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Ethical Egoism and Biblical Self-Interest | Papers at …

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Jun 262016
 

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J.P. Moreland, Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997), pp. 257-68. Nov 30 . 1997

The Old and New Testaments contain a number of passages that in some way or another associate moral obligation with self-interest in the form of seeking rewards and avoiding punishment. Thus, Exod 20:12 says Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. Jesus tells us to seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you (Matt 6:33). On another occasion he warns his listeners that at the end of the age the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 13:49-50). Paul states his ambition to be pleasing to the Lord for we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds. (II Cor 5:10). The fact that rewards and punishments are associated with self-interest and moral or religious obligation is clear throughout the scriptures. What is not so clear is just how to understand these passages from the point of view of normative moral theory. More specifically, do texts of this sort imply that ethical egoism (to be defined below) is the correct normative ethical theory derived from the Bible? In over a decade of teaching ethics, I regularly have students, when first exposed to ethical egoism, draw the conclusion that this ethical system is, indeed, the best way to capture biblical ethics. And while popular works on the spiritual life are not sophisticated enough to be clear on the matter, a number of them, especially those that promote a prosperity gospel, would seem to be expressions of ethical egoism.

The identification of ethical egoism with biblical ethics is not confined to popular venues. Secular philosopher John Hospers argues that when believers justify being moral on the basis of a doctrine of eternal rewards and punishments, this is simply an appeal to self-interest . [N]othing could be a clearer appeal to naked and unbridled power than this.1 The vast majority of Christian philosophers and theologians have seen some combination of deontological and virtue ethics to be the best way to capture the letter and spirit of biblical ethics. Still, the problem of egoism has been noted by some and embraced by others. Years ago, Paul Ramsey raised the problem of ethical egoism when he queried,

But what of salvation? Is not salvation the end for which Christians quest? What of rewards in the kingdom of heaven? What of mans everlasting and supernatural good, the souls life with God in the hereafter mans chief end, glorifying God and enjoying him forever. Is not salvation itself a supreme value which Christians seek with earnest passion, each first of all for himself?2

Theologian Edward John Carnell (inaccurately in my view) has been understood as having promoted some form of ethical egoism.3

In recent years, Christian philosopher and theologian Philip R. West has argued that deontological ethics do not capture biblical morality and that ethical egoism is the correct normative theory in this regard. Says West, They [the OT writers] apparently believed not only that actual divine punishment is enough to establish the obligation to obey divine commands, but like Paul, that the absence of actual divine punishment erodes the obligatory status of these commands.4 Elsewhere, West defends the thesis that some agent A has a moral obligation to do P if and only if doing P will maximize As own self-interest. He argues that since scripture grounds our obligations in self-interest (rewards/punishments), this amounts to ethical egoism.

What should we make of this claim? Is ethical egoism the correct normative theory from a biblical point of view? My purpose in what follows is to show why ethical egoism is a defective normative ethical theory and, given this conclusion, to offer ways to understand biblical self-interest that do not entail the truth of ethical egoism. In what follows, I will, first, clarify the precise nature of ethical egoism; second, summarize the main types of arguments for and against ethical egoism in the literature and conclude that ethical egoism is inadequate; third, offer a set of distinctions for understanding biblical self-interest while avoiding ethical egoism.

The most plausible form of ethical egoism, embraced by philosophers such as Ayn Rand and John Hospers, is called universal or impersonal rule-egoism (hereafter, simply ethical egoism). Since Hospers is the most prominent philosopher to advocate ethical egoism, his definition is the most pertinent: each person has a moral duty to follow those moral rules that will be in the agents maximal self-interest over the long haul.5 For the ethical egoist, one has a duty to follow correct moral rules. And the factor that makes a rule a correct one is that, if followed, it will be in the agents own best interests in the long run. Each person ought to advance his own self-interests and that is the sole foundation of morality.

Ethical egoism is sometimes confused and identified with various distinct issues. First, there is individual or personal ethical egoism which says everyone has a duty to act so as to serve my self-interests. Here, everyone is morally obligated to serve the speakers long term best interests. Second, there is psychological egoism, roughly, the idea that each person can only do that act which the person takes to maximize his or her own self-interest. Psychological egoism is a descriptive thesis about motivation to the effect that we can only act on motives that are in our own self-interests. As we shall see shortly, psychological egoism is sometimes used as part of an argument for ethical egoism, but the two are distinct theses.

Third, ethical egoism is not the same thing as egotism an irritating character trait of always trying to be the center of attention. Nor is it the same as what is sometimes called being a wanton. A wanton has no sense of duty at all, but only acts to satisfy his or her own desires. The only conflict the wanton knows is that between two or more desires he cannot simultaneously satisfy (e.g. to eat more and lose weight). The wanton knows nothing about duty. Arguably, animals are wantons. Fifth, ethical egoism is not to be confused with being an egoist, i.e. being someone who believes that the sole worth of an act is its fairly immediate benefits to the individual himself. With this understanding of ethical egoism as a backdrop, let us look at the arguments for and against ethical egoism that have been preeminent in the literature. A detailed treatment of these arguments is not possible here, but by looking briefly at the main considerations usually brought to bear on ethical egoism, a feel for its strengths and weaknesses as a normative ethical theory emerges.

Among the arguments for ethical egoism, two have distinguished themselves, at least in textbook treatments of the position.6 First, it is argued that ethical egoism follows from psychological egoism in this way: psychological egoism is true and this implies that we always and cannot help but act egoistically. This is a fact about human motivation and action. Further, ought implies can. If I ought to do x, if I have a duty to do x, then I must be able to do x. If I cannot do something, then I have no duty or responsibility to do it. Applied to egoism, this means that since I can act egoistically, then I have a duty to do so and since I cannot act non-egoistically, then I have no duty to do so. Thus, ethical egoism is the correct picture of moral obligation in keeping with what we know about human motivation.

Does this argument work? Most philosophers have not thought so. First, the principle of psychological egoism, viz. that we always act to maximize our own self-interest, is ambiguous. So stated, the principle falls to make a distinction between the result of an act vs. the intent of an act. If it is understood in the former way it is irrelevant and if taken in the latter way it is false. If the statement merely asserts that, as a matter of fact, the result of our actions is the maximization of self-interest, then this does not imply ethical egoism. Ethical egoism is the view that the thing which morally justifies an act is the agents intent to maximize his own self-interests. So the mere psychological fact (if it is a fact) that people only do those acts that result in their own satisfaction proves nothing.

On the other hand, if the statement claims that we always act solely with the intent to satisfy our own desires, then this claim is simply false. Every day we are aware of doing acts with the sole intent of helping someone else, of doing something just because we think it is the right thing to do, and of expressing virtuous, other-centered behavior. As Christian phiosopher Joseph Butler (1692-1752) argued:

Mankind has various instincts and principles of action as brute creatures have; Some leading most directly and immediately to the good of the community, and some most directly to private good [I]t is not a true representation of mankind, to affirm that they are wholly governed by self-love, the love of power and sensual appetites . it is manifest fact, that the same persons, the generality, are frequently influenced by friendship, compassion, gratitude; and liking of what is fair and just, takes its turn amongst the other motives of action.7

Furthermore, it is not even true that we always try to do what we want or what we think is in our self-interests. We sometimes experience akrasia (weakness of will) when we fail to do or even try to do what we want (see Rom 7:15-25). And we sometimes do (or try to do) our duty even when we dont want to do it. These points appear to be facts about human action.

