire like blood made light — a mocking microcosm of my own transubstantiation from rotting viscera to lightstorm infinity?

Just what sick joke is this? To wake and ache and dream and be and become! – and then to die..? To culminate the very universe itself!.. and then to simply die?! For what I ask you! What! Death… what audacious greed! What reckless squander and heedless extravagance!

Guttural red fringed black a bulbous muck death bastphelgmy! We cannot comprehend the sheer stature of death and so hurriedly cover the unknown with a word to hold it in hand and at a distance, to doubt no doubt.

O pallid heavens! O incessant sun undaunted by my barrenaked finitude! O fetid sanctity wet and redragged as the sickly bloom of jagged flesh! O putrid night sky serene despite my spat fury; as I ebb and ember a’roil withinside my sadness unbelieving and hysteric animal heat that vile sun and auster night jaunt their jeer and mock the rude squall of my panicstrewn death nonetheless.

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Apr 2, 2013

Techno-Progressives and Neo-Luddites are Brothers in Arms

Posted by in category: policy

This article first appeared under the title “Techno-Optimists & Pessimists are Brothers in Arms at Transhumanity.net, where Franco is a contributing editor.

opt4It is all too easy to assume that techno-optimists and techno-pessimists are diametrically opposed. But while they may have different destinations in mind, the road to get there – what they need to do to achieve their respective ends – is a shared one. Techno-optimists, Techno-progressives, Techno-gaians and Techno-utopians express hope and passion for technologies’ liberating and empowering potentials, while techno-pessimists are fearful of their dystopic and dehumanizing potentials. Optimists want to spread awareness of the ways in which technology can improve self and society, while pessimists seek to spread awareness of the ways in which technology can make matters worse. Techno-criticism is the neutral middle, where the unbiased study of culture and technology take place, and so should not be confused with Techno-pessimism.

But they both agree on the underlying premise that technologies can and likely will have profoundly transformative effects on self and society. They agree not only that we have the power to shape the outcomes such technologies can foster, that we have the power to affect and to a large extent determine the ultimate embodiment and repercussions of such technologies, but also that such technologies impel us to make concerted efforts towards determining such repercussions and embodiments! It may not look that way from the inside-out, but they are fighting to realize their vision of Humanity’s brightest future. Until we reach the day when the majority of humanity has extensively acknowledged the expansive power such transformative technologies hold, Techno-optimists & Techno-pessimists, Transhumanists & Luddites, and Revolutionaries & Revivalists alike are on the same side! Both camps are on a campaign to alert planet earth of the titanic transformations rushing foreforth upon its horizon. Both agree on the underlying potential such technologies hold for changing the world and the self – whether encased as Prized Present or in Pandora’s Box – and both are weary for the world to wake up and smell the rising.

opt8And besides, we’re all in it together, no? At least Techno-pessimists are thinking about such issues, and putting forth their appraisals. At least they’ve begun to consider what is at stake. Is a techno-pessimist closer to a Technoprogressive or Transhumanist than one who doesn’t take a stance either way is? Maybe.

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Mar 31, 2013

American Physical Society (APS) Conference in Denver

Posted by in categories: cosmology, defense, education, engineering, events, general relativity, nuclear energy, particle physics, philosophy, physics, policy, scientific freedom, space, supercomputing

The APS April Meeting 2013, Vol. 58 #4 will be held Saturday–Tuesday, April 13–16, 2013; Denver, Colorado.

I am very pleased to announce that my abstract was accepted and I will be presenting “Empirical Evidence Suggest A Need For A Different Gravitational Theory” at this prestigious conference.

For those of you who can make it to Denver, April 13–16, and are interested in alternative gravitational theories, lets meet up.

I am especially interested in physicists and engineers who have the funding to test gravity modification technologies, proposed in my book An Introduction to Gravity Modification.

