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The Ethics of Taking Control of Human Evolution

As science and technology progress, it’s becoming ever clearer that soon we’ll have the ability to make some drastic changes to the human body, should we want to. And why wouldn’t we? To create disease-immune people, increase our intelligence, to end aging and eventually populate different planets—each of these require altering our makeup. but altering our makeup comes with significant ethical…

Can We Build AI Without Losing Control Over It?

The fear over intelligent machines taking over and killing us all has been around for some time now. The Terminators glowing eye and the smoldering ruins of a once thriving city remain imprinted in our minds. Just how warranted are these fears? And perhaps more importantly, what are we doing about them? Sam Harris, author of books on diverse topics…

Surviving the Future and the Role of Science Fiction

Change is not constant. It is increasing. Through technological innovation and scientific discovery, we are populating a planet that becomes less and less recognizable each day. This will likely have many benefits—for instance, the possibility of immortality and augmented abilities—but also many potential pitfalls. In Future Shock, Alvin Toffler details the uncertainty brought forth through these changes. “To survive, to avert…

Mind Control: From Thought to Robotic Limbs and Beyond

We’re still in the early stages of understanding just how the brain works. That being said, we know enough to start considering all the possibilities regarding merging it with technology—including that of mind control. In The Brain Electric, Malcolm Gay talks about the current drive among many intelligent scientists and wealthy entrepreneurs towards merging mind and machine. He begins with…

Cooked

Needless to say the human race has transcended beyond most other creatures to ever roam the earth. Our modern technological and scientific innovations, when compared to the slow process of evolution, are racing ahead. But what set all of this off? There are many things people look at that separate humans from everything else, but is there something, some event…

Immortality Through Silicon

From the outside the difference between the biology of our brain and the technology in a computer couldn’t be more dramatic. One has living cells and neurotransmitters, neurons and blood vessels, the other has wires and circuit boards. Despite this, the principles that govern how they work are close enough that many believe they can crossover—that our mind can be uploaded…

Our Data Is Revealing Who We Are

We know from our own experience that people’s impressions of us can sometimes be rather inaccurate. And while that doesn’t stop us from making snap judgments and relying on first impressions in regard to others, it does point to the difficulty in trying to read and understand who someone is. As good as we think we are at interpreting people, we…

Altered Realities: When Biology Meets Art

William Myers released BioArt: Altered Realities in 2015. A teacher, curator, and writer based in Amsterdam, Myers book features the merging of biology and art in often surprising and uniquely creative formats. The goal of the book, Myers states, is to profile “contemporary art that demonstrates how advances in the life sciences and their application as biotechnology have a dislocating effect on…

We Can Never Have Enough Power

Power corrupts, so they say. Greed has undoubtedly lead to many societal ills and environmental damage. Yet, like so many other facets of the human condition, there is a positive component to this desire for power—innovation and wellbeing have increased in dramatic fashion over time. Of course, we don’t settle for this, and our constant drive for more is one…

Why We Need To Get Comfortable With Confusion

Certainty and assuredness are highly regarded in most circles. Confidence in our beliefs and a sense of control over what lay ahead helps ease our minds. As important as these qualities are, their opposite might also need some time in the spotlight. In Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing, Jamie Holmes explores the problematic side-effect to our need for closure.…

Awareness Is Information That You’re Not Aware Of

“In introspecting, in asking yourself whether you have an awareness of something, and in making the decision that you have it, what you are deciding on, what you are assessing, the actual stuff your decision engine is collecting, weighing, and concluding that you have, is information. Strictly speaking, the neuronal machinery is deciding that certain information is present in your…

How Will Our Relationship with Robots Evolve?

“The ancient Shinto religion, practiced by 80 percent of Japanese, includes a belief in animism, which holds that both objects and human beings have spirits. As a result, Japanese culture tends to be more accepting of robot companions as actual companions than is Western culture, which views robots as soulless machines. In a culture where the inanimate can be considered…

Consciousness in Plants, Animals, and Man

“In attempting to understand the elements out of which mental phenomena are compounded, it is of the greatest importance to remember that from the protozoa to man there is nowhere a very wide gap either in structure or in behaviour. From this fact it is a highly probable inference that there is also nowhere a very wide mental gap.” Bertrand…

Information and Disruption in the Future

“Everywhere, newly empowered citizens and networks of citizens are challenging the established order in ways never before imaginable—from building new business models to challenging old autocracies.” Alec Ross explores the current changes and future possibilities regarding our lives and the industries that populate the globe. “The near future will see robot suits that allow paraplegics to walk, designer drugs that…

How Cognition Relies on Patterns

“Reciting the alphabet backward should be a simple task, as it involves exactly the same information as reciting it forward, yet we are generally unable to do it.” […] “…our memories are sequential and in order. They can be accessed in the order that they are remembered.” Memories are stored in the brain in ways we’re only beginning to understand.…

Creativity and the Trouble with Incubation

For some time people have broken creativity into four stages. The preparation stage involves accumulating knowledge; the Incubation stage involves letting that knowledge sit in the back of your mind while you do something else; the Illumination stage consists of a flash of insight; the Validation stage is where you consider the idea critically. Stories abound of a-ha moments in the shower and while in the middle of daydreaming.…

The Three Laws of Robotics

Intelligent machines are not far off. The phone in your pocket is already more powerful than many older super computers. As things progress and self-learning algorithms become smarter, it becomes essential to safeguard ourselves from possible harm at the hand—erm, robotic limbs—of the machines. Isaac Asimov, the great sci-fi writer and witty cultural critic laid out his own set of…

The Problem With Old School Economics

“The core premise of economic theory is that people choose by optimizing. Of all the goods and services a family could buy, the family chooses the best one that it can afford. Furthermore, the beliefs upon which Econs make choices are assumed to be unbiased. That is, we choose on the basis of what economists call “rational expectations.”” Economist Richard…