Second, this argument for ethical egoism suffers from what has been called the paradox of hedonism. Often, the best way maximize self-interest, say, to get happiness and the satisfaction of desire is not to aim at it. Happiness is not usually achieved as an intended goal, but rather, it is a bi-product of a life well lived and of doing what is right. If people always act in order to gain happiness, then it will remain forever elusive. Thus, psychological egoism contains a paradox when viewed as a model of human intention and action.

Finally, as a model of human action, psychological egoism rules out the possibility of libertarian freedom of the will. Briefly put, it should be noted that if libertarian freedom of the will is the correct view of human action, then the following implications follow: 1) no amount of internal states (e.g. desires, beliefs, emotions) are sufficient to produce behavior, and 2) the agent himself must spontaneously exercise his causal powers and act for the sake of reasons which function as teleological goals. For libertarians, a free act is never determined by any particular reason, including desire. Thus, on this view, psychological egoism is false if taken as a total account of human action because it implies that a person must always act for a self-interested reason. Libertarian freedom is controversial and not everyone accepts this model of human action. But the point is that for those who do, it counts as a counter-argument to psychological egoism.

A second argument for ethical egoism is called the closet utilitarian position. Some point out that if everyone acted in keeping with ethical egoism, the result would be the maximization of happiness for the greatest number of people. If acted upon, ethical egoism, as a matter of fact, leads to the betterment of humanity. There are two main problems with this argument. First, it amounts to a utilitarian justification of ethical egoism. Utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory to the effect that a moral action or rule is correct if and only if performing that act or following that rule maximizes the greatest amount of non-moral good vs. bad for the greatest number compared to alternative acts or rules open to the agent. While both are consequentialist in orientation, nevertheless, utilitarianism and ethical egoism are rival normative theories. It is inconsistent, therefore, for someone to use a rival theory, in this case, utilitarianism, as the moral justification for ethical egoism. If one is an ethical egoist, why should he or she care about the greatest good for the greatest number for its own sake, and not merely because such caring would itself lead to greater satisfaction of ones individual desires? Second, the claim seems to be factually false. Is it really the case that if everyone acted according to ethical egoism, it would maximize everyones happiness? Surely not. Sometimes self-sacrifice is needed to maximize happiness for the greatest number, and this argument for ethical egoism cannot allow for personal denial.

There are other arguments for ethical egoism, but these two have been the most central for those who advocate this normative theory. As we have seen, both arguments fail. By contrast, the main arguments against ethical egoism seem to be strong enough to justify rejecting the system as an adequate normative theory.

Among the arguments against ethical egoism, three are most prominent. First, is the publicity objection. Moral principles must serve as action guides that inform moral situations. Most moral situations involve more than one person and, in this sense, are public situations. Thus, moral action guides must be teachable to others so they can be publically used principles that help us in our interpersonal moral interactions. However, according to ethical egoism itself, there is a possible world where it is immoral for me to teach others to embrace ethical egoism because that could easily turn out not to be in my own self-interest. It may be better for me if others always acted altruistically. Thus, it could be immoral for one to go public and teach ethical egoism to others and, if so, this would violate one of the necessary conditions for a moral theory, namely, that it be teachable to others.

Philosopher Fred Feldman has offered a rejoinder to this argument.8 He claims that we have no good reason to believe that a moral doctrine needs to be consistently promulgatable. Why, he asks, should we have to be able to teach a moral doctrine to others? Someone could consistently hold to the following moral notion P as a part of his overall moral system: it is never right to promulgate anything. Unfortunately, this response fails because it does not capture the public nature of moral principles (or normative ethical theories) in so far as they serve as action guides to adjudicate interpersonal moral conflict. How could the principle it is never right to promulgate anything serve as an action guide sufficient to deal with the various aspects of duty, virtue, and rights that constitute much of the point of action guides in the first place?

Moreover, this response fails to take into account the universalizability of moral rules. If I should never promulgate anything, then this implies that I should not teach something to someone else. But there does not seem to be a clear moral difference in this case between others and myself. To be consistent, then, I should not proclaim this moral principle to myself. Perhaps I should try to hide from myself the fact that I accept this role. This implies, among other things, that if I hold to P as a moral principle that should be universalized, then, applying P to myself, I would no longer have moral grounds for continuing to embrace P on the basis of reasons known to me or for making P known to myself. I should do my best to forget P or talk myself out of believing P. On the other hand, if I do not think P should be universalized, then in what sense is P a moral principle (since universalizability is most likely a necessary condition for a principle counting as moral)?

A second argument against ethical egoism is called the paradox of egoism. Some things, e.g. altruism, deep love, genuine friendship, are inconsistent with ethical egoism. Why? Because these features of a virtuous, moral life require us not to seek our own interests but, rather, those of others. Moreover, ethical egoism would seem to imply that helping others at ones own expense (and other acts of self sacrifice) is wrong if it is not in my long term self-interest to do so. Thus, egoism would seem to rule out important, central features of the moral life. The main point of a normative moral theory is to explain and not to eliminate what we already know to be central facets of morality prior to ethical theorizing. Furthermore, in order to reach the goal of egoism (e.g., personal happiness), one must give up egoism and be altruistic in love, friendship, and other ways. Thus, egoism is paradoxical in its own right and it eliminates key aspects of the moral life.

Some respond by claiming that altruism is fully consistent with ethical egoism. Hospers argues that, according to ethical egoism, we ought to do acts that benefit others because that is in our own self-interests.9 In a similar vein, Fred Feldman asserts that egoism allows us to perform altruistic actions provided that such actions are ultimately in our own self-interests.10 But this response fails to distinguish pseudo-altruism from genuine altruism.

Genuine altruism requires that an altruistic act have, as its sole, or at least main intent, the benefit of the other. An act whose sole or ultimate intent is self-interest but which, nevertheless, does result in the benefit of others is not genuine altruism. If you found out that someone loved you or acted altruistically toward you solely or ultimately with the intent of benefiting himself, then you would not count that as genuine love or altruism even if the act happened to benefit you in some way. Thus, egoistic altruism is a contradiction in terms. Ethical egoism is consistent with pseudo-altruism but not with genuine altruism.

Finally, a third objection claims that ethical egoism leads to inconsistent outcomes. A moral theory must allow for moral rules that are public and universalizable. But ethical egoism could lead to situations where this is not the case. How? Consider two persons A and B in a situation where they have a conflict of interest. For example, suppose there was only one kidney available for transplant, that A and B both need it, and that A or B will die without the transplant. According to universal ethical egoism, A ought to act in his own self-interests and prescribe that his desires come out on top. A had a duty to secure the kidney and thwart Bs attempts to do the same. This would seem to imply that A should prescribe that B has a duty to act in As self-interest. Of course B, according to universal ethical egoism, has from his perspective a duty to act in his own self-interest. But now a contradiction arises because ethical egoism implies that B both has a duty to give the kidney to A and obtain it himself.

Jesse Kalin has responded to this argument by claiming that, as an ethical egoist, A should not hold that B should act in As self-interest, but in Bs own self- interest.11 This would seem to solve the problem of contradictory duty above by rejecting individual ethical egoism (everyone should act in my self-interest) in favor of the universal version (everyone should act in his own self-interest). But this way of stating ethical egoism does not seem to capture the egoistic spirit of the ethical egoism because it leaves open the question as to why egoist A would need to hold that B should act in Bs interests and not in As. In other words, it may not be in As own self-interests to hold to universal, as opposed to individual ethical egoism.