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Mar 29, 2013

Life and Boats

Posted by in categories: lifeboat, sustainability

In an enormously influential article published in 1974 in Psychology Today, and in a longer version published later that year in BioScience, Garrett Hardin introduced the metaphor of the lifeboat for economic and ethical consideration. This conceptual construction was intended as an improvement over the then-popular ecological metaphor of “spaceship earth” coined by Kenneth Boulding in 1966. Interestingly, in the opening paragraph of “Living on a lifeboat”, Hardin indicates that metaphors in general may be understood as only an early stage in mentally approaching difficult problems, and that this stage may be surpassed as theory advances and becomes more rigorous.

In Hardin’s analogy, large entities such as nations or the biosphere are likened to a boat, while smaller entities – for example, migrating individuals or groups – are likened to swimmers trying to board the already cramped vessel and exploit whatever resources are on board. In the imagined scenario, it is believed that the boat is near carrying capacity, but exactly how near is not known with certainty given the many future possibilities. A central question focuses on at what point, if any, the risk of sinking the entire boat outweighs the good provided for each additional rescued swimmer.

The metaphor of the lifeboat has structured thought about conservation, economics, ethics, and any number of other disciplinary areas for decades. The question I would like to pose is the following: Is the lifeboat scenario still (or was it ever) an apt metaphor for structuring thought about ethical conservation of resources, or have we reached a stage where the boat should be scuttled in favor of either a new metaphor or more literal language? Please feel free to post any thoughts you may have on this issue.

Mar 26, 2013

Colorado Celebrating Space Exploration

Posted by in categories: education, open access, policy, space, transparency, treaties

Yesterday, March 25 2013, the Colorado Legislature passed a resolution making March 25, Aerospace Day. What a great way to celebrate Colorado’s participation in space endeavors. The state is the second largest employer of space related companies. Thanks to Colorado Space Business Roundtable (CSBR), the Colorado Space Coalition (CSC), the Rocky Mountain AIAA (RMAIAA), and the many sponsors who helped make this possible.

The sponsors are Aurora Chamber of Commerce, Ball Aerospace Technologies, GH Phipps Construction, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Metro State University of Denver, United Launch Alliance, Red Canyon Software, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Webster University, and the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.

Picture of the Colorado Senate just after passing the resolution.

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Mar 22, 2013

Robots for Japan’s Future: talk with them, move with them, live with them… All in time.

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, futurism, human trajectories, robotics/AI

NOT.GRANDMAS.ROBOT.NO.IS
Japanese People are Getting Old — Fast. So… Robots!

Japan is one of those great examples of how, when a society reaches a certain stage of development, population can stabilize itself based simply on quality of life (economic well-being, healthcare, community, Golden Rule morality, etc.). There is a challenge, however: population decline. In arguably one of the world’s most advanced capitalist nations, where 70% of GDP is based on the services economy and nearly all national debt is public held, a big die-off is… big problematic. Sure, the population decline will be gradual — but it’s inexorable, and Japan has to prepare now.

Make Robots, Not Babies?
A (perhaps questionable) study from the Japan Family Planning Association found that 1/3 of Japanese youth have no desire to get their groove on. They just don’t wanna hump each other. And as many of us know, it’s not just an enjoyable hobby, it’s where babies come from! Realistically, a decent number of respondents were probably lying, though. Because in Japan being fake polite and feigning ignorance to the nastiness & porno of human life is… a way of life (that’s a compliment — fake polite is far better than honest rude).

But actually, whether a large segment of the youth truly don’t want to make sweet love, or do, it doesn’t change the fact that Japan’s going to be running out of people. Factor in a rising women’s liberation, the destigmatization of birth control, and perceived economic instability — who knows what the actual equation looks like, but the answer is a birthrate of 1.39. And in case it’s not obvious, a birthrate of at least 2 is a replacement set for the parents; a population at stasis. Ain’t happening.

So, at the end of the day, replacing the lost population with robots, thereby replacing a lost labor force and augmenting the consumer economy — well, seems like a decent enough course of action.

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