All 4 entries tagged Philosophy

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May 01, 2006

Transhumanism and its impact

Writing about web page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism

Perhaps its just the range of readings I've been sampling lately, or perhaps my addled brain is drawing connecting lines where there are none, but I'm suddenly seeing the dawning rays of a transhumanist future.

I feel oddly unprepared, transhumanism is not a topic I ever discovered in academia and indeed seems to be a movement that often takes science fiction as a key explanatory reference. Yet I feel that given my degree title its something I should have covered in more substantial depth somwhere along the lines. I'm not sure I even need to be prepared, I feel a need for some kind of action but I'm unsure how such action might even begin.

Transhumanism – transcending the current human condition. Something rightly feared by many established religions. Especially if it can promise immortality. Its an awe and maybe fear inspiring concept that the 'I' may not be fixed. One may be able to overcome ones physical limits in very direct ways, replace and improve whole limbs, run faster, jump higher and lift more. How can religions continue to hold sway over a transhumanity? Forget your abortion debates, this will be the ultimate showdown between 'science' and 'religion'. The questions just keep piling up. Can an immortal life itself even continue to hold onto meaning? Why do anything now if you have eternity in which to do it?

How will law and order keep pace with a cybernetically enhanced criminal underworld? Even if the technologies are outlawed for general use the criminals will eventually get their hands on black market technology. Will an arms race ensue as real life robo cops grapple with nano–enhanced super criminals? Will the advent of a Universal constructor destroy crime completely by eliminating wealth disparities? Or will new ways be found to mainitain a social wealth heirarchy.

Will our corrupt politicians eventually be overthrown not by the people but by a benevolent omnipotent singularity A.I. ? Will transhumans instead become trans–soldiers fighting the battles of the future in more destructive and insane ways than before?

The questions of science fiction are gradually becoming the issues of scientific fact. Its happening right in front of us and faster than most of us expect. Everyday the news draws us closer to the transhumanist future, described by Francis Fukuyama as the most dangerous idea in the world today. Choose your side wisely as this one could be brutal:

The new species, or "posthuman," will likely view the old "normal" humans as inferior, even savages, and fit for slavery or slaughter. The normals, on the other hand, may see the posthumans as a threat and if they can, may engage in a preemptive strike by killing the posthumans before they themselves are killed or enslaved by them. It is ultimately this predictable potential for genocide that makes species–altering experiments potential weapons of mass destruction, and makes the unaccountable genetic engineer a potential bioterrorist

quoted from bioethicists George Annas, Lori Andrews, and Rosario Isasi


September 05, 2005

The Big Flake

Today I at last finished moving into my new home in Leamington Spa. With all the moving around I've been doing it feels like I've barely been living here, despite collecting the keys around three weeks ago. Now though its sinking in; phase one completed in the master plan, university is over and I've truly moved away from the family home. The safety net is gone and, along with my companions in Fort Awesome, Real Life™ must begin.

Phase two of the plan is to find a way of surviving (producing the hard cash) that I enjoy and this is likely to take considerably longer. I think many less than perfect jobs will have to be endured and discarded as I search for that holy grail. My current dream is to make money from designing indie computer games and selling them through a web portal. The problem with this plan is its very risky and provides no immediate cash injection of which I am sorely in need. Yet I suspect I will make moves in that direction anyway, while searching for something else with the other hand. What I am at core is a dreamer, I live in my own mind for a large part of my life and I want to bring these dreams to life. I'm not bothered by having large amounts of money. I'm not going to be a banker in the city. I just want to get by well enough and make challenging, groundbreaking, critically acclaimed entertainment.

I also want a robot.

I wonder what phase three is though? If I achieved the dream; what next? Is there something else to do?

Schopenhauer described life as being a cycle of desire, fleeting satisfaction and boredom. I guess for me I could satisfy myself by continually improving my creative output, maybe one day saving up enough cash to build my own house (with robots). Then I can retire and open that pub (non-smoking, no kids, no food – I figure we'll all need some way of making money in retirement plus I like sitting around in pubs). At weekends I will draw. Or maybe I won't, I'm not sure I like planning that far ahead. Makes life less exciting, If I stick to it I've already surrendered control of my life to a plan, I'll be stuck doing these things. Maybe I'll keep it loose instead, just go with what the mood takes. Make sure I'm enjoying myself all the time, that kind of basic stuff.