Moreover, there is still a problem for this formulation of ethical egoism which can be brought out as follows: A holds that B has a duty to obtain the kidney for himself, have his interests come out on top, and, thus, harm A. But in this case, ethical egoism still seems to imply an inconsistent posture on As (and Bs) part, namely, that A thinks that B has a duty to get the kidney and harm A but that A has a duty to thwart B. Any moral theory that implies that someone has a moral duty to keep others from doing their moral duty is surely in trouble, so the objection goes. And it is hard to see how an ethical egoist A could claim that someone else had a duty to harm A himself.

Not everyone accepts this argument. Following Kalin, Louis Pojman claims that we often find it to be the case that we have a duty to thwart what is the duty of others, e.g., in a war one soldier has a duty to thwart anothers efforts to do his duty to win. In a case like this, soldiers on different sides do not believe that the other side has adequate moral grounds for being at war.12 If we separate beliefs about ethical situations from desires, so the response goes, then one person can believe the other had a duty to win the war or get the kidney, but the person can also desire to these objectives for himself and act on those desires. In general, the belief that B ought to do x does not imply that A wants B to do x.

What should we make of this response? First, the soldier example fails because it does not distinguish between subjective and objective duty. Subjective duty is one someone has when he has done his best to discover what is and is not the right thing to do. If someone sincerely and conscientiously tries to ascertain what is right, and acts on this, then he has fulfilled his subjective duty and, in a sense, is praiseworthy. But people can be sincerely wrong and fail to live up to their objective duty-the truly correct thing to do from Gods perspective, the overriding moral obligation when all things, including prima facie duties, have been taken into account-even if they have tried to do their best. Admittedly, it is not always easy to determine what the correct objective duty is in a given case. But this is merely an epistemological point and, while valid, it does not negate the legitimacy of the distinction between subjective and objective duty.

Applied to the question at hand, soldier A could only claim that soldier B has both a prima facie duty and a subjective duty to obey his country. But A could also believe that B has an objective duty to do so only if Bs country is, in fact, conducting a morally justified war. Now either A or B is on the right side of the war even though it may be hard to tell which side is correct. Thus, A and B could believe that only one of them actually has an objective duty to fight and thwart the other. So the war example does not give a genuine case where A believes B has a (objective) duty to fight and that he has to thwart B.

Second, what should we make of the claim that we should separate our beliefs about anothers duty from the desire to see that duty done? For one thing, a main point of a moral theory is to describe what a virtuous person is and how we can become such persons. Now, one aspect of a virtuous person is that there is a harmony and unity between desire and duty. A virtuous person desires that the objective moral right be done. Such a person is committed to the good and the right. With this in mind, it becomes clear that ethical egoism, if consistently practiced, could produce fragmented, non-virtuous individuals who believe one thing about duty (e.g., A believes B ought to do x) but who desire something else altogether (e.g., A does not desire B to do x).

However, if we grant that the ethical egoists distinction between beliefs and desires is legitimate from a moral point of view, then this distinction does resolve the claim that ethical egoism leads to a conflict of desire, e.g., A desires the kidney and that B obtain the kidney, since it implies that A believes that B has a duty to receive the kidney but only desires that he himself have it. Nevertheless, this misses the real point of the objection to ethical egoism, namely, that ethical egoism straightforwardly leads to a conflict of desire. Rather, the objection shows that ethical egoism leads to an unresolvable conflict of moral beliefs and moral duty. If A and B are ethical egoists, then A believes that it is wrong for B to have the kidney but also that it is Bs duty to try to obtain it. But how can A consistently believe that B has a duty to do something wrong? And how can A have an objective duty to thwart Bs objective duty?

It would seem, then, that ethical egoism should be rejected as a normative ethical theory and that legitimate self-interest is part of Biblical teaching, e.g. in the passages relating moral obligation to rewards and punishments. If we should not understand these texts as implicitly affirming ethical egoism, how should we understand the self-interest they apparently advocate? I do not think that exegesis alone can solve this problem because the context and grammar of the passages are usually not precise enough to settle the philosophical issue before us. However, if we assume with the majority of thinkers that deontological and virtue ethics, and not ethical egoism, are the correct normative theories implied by Scripture, then we have a set of distinctions that provide a number of legitimate ways of understanding biblical self-interest.

To begin with, we need to distinguish between self-benefit as a bi-product of an act vs. self-interest as the sole intent of an act. Scriptural passages that use self-interest may simply be pointing out that if you intentionally do the right thing, then a good bi-product of this will be rewards of various kinds. It could be argued against philosopher Philip R. West (mentioned earlier) that these passages do not clearly use self-interest as the sole legitimate intent of a moral action.

This observation relates to a second distinction between a motive and a reason. Put roughly, a motive is some state within a person that influences and moves him to action. By contrast, a reason is something that serves to justify rationally some belief that one has or some action one does; a reason for believing or doing x is an attempt to cite something that makes it likely that x be true or that x should be done. In this context, just because something, say self-interest, serves as a motive for an action, it does not follow that it also serves as the reason which justifies the action in the first place. Self-interest may be a legitimate motive for moral action, but, it could be argued, Gods commands, the objective moral law, etc. could be rationally cited as the things that make an act our duty in the first place. The Bible may be citing selfinterest as a motive for action and not as the reason for what makes the act our duty.

Moreover, even if Scripture is teaching that self-interest is a reason for doing some duty, it may be offering self-interest as a prudential and not a moral reason for doing the duty. In other words, the Bible may be saying that it is wise, reasonable, and a matter of good judgment to avoid hell and seek rewards without claiming that these considerations are moral reasons for acting according to self-interest.13 In sum, it could be argued that Scripture can be understood as advocating self-interest as a bi-product and not an intent for action, as a motive and not a reason, or as a prudential and not a moral reason. If this is so, then these scriptural ideas do not entail ethical egoism.

Second, even if scripture teaches that self-interest contributes to making something my moral duty, ethical egoism still does not follow. For one thing, ethical egoism teaches that an act is moral if and only if it maximizes my own self-interests. Ethical egoism teaches that self-interest is both necessary and sufficient for something to be my duty. However, it could be argued that egoistic factors, while not alone morally relevant to an act (other things like self-sacrifice or obeying God for its own sake are relevant as well), nevertheless, are at least one feature often important for assessing the moral worth of an act. Moral duty is not exhausted by self-interest as ethical egoism implies, but self-interest can be a legitimate factor in moral deliberation and scripture may be expressing this point.

Additionally, it is likely that the precise nature of self-interest contained in scripture is different in two ways from that which forms part of ethical egoism. For one thing, according to ethical egoism, the thing that makes an act right is that it is in my self-interest. The important value-making property here is the fact that something promotes the first person interests of the actor. Here, the moral agent attends to himself precisely as being identical to himself and to no one else.

