Tuesday, March 25, 2014

a 1000 years in 8 hours

the future of punishment, make the prisoners feel like they have served an eternity.  from the telegraph UK

Friday, March 21, 2014

an Introduction to Memetics

Memetics is the fascinating study of the spread of patterns of information between humans.  A meme can be a song, tradition, slogan, religion, etc that spreads like a virus.  Principia Cybernetica Web has a great introduction, and a hoard of interesting information. The website in ancient, but don't be turned off.  TURN ONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

Monday, March 17, 2014

we are not alive

"Likewise, “life” is an idea. We find it useful to think of some things as alive and others as inanimate, but this division exists only in our heads."

From the New York Times

Synthetic Biology Concerns

This was written in response to "Prepared Statement before the U.S House of Representatives Committee on energy and Commerce" By Gregory E. Kaebnick printed in "Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Bioethical Issues"

Kaebnick outlines three intrinsic concerns about the development and creation of synthetic organisms: religious or metaphysical concerns, concerns that synthetic biology will undermine morally significant concepts, and concerns about the human relationship with nature.  The first concern is also known as the “playing God concern”.  It is a categorical imperative to the religious person that we do not create synthetic life, regardless of the possible positive benefits.  In creating artificial life, the idea of “natural” life’s sacredness is thrown into question.  The concern about undermining morally significant concepts is a way to express the first idea without the religious aspect.  Instead of “playing God”, humans are becoming too powerful, and the creation of new life undermines the idea of uniqueness that we all cling to as humans.  The third concern is environmental.  Humans have been altering their environment since the beginning of our existence.  Creating new life is simply the evolution of the mastery of nature.

Three concerns about consequences are also brought forth by Kaebnick: concerns about social justice, biosafety, and misuse.  The arrival of new technologies always herald new social concerns.  Will the new technology be available to all people, regardless of social class?  Who will be in control of the new technology?  Will poorer nations continue to be exploited?  All these questions are important, but could just as easily be asked of large pharmaceutical or oil companies.  Our lack of far-reaching social justice is not a scientific issue, and should not be used as an excuse to limit research into synthetic biology.  Biosafety is a major concern.  How safe are these life forms?  Will they be easily contained in a lab, or will they escape into the wild?  If they do escape, how will that affect ecosystems that have naturally evolved together for millions of years?  Scientist claim that the new “helper” life forms that they create will be simple; they will only be able to perform assigned tasks, and pose no harm if they were to escape because they wouldn't be able to survive.  The creation of life simply to serve us brings up a new set of ethical concerns, but we have been utilizing animals the same way for millennia, so I don’t feel it is an important issue.  Deliberate misuse is an important issue.  All technology is powerful and could be used to do harm in the right hands.  That being said, the fear of misuse should not be a scare tactic used to dissuade research and development.  All of these concerns need addressing, and as SynBio progresses, I am confident they will be.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2045 Initiative

From their website

"The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimal conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies."

This initiative aims to transfer human consciousness to an artificial brain and carrier (a so called "robotic avatar") by the year 2045.  This is the first organization of its kind that I have stumbled upon that adds spirituality into the mix.  While it is an interesting concept, I feel we are much further away from this sort of technology.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

the danger of the past

R.W Emerson saw the danger of relying on the past to judge the future, writing in "Self-Reliance" "the other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them."

We should no longer be a slave to our pasts.  We have learned, and we have grown; the past can no longer be of any help.  In fact, all that past-worship and tradition-slavery can do is to stop us from going forward.