I'm always meaning to write more blogs; I've planned loads in my mind. There is the hillarious Jehovah's Witness Leaflet Parody Entry, The Entry In Which I Draw Your Attention To The Work Of Always Black and The Entry In Which I Explain The Educational Power Of Wikis. I think I'll have to come clean and just admit to being a flake, these entries will never get made. I'd just rather be doing other things, or else I would have done them.

Then again…


July 12, 2005

Not about bestiality

In some ways I miss the days when I used to pour myself into this blog on a nightly basis. One of these ways is the license it would give me to comment freely on everything that is happening in the world that day. Now by the time I get around to it the moment has passed and events have overtaken me. Its an assumption I have in life that almost everyone is driven on some level by the basic idea that they are absolutely right about everything. This attitude is most common in relation to matters philosophical and political, or in one word idealogical.

I think it would be instructive to note the amount of times you have ever witnessed an argument on an idealogical point between two opposed figures end up with one admitting that the other is correct and switching his world view. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the answer is somewhere in the region of zero. My point is, that in an idealogical debate you don't 'win' by argument. The recent terrorist attacks in London seem to have brought this point into sharp relief across Warwick Blog Country.

I am a sometime political gadfly myself, dancing across the spectrum as mood and company dictates. At other times I may come across as broadly left wing, or even beyond the grasp of either in my Nietzschean outlook and mischievous desire to shock. Yet I always maintain a, no doubt frustrating, belief in my innate correctness. Its hard not to I think, I mean how can one have an opinion if one does not believe it, and if one does not have an opinion then one is becoming far too queenly.

Its difficult to illustrate the expressions of irritation that flicker across my face as I read many of the recent politically inclined blogs, and I'm sure if you've been writing them you know who you are, and I find myself contemplating the source of this irritation. Some of it may lie in my distaste for an argument or position that I initially agree with, being gradually teased larger and larger until it has become a global conspiracy. Some undoubtably lies when I can clearly detect a latent feeling that has been pasted over with argumentation, it feels out of place like a gay republican (In the american political sense) politician. A lot of it lies I think with a lack of intellectual honesty.

What am I saying then? Would I like everyone to become more like the idealized picture of myself I have in my head? What then would I have to distinguish myself from others to find out who I am in the morass of humanity?

I recently rediscovered my arguments for why I became a philosophical vegetarian, I had once spent a long time working through the issue after some contact with vegetarians who I already respected for their intelligence and sensitivity, however once I had evalutated my position I grew tired of defending it to the endless majority who questioned it and conveniently forgot the arguments but retained the conviction.

It basically boils down the the simple principle that people, if they are philosophically consistent, eat meat solely for the reason that they like the taste. In my mind this wasn't a good enough reason. The book that reminded me of this was a suprisingly good little book on philosophy which, while oversimplifying in places for popular appeal, was very readable and still philosophically penetrating and most importantly very good at drawing out the most recent 'conclusions of philosophy'. While some may disagree (they're wrong) philosophy seems to be a process of gradual refutation. Each thinker building on the work of past thinkers, and usually proving false the conclusions of the whole or part of what has gone before. Thus we can find somewhere in the body of philosophy a body of currently standing philosophical hypothesis that have yet to be refuted to a wider satisfaction.

There is something in me that would like to systematise this process and lay out the philosophical conclusions in a nice grid with a variety of philosophical hypothesis and their refutations leaving behind only the conclusions that we can currently draw reasonably. Thereby everyone could be made to study this grid or chart and know exactly what they are getting into when they attempt to enter a philosophical debate.

Ah! Finally it seems we have reached the nub of the issue, the superiority complex of the trained philosopher! I am resenting the interference of what I see as the philosophically uninformed masses into my domain with their unclean refuted hypothesis! Perhaps I think to myself, 'I would not dream of telling an engineer how to build a bridge, or a mathematician how to solve Fermat's Last Theorem!' Yet when it comes to philosophy it seems anyone can stick their oar in, throw their two pennys down the well, or sound off down the pub. And yet…

Is this not the greatest strength of philosophy? Its a field in which everyone has an interest, I'm reminded of the 'I don't do politics' tv advert. If you don't do philosophy, what do you do? While it may frustrate the professional philosopher at just how often the untrained get it spectacularly wrong, the fact that they are out there doing it should reaffirm just how valuable philosophy is to us all. Philosopical matters are often the closest things to peoples hearts. Its all too easy to use an intellectual conscience as a battering ram to demolish other peoples world views. If you do so do not be suprised if you recieve angry reactions.

