Quick Links 8-23-07

August 23, 2007

Sorry about the long silence — both of us were hit by some life-changing events and other business this summer. We’ll be getting back on track here shortly. In the meantime, here are some collected items to get you started.

* Top 10 Transhumanist Technologies

Good list.

Transhumanists advocate the improvement of human capacities through advanced technology. Not just technology as in gadgets you get from Best Buy, but technology in the grander sense of strategies for eliminating disease, providing cheap but high-quality products to the world’s poorest, improving quality of life and social interconnectedness, and so on.

* Sam Harris: The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos

One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is. Otherwise, right and wrong would be mere matters of social construction, and any society would be at liberty to decide that raping and killing children is actually a wholesome form of family fun.

* The OUT campaign

Richard Dawkins and his supporters launch a campaign for atheists to out themselves and take a more vocal stance:

It follows that a major part of our consciousness-raising effort should be aimed, not at converting the religious but at encouraging the non-religious to admit it – to themselves, to their families, and to the world. This is the purpose of the OUT campaign.

* Religious “priming” promotes cooperation

Interestingly, subjects who had identified themselves as non-religious weren’t any less giving than believers. Also significant is that another group, primed instead with “civic responsibility” concepts, were as generous as the group primed with religious thoughts.

* First Armed Robots Patrol in Iraq

Robots have been roaming the streets of Iraq, since shortly after the war began. Now, for the first time — the first time in any warzone — the machines are carrying guns.

* Armed Robots Pushed to Police

Armed robots — similar to the ones now on patrol in Iraq — are being marketed to domestic police forces … None of the gun-toting ‘bots appear to have been deployed domestically, yet. Both cops and company officials say it’s only a matter of time, however.

* Scientists Apply for First Patent on Synthetic Life Form

We think these monopoly claims signal the start of a high-stakes commercial race to synthesize and privatize synthetic life forms. And Venter’s company is positioning itself to become the ‘Microbesoft’ of synthetic biology. Before these claims go forward, society must consider their far-reaching social, ethical and environmental impacts, and have an informed debate about whether they are socially acceptable or desirable.

* Artificial Life Likely in 3 to 10 Years

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of “wet artificial life.” … “We’re talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways – in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict.”

* Security-Theater Cameras Coming to New York

Steve Swain, who served for years with the London Metropolitan Police and its counter-terror operations, doubts the power of cameras to deter crime. “I don’t know of a single incident where CCTV has actually been used to spot, apprehend or detain offenders in the act,” he said.

* Popular Arguments For and Against Longevity

George Dvorsky covers the pros and cons.

* Why Progressives Should Care About Human Destiny In Space

“From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty,” said Edgar Mitchell, one of only 12 humans to have walked on the surface of another world. “You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”

* Green Junta? Avoiding an Authoritarian Military-Environment Elite

Wells warns that of a Green Junta that could bring about a right-wing agenda by stealth, in the name of environmentalism.

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