By contrast, the scriptural emphasis on self-interest most likely grounds the appropriateness of such interest, not in the mere fact that these interests are mine, but in the fact that I am a creature of intrinsic value made in Gods image and, as such, ought to care about what happens to me. Here I seek my own welfare not because it is my own, but because of what I am, viz. a creature with high intrinsic value. Consider a possible world where human persons have no value whatever (or where human counter-parts with no intrinsic value exist). In that world, ethical egoism would still legislate self-interest, but the second view under consideration (that self-interest follows from the fact that I am a creature of value) would not because the necessary condition for self-interest (being a creature of intrinsic value) does not obtain in that world.

There is a second way that the nature of self-interest in Scripture and in ethical egoism differ. As C. S. Lewis and C. Stephen Evans have argued, there are different kinds of rewards, and some are proper because they have a natural, intrinsic connection with the things we do to earn them and because they are expressions of what God made us to be by nature. 14 In such cases, these rewards provide a reason to do an activity which does not despoil the character of the activity itself. Money is not a natural reward for love (one is mercenary to marry for money) because money is foreign to the desires that ought to accompany love. By contrast, victory is a natural reward for battle. It is a proper reward because it is not tacked onto the activity for which the reward is given, but rather victory is the consummation of and intrinsically related to the activity itself.

According to Lewis, the desire for heaven and rewards is a natural desire expressing what we, by nature, are. We were made to desire honor before God, to be in his presence, and to hunger to enjoy the rewards he will offer us and these things are the natural consummations of our activity on earth. Thus, the appropriateness of seeking heaven and rewards derives from the fact that these results are genuine expressions of our natures and are the natural consummation of our activities for God. By contrast, according to ethical egoism, the value of results has nothing to do with our natures or with natural consummations of activities. Rather, the worth of those outcomes is solely a function of the fact that they benefit the agent himself.

In sum, self-interest is part of biblical teaching, especially in association with rewards and punishments. But ethical egoism neither captures adequately the nature of biblical self-interest nor is it the best normative ethical theory in its own right. As Christians, we should include self-interest as an important part of our moral and religious lives but without advocating ethical egoism in the process.

With degrees in philosophy, theology and chemisty, Dr. Moreland brings erudition, passion, and his distinctive ebullience to the end of loving God with all of one’s mind. Moreland received his B.S. in Chemistry (with honors) from the University of Missouri, his M.A. in Philosophy (with highest honors) from the University of California, Riverside, his Th.M. in Theology (with honors) from Dallas Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Southern California. Dr. Moreland has taught theology and philosophy at several schools throughout the U.S. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology.

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Jun 242016
 

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Gaming and gambling in the United States have undergone a great boom. During the past decade most states have expanded legalized gaming, including regulated casino-style games and lotteries. There has been an explosion in opening Native American casinos. The popularity of online gambling and betting has increased exponentially. Gambling-Law-US.com presents, explains and analyzes the patchwork of state and federal and state gambling laws that apply to the boom.

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The two words are not mutually exclusive. That is, a gaming activity could turn out to be gambling where applicable laws regulating that particular gaming are violated. Similarly, a gambling activity may turn out to be gaming if it is exempted from a given criminal statute. For example, playing a card game for money in a purely social setting where no one earns anything from the game other than as a mere player would be gaming if such social games were excluded from the reach of the criminal anti-gambling laws in the state where the game takes place. For the history of gambling laws on a state-by-state basis, see the individual state entries on Pokerwebsites.com.

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Ayn Rand (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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Jun 242016
 

1. Introduction 1.1 Ayn Rand and Philosophy

In Rands own words, her first and greatest love, her life purpose, was the creation of the kind of world that represents human perfection, while her interest in philosophical knowledge was only for the sake of this purpose (Journal entry for 4 May 1946; in 1997: 479).[1] Nevertheless, her interest in philosophical knowledge continued long after she had created this world in her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, her last work of fiction. In her non-fiction, Rand developed a conception of metaphysical realism, rationality, ethical egoism (rational self-interest), individual rights, laissez-faire capitalism, and art, and applied her philosophy to social issues. She wrote polemical, philosophical essays, often in response to questions by fans of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead; lectured on college campuses; and gave radio and television interviews. In her own words, her philosophy,

in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. (Rand 1957 [1992]: Afterword)

Capitalism, the unknown ideal, is for her the only political-economic system compatible with this philosophy because it is the only system based on respect for human beings as ends in themselves. The free-market libertarian political movement, though largely disowned by Rand, drewand drawsgreat inspiration from her moral defense of the minimal state, that is, the state whose only raison dtre is protection of individual rights.

Whereas Rands ideas and mode of presentation make Rand popular with many non-academics, they lead to the opposite outcome with academics. She developed some of her views in response to questions from her readers, but never took the time to defend them against possible objections or to reconcile them with the views expressed in her novels. Her philosophical essays lack the self-critical, detailed style of analytic philosophy, or any serious attempt to consider possible objections to her views. Her polemical style, often contemptuous tone, and the dogmatism and cult-like behavior of many of her fans also suggest that her work is not worth taking seriously.[2] Further, understanding her views requires reading her fiction, but her fiction is not to everyones taste. It does not help that she often dismisses other philosophers views on the basis of cursory readings and conversations with a few philosophers and with her young philosophy student acolytes. Some contemporary philosophers return the compliment by dismissing her work contemptuously on the basis of hearsay. Some who do read her work point out that her arguments too often do not support her conclusions. This estimate is shared even by many who find her conclusions and her criticisms of contemporary culture, morality, and politics original and insightful. It is not surprising, then, that she is either mentioned in passing, or not mentioned at all, in the entries that discuss current philosophical thought about virtue ethics, egoism, rights, libertarianism, or markets. (Readers may also find the entry on Nozicks political philosophy to be of interest.) We present specific criticisms of her arguments and claims below, in the relevant sections of this entry.

Ayn Rand was born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, to a bourgeois Jewish family in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 2 February 1905. A witness to the Russian Revolution and civil war, Rand opposed both the Communists and the Tsarists. She majored in history, but the social science program in which she was enrolled at Petrograd State University included philosophy, law, and philology. Her teachers emphasizedas she herself later didthe importance of developing systematic connections among different areas of thought (Sciabarra 1995). Rands formal philosophical education included ancient philosophy (especially Plato and Aristotle), logic, philosophical psychology, Marxism-Leninism, and non-Marxist political thought. But she was evidently also exposed to Hegelian and Nietzschean ideas, which blossomed during this period (known as the Russian Silver Age), and read a great deal of Friedrich Nietzsche on her own. After graduating from Petrograd State University in 1924, an interest in screenwriting led her to enroll in the State Institute for Cinematography. On the literary side, she studied the great Russian novelists and poets, but fell in love with Victor Hugo, to whose influence she owes the Romantic Realism of her novels.

In 1925 Rand succeeded in obtaining permission to visit relatives in the United States; hating the Soviet system, she left with no intention of returning. After six months with relatives in Chicago, she made her way to Hollywood where, on her second day, a fortuitous encounter with Cecil B. DeMille led to a job as a script reader, and later as a screenplay writer. The next week she had another fortuitous encounter, this time with the actor Frank OConnor, whom she married in 1929. She was married to him till his death in 1979. She adopted the pen name Ayn Rand to (it is thought) protect her family back in Russia, although she also told the New York Evening Post in 1936 that Rand was an abbreviation of her Russian surname.