I delight, nowadays, in compromise and diplomacy. A compromise is a creative act, formulating a solution acceptable to all from idealogically opposed positions. In fact I think an attitude of 'no compromises' is one of the things I dislike most, its tied in with a lack of tolerance. Some people belive that things like compromises and diplomacy are signs of weakness (anti war protestors? the war on terror?).

I think constructive solutions to global problems will only ever be found when 'terrorists' (the word carries with it a lot of power I think, labelling someone a terrorist has become the slur of the day, rather like calling them tossers. Imagine the news stories retold 'So prime minister is it tossers?', 'Today tossers blew up the french embassy in russia') and their victims can sit at the same table as presidents and prime ministers and discuss their views together openly and honestly and some philosophically consistent facilitator can weave a compromise. Gradually we can build enough compromises across the world that people stop killing each other long enough to have a chance to think, then they can reach an consistent intellectual conscience in their own time, or at least move closer to it.


June 25, 2005

Today's Lesson: Balance

It seems today, that all you see, is violence in movies and sex on tv…

Actually I noticed a few months ago that I have entirely stopped watching tv. Sure, I've seen the odd thing on there for five minutes if someone else has switched the thing on, but my days of actually heading over to the box in the corner and flipping it on seem to be a thing of the past.

If there isn't an old adage that expresses the thought that 'you need to be happy with, nay love, yourself before you can truly succeed in having a relationship with anyone else. You can try, but oft times you will find that you are looking at finding a partner as a means to cure your own happiness and I'm sure I read somewhere in my studies of ethics that treating people as means instead of ends was the path to the dark side' then there should be.

Why is it that people feel that they need someone to make themselves happy? Is it that they feel unattractive without a doting partner staring into their bluey greens? Perhaps if you feel unattractive then you should use the power of logic to aid yourself instead. If you feel unattractive then there are too possible solutions:

1. Adjust your appearance to conform more to your current idea of attractive.
2. Adjust your current idea of what is attractive.

Unless you do one of these things the situation shalt remain the same no matter who is staring into your eyes. I've heard tell that its hard and such things, but in the end it comes back to the logic, somethings got to give one or the other or nothing changes. It maybe goes without saying but; feel attractive and you will be more attractive. These are my current thoughts on the magical rollercoaster of relationships and attractiveness, at least today.

Anyways that was a bit of a tangent, I'm putting it down to my advancing years, I'm losing that razor sharp focus. This blog has been something of a graveyard for a while now, I keep thinking of good blog ideas and then not finding the time, or making the time to actualise them to you shiny, pretty folk out there in blogger land. For example, almost an aeon ago I was interviewed by John Dale about blogging and I rambled on endlessly about my secret, forbidden love for the wiki. Detailed plans were constructed in my head about how to persuade the world of the might of this idea, but in my head they currently remain.

Somehow this year I managed to bring up my grades from last years performance and achieve my way to a 2.1 in my degree, instantly unburdening myself of a huge pile of stress I'd been carrying around since I realised pre-exams that I wasn't smart enough. Thankfully I was wrong and I am indeed smart enough, and now there is no more education planned for me and the world outside awaits. Your move Dan. Well thats not what I'm blogging about today either.

What I'm blogging about is balance, I think that this is one of the most important skills one needs to enjoy the fullness of life, and one of the hardest. People are generally pretty unbalanced to start out with and everything in life wants to encourage this situation. In our working lives we are encouraged to become ever more specialised, exelling to greater and greater heights in a smaller and smaller range of skills. Relaxing everything wants a piece of us, wants to consume more and more of your time. DVDs have hours of special features, Big Brother has 24 hour live feeds, newspapers are so long (with supplements up the wazzoo) that it would take you a week just to finish the saturday edition. Then there is the internet, holy grail of time wasting inconsequence, the great soother and information king.

Our friends and our lovers compete for our time, our own mental well being also demands attention, there are family commitments and cultural events. The multiplicity of competition for our time resource grows larger and more rowdy every day that we grow older. Yet time always seems to move faster today than it did the day before, as a child the days would stetch into infinity, more time in each hour than in an entire day today. Nostalgia makes the past seem better and we spend ages trying to recapture a perfect moment that really never was.

The only weapon in the fight for time are the holy scales of balance. That elusive perfect mix of activities where we feel all of the demands on our day have been satisfied and there exists no great mental 'to-do' list with an impossibly large number of items, all late on their due date. Balance holds the key to much of modern happiness and everything is against it. If you let it, almost anything in life will consume you, devour your life and leave you empty.

Everyone needs to fight for balance.


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