Rand and her husband moved permanently to New York City in 1951, where she became involved with, and was influenced by, the circle of mostly New-York-based intellectuals involved in the revival of classical liberalism, such as the economic journalist Henry Hazlitt, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, and the Canadian-American novelist, literary critic, and political philosopher Isabel Paterson. Rand also studied, and was a great admirer of, the Lockean philosophy of the American founding. Rand lived and worked in New York City until her death in 1982.

Rand holds that philosophy, like all forms of knowledge and achievement, is important only because it is necessary for living a good human life and creating a world conducive to living such a life. Philosophy supplies the most fundamental cognitive and normative abstractions which, respectively, identify and evaluate what is. Everyone, according to Rand, needs a philosophy and is guided by at least an implicit one (1982a: ch. 1). Her novels express her belief that if our philosophy is more or less correct, our lives will be more or less successful, if our philosophy is wildly off the mark, our lives will be disastrous. Philosophy thus has an urgent, practical importance. But unlike Marx, her philosophical and political antipode, Rand thinks that social change has to start with a moral revolution within each individual and the spread of the right ideas and ideals through rational discourse and the inspiration of art.

Rands ideal human being appears, in varying degrees of development, in all her novels; her ideal world appears in Atlas Shrugged. Her novels feature striking, complex plots with subtle psychological explorations of her characters emotions and thoughts, and philosophical reflections that rarely lose sight of the dramatic context. Like many famous Russian novelists, especially Dostoevsky, whom she recognized as a great psychologist, Rand also uses long speeches to lay out her philosophy, a device that has both its supporters and its detractors. She described Atlas Shrugged as a stunt novel and a murder mysterythe murder of the human soul by a collectivist culture. By soul, however, she meant not an immortal substance that survives the death of the bodyshe is not a dualist in any aspect of her philosophybut the mind, or the human spirit that celebrates life on this earth. She took a familiar phenomenon and literary tropea workers strikeand turned it on its head to show what happens when the men of mindscientists, philosophers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, writersthe prime movers of a societygo on strike. It also purports to show how the wrong metaphysics can lead to the wrong ethics and thus to disastrous personal choices and a disastrous political and economic system, and how the right philosophy is needed for the rebirth of the soul and the rebuilding of the world. Her protagonists are not knights on white steeds rescuing damsels in distress, or swordsmen who can fight off a dozen enemies single-handed, but men and women in the mid-20th century industrial America of steel mills, skyscrapers, and glimmering highways: women who run transcontinental railroads and men who revolutionize architecture or (long before clean energy became a cause clbre) build a motor powered by static electricity to produce limitless, clean energy. Her novels show the importance of striving to be the best we can be:

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but never have been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible. (Atlas Shrugged, 1957 [1992]: 983).

Her novels inspire readers because they present heroes of unbreached integrity, heroes who lead colorful and remarkable lives and succeed not in spite of, but because of, their uncompromising virtue. This estimate of their virtue is not, of course, shared by all: many readers find her characters wooden, her writing stilted, and her ethical and political views misguided.

Rand paid tribute to Aristotle, whom she considered the greatest of all philosophers, in the titles she gave to the three Parts of Atlas Shrugged (Non-Contradiction, Either-Or, A is A) and to one of the chapters (The Immovable Movers). While she differed sharply from Nietzsche on many issues, including rationality, free will, and individual rights, his influence is evident in her provocative, often aphoristic, point-counterpoint writing style, as well as in her transvaluation of traditional values and her powerful affirmation of life and joy and the spirit of youth. In the Introduction to the 25th Anniversary edition of The Fountainhead, she stated that the novels sense of life is best conveyed by a quotation from Nietzsches Beyond Good and Evil: The noble soul has reverence for itself. (For The Fountainheads partly sympathetic and partly critical engagement with Nietzsches ideas, see Hunt 2006.)

Fundamental to Rands outlookso fundamental that she derives the name of her philosophical system, Objectivism, from itis a trichotomy among three categories: the intrinsic, the subjective, and the objective (ITOE: 5254; Rand 1965: 1323). An intrinsic phenomenon is one whose nature depends wholly on factors external to the mind; a subjective phenomenon is one whose nature depends wholly on the mind; and an objective phenomenon is defined, variously, as that which depends on the relation between a living entitys nature (including the nature of its mind) and its environment, or as that which depends on the relation between a properly functioning (rational) mind and extramental reality. Commentators are divided over the best way to interpret Rands views on this issue.

Rand holds that there is a widespread tendency to ignore the third category or to assimilate it to the second, thus setting up a false dichotomy between the intrinsic and the subjective. On Rands view, many of the fundamental questions of philosophy, from the existence of universals to the nature of value, involve fruitless debates over the false alternative intrinsic or subjective? in cases where the phenomenon in question is neither intrinsic nor subjective, but rather objective.

If ethics is the branch of philosophy concerned with practice, then in a sense all of Rands philosophy is ethics, for Rand stresses the supremacy of actual living over all other considerations, and insists that philosophy needs to be brought up to the realm of actual livingadding I say intentionally brought up to it, not down (Journal entry for 15 May 1934, p. 72; in Rand 1997: 73). Consequently, Rand regularly concerns herself with the practical implications and social relevance not only of moral and political philosophy, but likewise of the seemingly more arcane strata of metaphysics and epistemologyas when she identifies errors in concept-formation as one of the roots of racism, or mind-body dualism as a root of the dichotomy between economic and personal freedom. This approach likewise reflects Rands emphasis on integrating each piece of information into the total context of ones knowledge, and her consequent hostility to compartmentalization.

Rands conviction of the vital practical importance of abstract theory may help to explain the passionately polemical nature of her philosophical writing, which some readers find inspiring and others hyperbolic and off-puttingthough Rands admiration for Nietzsche, as well as her having been educated in a Marxist-Leninist atmosphere, may also play a role. Rand also tendedperhaps owing in part to the same two influencesto regard philosophical errors as revelatory of the psychological flaws of their authors.

For a more in-depth presentation of Rands views on epistemology and metaphysics, please see the supplement on Epistemology and Metaphysics

Ethics

is a code of values to guide mans choices and actionsthe choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. (1961b: 13)

Before we can decide which code of values we should accept, we need to ask why we need a code of values at all. Rand claims that no philosopher before her has provided a scientific answer to this question, and so none has provided a satisfactory ethics.

Rand starts by describing value or the good, in classical fashion, as the object of pursuit: that which one acts to gain and/or keep (1961b: 16). Thus, the concept of value presupposes the concept of an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternativeand the basic alternative facing any living entity is life or death (1961b: 16). It is the conditional nature of life that gives rise to values, not just human values, but values as such. As she puts it:

Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. (1961b: 18)

Survival is the organisms ultimate value, the final goal or end to which all [its] lesser goals are the means, and the standard of all its other values: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil (pp. 1617). The same, suitably modified, applies to human beings. Life is the standard and goal of all genuine human values, in the sense that all of themfrom food to philosophy to fine art to ethicsmust be explained and justified as requirements of human survival. Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of mans survival (p. 24). Thus,

[t]he standard of value of the Objectivist ethics is mans life, or: that which is required for mans survival qua man, (1961b: 25)

that is,

the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespanin all those aspects of existence which are open to his choice. (1961b: 27)

To choose to live is to accept ones own life as ones ethical purpose.

Rands metaphysical arguments make two points central to her axiology and ethics. (1) Values are not just a human phenomenon but a phenomenon of life: life necessitates value. Thus, values are neither intrinsic properties of things, nor subjective, neither free-floating Platonic entities, nor mere matters of desire or preference, culture or time. Rather, values are relational or objective, dependent on the nature of the valuing entity and the nature of its environment. (2) An entitys values are determined by the requirements of survival for entities of its kind, and ethics is a requirement of human survival.

Rand seeks to bolster this claim by arguing that the concept of value entails the concept of life:

epistemologically, the concept of value is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of life. (1961b: 18)

She supports it by asking us

to imagine an immortal, indestructible robot, an entity which moves and acts, but which cannot be affected by anything, which cannot be changed in any respect, which cannot be damaged, injured or destroyed. (1961b: 16)

Such an entity, she concludes, cannot have values.

Critics raise two objections to this argument. (i) It begs the question by assuming what is at issue, namely, that a non-living entity cannot be harmed (Nozick 1971). Unlike the robot of this example, real robots can be damaged or destroyed, not only by external events, but also by a failure to perform their functions well, that is, by their own actions or inactions. Hence they can, quite straightforwardly, be said to have values.[3] (ii) Even if one were to accept that the concept of value entails the concept of life, one could consistently regard ones survival as a means to a certain kind of life: a life of dedication to the greater glory of God, the common good, the environment, and so on (Mack 1984).

Rands naturalism, and her rejection of intrinsicism and subjectivism in favor of objectivism, anticipate recent naturalisms and echo Aristotles argument, against both the Platonist and the subjectivist, that the good must always be good-for-something. Her conception of the function of morality is notable both for its affinity to, and its difference from, Thomas Hobbes conception: like Hobbes, Rand sees morality as a necessary means to long-term survival, but unlike Hobbes, she does not see morality as requiring a contract or even as a fundamentally social affair. The need for morality, according to Rand, is dictated by our nature as creatures that must think and produce to survive; hence we would need morality even on a desert island. There is, however, no duty to survive; morality is based on a hypothetical imperative: if you choose to live, then you must value your own long-term survival as an ultimate end, and morality as a necessary means to it. (The much-debated question of whether the choice to live is a moral choice (Mack 1984, 2003; Long 2000; Rasmussen 2002, 2006) or a pre-moral one (Peikoff 1991; Gotthelf 1999; Smith 2000, 2006), and the implications of either position for the objectivity of Rands Objectivist ethics must, unfortunately, be left undiscussed.) If asked why the choice to live commits you to your own long-term survival rather than some other ultimate end (such as, for example, the greatest happiness of the greatest number (Nozick 1971), or becoming worthy of eternal life in heaven), the answer is: because any other ultimate end, if consistently adhered to, would lead to death.

Rands ethics is thus firmly teleological, this-worldly, and foundationalist. Virtue is the act by which one gains/and or keeps values in light of a recognition of certain facts (1961b: 27, 28); it is not an end in itself not its own reward (1957 [1992]: 939). A fact central to a scientific ethics is that reason is the chief indispensable human tool of survival, and we exercise reason by choice. Hence rationality is the fundamental moral virtue, a virtue implicated in all the other virtues, including productiveness (Section 2.4 below).

Rand is widely credited by Objectivists (Peikoff 1991; Binswanger 1990, 1992; Kelley & Thomas 1999see Other Internet Resources; Gotthelf 1999; Smith 2000, 2006) with having solved the is-ought problem by showing that morality is essential for long-term survival as a rational being, and so anyone who chooses to live ought to be moral (1961b: 19). But if the choice to live is itself a moral choice, in the sense that we ought to choose to live, then the argument proceeds from an ought to an ought, not from an is to an ought. On the other hand, if the choice to live is a non-moral choice (an idea thats hard to reconcile with Rands general view that all significant choices are moral choices), then suicide can never be wrong, even if it is done for cowardly, irresponsible, or unjust reasons, a view that seems incoherent (King 1984 and Narveson 1998 criticize this and other aspects of Rands moral views). Even more problematically, if morality is needed only for long-term survival, and choosing suicide is not immoral, then a suicide-bomber does no wrong in killing innocent people.

Relatedly, how should we understand the idea of survival as a rational beingthe life proper to a rational being (Rand 1961b: 27). Is a life proper to a rational being a necessary means, and only a necessary means, to literal, long-term survival? Or is such a life also, in part, the ultimate goal, something to be created and preserved for its own sake? Again, what are we to make of the many passages in which Rand states that the ultimate goal is ones own happiness?

Rand herself thought that she had only one, consistent metaethical view: the ultimate goal is the individuals own survival; the only way to survive long-term, i.e., over a complete life-span, is to live by the standard of mans life as a rational being, which means: to live morally; and happiness is the psychological result, reward and concomitant (p. 32) of living thus. Many of Rands commentators follow her in holding that there is only one consistent view, while disagreeing on the right interpretation of it (Den Uyl & Rasmussen 1978; Machan 1984, 2000; Peikoff 1991; Bidinotto 1994see Other Internet Resources; Hunt 1999; Kelley & Thomas 1999see Other Internet Resources; Gotthelf 1999; Smith 2000, 2006). Others (Mack 1984, 2003; Badhwar 1999, 2001; Long 2000) argue that Rands writings actually allow of two, if not three, mutually incompatible views of the ultimate goal, and our task is to see which of these is the dominant or most plausible view. The three views are: survival, survival qua rational being, and happiness in the ancient Aristotelian sense of flourishing or eudaimonia. In the rest of Section 2, we will present the textual evidence for each of these views of the final goal, and the common objections to them, in turn.

The survivalist view holds that just as literal survival is the ultimate value for other living entities, so it is for human beings (Kelley & Thomas 1999; Gotthelf 1999; Smith 2000). Survival is the source and final goal of all the actions of an entity, that which gives point to all its other values. For human beings, happiness, intellectual and artistic pursuits and rationality/morality are all means to survival. The vicious can achieve their goals [only] for the range of a moment, as evidenced by any criminal or any dictatorship (1961b: 26). Even those whose vice consists of imitating others rather than looting them live a precarious existence because they are likely to follow any destroyer who promises to be their savior (1961b: 25).

Non-survivalists make the following objections:

Like Hobbes, Rand rightly points out that if everyone or most people were to start preying on each other, then no one would survive for longliterally, and that generations of predators would end up destroying or driving away the producers, and thus destroying themselves (Anthem and Atlas Shrugged). But this doesnt show that a few predators in a society of producers cannot survive by predation. Indeed, Rand herself sometimes acknowledges that evil people can survive by free-riding (hitch-hiking, as she calls it) on rational, productive people:

If some men attempt to survive by means of brute force or fraud it still remains true that their survival is made possible only by their victims, only by the men who choose to think and to produce the goods which they, the looters, are seizing. (1961b: 25)

In Mans Rights, Rand explains an individuals right to his own life as

the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (1963b: 93 and 1967a: 32122)

Life here is explicated in terms of not only continued survival but also the enjoyment proper to a human being.

For all these reasons, a more plausible interpretation of Rands view is that morality is required for surviving qua human being, that is, for living a life proper to a human being.

Just as the standard of value is survival qua human being, so the ultimate goal is ones own survival qua human being. To accept this standard and goal is to accept (i) the three cardinal values of reason, purpose (or purposiveness) and self-esteem as not only the means to but also the realization of ones ultimate value, ones own life (1961b: 27), and (ii) the three corresponding virtues of rationality, productiveness, and pride. These values are means to ones life insofar as they further ones life as a rational being, and they realize it insofar as they express the value we place on our lives.

What it means to value survival qua human being turns on the relationship of the three cardinal values to the three virtues. Rand often states that virtue is only a means to value. But when she explains how the three cardinal values correspond to their three virtues, she does not provide a means-end analysis (Badhwar 1999, 2001). Thus, she says:

Productive work is the central purpose of a rational mans life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive workpride is the result. (1961b: 27)

The virtue of productiveness becomes the central example of purpose (one of the three cardinal values), reason (another cardinal value) becomes its source, and the virtue of pride becomes its result. Rand also defines rationality, which is the basic virtue, in terms of

the recognition and acceptance of reason as ones only source of knowledge and ones only guide to action. (1961b: 28)

By this definition, being rational means valuing reason in thought, word, and deed, and realizing reason in ones life means being rational: the virtue and the value entail each other.

This point generalizes to all the virtues and values. Further, since the (cardinal) values are both the means to and the realization of ones ultimate value (1961b: 27), it follows that the (cardinal) virtues are also both the means to and the realization of ones ultimate value: long-term survival qua human being. On this interpretation, to survive qua human being is none other than to lead a virtuous life in which one has realized ones potential.

Both survivalists and eudaimonists, however, point out that this conception of the final end contradicts Rands oft-repeated claim that Virtue is not an end in itself. In addition, eudaimonists make the following objections:

Eudaimonists hold that the dominant and/or more plausible view expressed in Rands writings is that happinessa happy lifeis the ultimate value, where a happy life is understood as a life of emotional fulfillment in worthwhile goals and activities. Happiness in this sense necessarily involves virtue, but is not identical with virtue (Den Uyl & Rasmussen 1978; Machan 1984, 2000; Mack 1984; Badhwar 1999, 2001; Hunt 1999; Long 2000).[4]

Happiness is the existentially and psychologically successful state of life (1961b: 27). As an emotion it is not simply a positive subjective state, as on some contemporary views, but an emotion that meets certain normative standards: a state of non-contradictory joya joy without penalty or guilt, achievable only by

the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions. (1961b: 32)

Happiness is also a form of life-affirmation:

the feeling of ones blessing upon the whole of the earth, the feeling of being in love with the fact that one exists and in this kind of world. (1957 [1992]: 1056)

Thus, happiness is an objectively worthwhile and emotionally positive state of life.

Rand holds that the pursuit of happiness is inseparable from the activity of maintaining ones life through the rational pursuit of rational goals (1961b: 29, 32). A virtuous life is, thus, essential to happiness. It is also a shield against soul-wracking unhappiness. Just as even great misfortunes dont throw Aristotles virtuous individual into misery, they dont throw Rands heroes into misery. Even at the worst of times, the virtuous individuals pain only goes down to a certain point (1943: 344), never touching the core of her being: the self-esteem that consists of the conviction that she is worthy and capable of happiness.[5]

In keeping with their richer conception of the final end, Rands novels also employ a richer conception of virtue as an integrated intellectual-emotional character trait to think, feel, and act in certain ways, rather than simply as an act in light of a recognition of certain facts (Badhwar 1999, 2001). Her characters reveal their souls not only in what they say or do, notice or fail to notice, focus on or evade, on this or that occasion, but in their cognitive, emotional, and action dispositions, their style of being in the world. Their actions show not only an intellectual commitment to the right but a wholehearted love of rectitude (1957 [1992]: 512).

This basically Aristotelian view of virtue goes hand-in-hand with a basically Aristotelian view of emotions. Rand rejects the reason-emotion dichotomy as stemming, ultimately, from a false mind-body dichotomy. Emotions are neither raw feelings nor inherently irrational but automatized value-judgments:

estimates of that which furthers mans values or threatens them lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss. (1961b: 27)

Emotions provide instant guidance when circumstances do not permit reasoning everything out anew. But our emotions are only as good as our reason, because they are programmed by our reason. Hence they can only be corrected by conscious reasoning, and in a conflict between reason and emotions, one must always side with the former.[6]

Eudaimonists argue that Rands vision of a virtuous and happy life in her novels can be understood only as a form of eudaimonism, even if she often makes statements inconsistent with this vision. The chief objection to eudaimonism is that, by defining a happy life partly in terms of virtue, it employs an unconvincing conception of happiness. The philosophical literature on happiness in this sense (usually called well-being) makes and answers many such objections (Badhwar 2014).

The chief Objectivist virtues are rationality, integrity, honesty (with self and others), justice, independence, productiveness, and pride. Rationality,

ones total commitment to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices to the fullest perception of reality within ones power, (1961b: 28)

is the basic virtue of which the other virtues are aspects or derivatives. The virtues are thus united or reciprocal. Each virtue is defined partly in terms of a recognition and whole-hearted commitment to some fact or facts, a commitment understood by the agent to be indispensable for gaining, maintaining, or expressing her ultimate value. For example, integrity is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake your consciousness (1957 [1992]: 936), a recognition that is expressed in loyalty to ones rational values and convictions, especially in the face of social pressures to surrender them (1961b: 28; 1964a: 52, 80); honesty is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake existence, a recognition that is expressed in truthfulness in thought and speech (1957 [1992]: 93637); and justice is

the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake the character of men as you cannot fake the character of nature, that every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly. (1957 [1992]: 937)

Conspicuous by their absence from Rands list of the cardinal virtues are the virtues of benevolence, such as kindness, charity, generosity, and forgiveness. Rand states that charity is not a major virtue or moral duty (1964b); likewise, presumably, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness. Whether, and how much, one should help others depends on their place in ones rationally defined hierarchy of values, and on the particular circumstances (whether they are worthy of help, what the likely consequences are of helping them, and so on). The greater their value vis–vis ones rational self-interest, the greater the help that one should be willing to give, ceteris paribus. What is never morally appropriate is making sacrifices, that is, surrendering something of value to oneself for the sake of something of less or no value to oneself. Thus, it can never be moral to knowingly risk ones life for a stranger (unless, of course, ones life is no longer worth living) or to court unhappiness for the happiness of another, whether stranger or friend. It is appropriate to help a stranger only in an emergency, and only when the risk to our own life or well-being is minimal (1963c: 4345). This should not be taken to imply that helping a stranger is morally optional, regardless of the strangers plight. Indeed, people who are totally indifferent to anything living and would not lift a finger to help a man or a dog left mangled by a hit-and-run driver are psychopaths (1963c: 4345) Rand makes even more concessions to common sense morality when she states that its good to help a neighbor going through a hard time till he can get back on his own feet, if we can afford to and if we have no reason to think that he is undeserving. Charity understood thus is a virtue because it is an expression of the generalized good will and respect that all normal people have towards others as creatures who share with them the capacity to value (1963c: 4647). Nathaniel Branden tries to reconcile charity with a narrow act-egoism by declaring that the former stems from a species-identification with another, such that, in revering others, people are revering their own life. By acting charitably, people actualize this sense of kinship, without sacrificing their own well-being.

This last is true, but the desire to reduce all motivations to act-egoistic motivations leads Branden (and Rand and many Objectivists) to ignore the fact that charity is first and foremost profoundly other-regarding, prompted by anothers plight rather than concern for ones own self-actualization The same is true of trying to rescue a dog mangled by a hit-and-run driver, where the egoistic motivation is even weaker, since here there is no species-identification, but rather only a genus-identification with another sufferer.

At any rate, the argument from identification can also be used to justify charity towards strangers in non-emergency situations, for example, for those who are permanently disabled and unable to care for themselves (Badhwar forthcoming-b). Rand concedes as much in What is Capitalism? (1965) where she argues that people who are unable to work must rely on voluntary charity, thus implying that it is proper for those who can afford it to support strangers in non-emergency situations.

The question arises why Rand thinks that charity, kindness etc. are not major virtues when they meet all the conditions of appropriateness: the recipient is worthy of help, one can afford to help, it is in ones rational self-interest (or not contrary to it) to help, and so on. Perhaps Rand thinks that they are minor virtues because we are not obligated to act on them at all times, the way we are obligated to act justly and honestly at all times. A deeper reason, however, might be her conception of people as essentially agents rather than patients, doers rather than receivers, self-sufficient rather than dependent. Nevertheless, Rands view of the unity of the virtues dictates that, even if we are not obligated to act on charity, kindness etc. at all times, they are just as important to possess as the other virtues. Moreover, in keeping with her emphasis on the importance of goodwill towards others and the benevolent universe premise, Rands heroes are often extraordinarily (and almost always appropriately) kind and generous, not only to those they love but also to mere acquaintances, and even sometimes adversaries (Badhwar 1993bsee Other Internet Resources). Striking examples include, from The Fountainhead, Howard Roarks unsought-for attempt to give hope and courage to Steven Mallory, the gifted young sculptor whose failure to get work has driven him to the verge of a spiritual and physical collapse; Roarks unreproachful help to his erstwhile adversary, Peter Keating, when Keating falls on hard times; and from Atlas Shrugged, Dagnys support to a heart-broken and despairing Cheryl Taggart who, in the past, has treated Dagny with scorn; and Hank Reardens generosity towards his exploitative family before he realizes their exploitativeness.[7] By contrast, Rands villains lack genuine goodwill towards others and, thus, lack true kindness or generosity.

Just as rationality, a focus on reality, is at the heart of every virtue, so irrationality, evasion of reality (including self-deception), is at the heart of every vice. Rands villains are all master evaders motivated by a desire for power, social status, fame, or unearned wealth, and resentment of the good. They are second-handerspeople whose primary relationship is to other people rather than to reality. Between the virtuous and the vicious are the innocently wrong, people who adopt wrong moral principles or make wrong choices, not through evasion but through an error of judgment (Rand does not explicitly recognize any moral category other than virtue, vice, and moral error, although her novels portray characters that do not easily fit into any of these categories). Hank Rearden, in Atlas Shrugged, is the great innocent living under a burden of unearned guilt because of his mistaken sense of honor and his charity towards a family interested only in manipulating and using him. Cheryl Taggart is killed by the too-sudden revelation that the man she loved and admired as the embodiment of her ideals is a fraudand that the world is full of such frauds.

As already indicated, Rand justifies virtue in both instrumental and non-instrumental terms, though without distinguishing between them. The instrumental arguments show the existential and psychological rewards of virtue and costs of vice. Virtue creates a sense of inner harmony and enables mutually beneficial interactions with others. Evasiveness, by contrast, traps one in a tangled web of rationalizations and pretenses. The evader who deceives others is either eventually caught, or lives in fear of being caught, becoming dependent on others unconsciousness. He is a fool, says a character in Atlas Shrugged, whose source of values is the fools he succeeds in fooling (1957 [1992]: 945). Further, like Sartre, Rand holds that no evasion is completely successful, because the truth constantly threatens to resurface. Hence, the evaders diseased soul is in a state of constant inner conflict and anxiety as he tries to suppress his awareness of uncomfortable truths while maintaining his hold on others. His lack of integrity and of esteem for reality results in a lack of self-love or self-esteem and, indeed, of a solid self. (It is noteworthy, however, that her portrayal of Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead is closer to Aristotles portrayal of the vicious man in Book III of the Nicomachean Ethics as someone who is unconscious of his vice, than to her own stated view of the evader.)

These views are familiar from the history of philosophy, but many readers find their expression in Rands novels to be of unusual psychological depth and conviction. Nevertheless, the views are subject to the well-known objection that the complexity and variability of human psychology and society allow only for the most part generalizations about the existential and psychological benefits of virtue or costs of vice. Thus, it is possible for a small injustice to lead to great rewards, especially since others are willing to shrug off or forgive occasional transgressions. It is also possible for poor introspection, forgetfulness, or self-acceptance to allow one to evade something without any need for supporting evasions or damage to ones self-esteem. Again, even if every wrongdoing carries psychological costs, these might sometimes be outweighed by the long-term costs of doing the right thing (as Rand herself suggests in her portrayal of the embittered Henry Cameron and Stephen Mallory in The Fountainhead).

The non-instrumentalist justification of virtue in Rands novels is largely immune to these objections (though subject to the objections noted in 2.4 above). To compromise morally is, necessarily, to compromise ones own (objectively conceived) happiness, because no existential loss can compare to the loss of moral integrity. Rectitude is partly constitutive of genuine happiness because it expresses the right relationship to reality: to existence, to oneself, and to others. For the same reason, it is partly constitutive of a self worth loving, an ideally human or rational self. Like Plato and Aristotle, Rand argues that virtue necessarily creates inner harmony and certitude. Any value gained at the price of rectitude is only the simulacrum of genuine value. In a variety of conceptually interconnected ways, then, virtuous individuals are necessarily better off than those willing to take moral short-cuts. In its structure and much of its content, Rands ethical egoism is thus of a piece with the egoism of ancient eudaimonistic theories.

An objection often levied against egoistic theories is that they give the wrong reason for acting in other-regarding ways: justly, kindly, etc. My act is not really just if I give you your due because it is good for me rather than because you deserve it; it is not really charitable if I help you for my own benefit rather than yours. A common reply is that the egoists justification is egoistic but not her motivation, a reply that itself invites the charge of moral schizophrenia. Rand does not address the wrong-reason objection, but its unlikely that she would accept this dichotomy between justification and motivation. So insofar as her view is instrumentalist and act-egoistic, the problem remains. The non-instrumentalist strand in her theory, however, implies that the objection itself is mistaken, because giving you what you deserve/merit is partly constitutive of my rational interests; there is no conflict between your rational interests and mine (cf. 1964a: 5765).

Rand regards goodwill towards others, or a generalized benevolence, as an offshoot of proper self-love, with no independent source in human nature. There is only one alternative to being rationally self-interested: sacrificing ones proper interests, either for the sake of other people (which she equates with altruism) or for the sake of the supernatural (which she calls mysticism) (1982a: ch. 7). Kants ethics is a secularized mysticism insofar as it rests on categorical commands and duty for dutys sake, which is to say: regardless of any earthly desire or interest (1970). An altruistic ethics equates right action with self-sacrifice for the sake of others good and immorality with selfishness, while saying nothing about the standard of the good (Introduction, 1964a: iii; 1974). It thus fails to answer the prior question of what code of values we should follow and why, and provides no motivation to be moral other than guilt over selfishness. When taken to its logical conclusion, altruism does not simply tell us that it is selfish to pursue our own desires, but also that it is selfish to uphold [our own] convictions, [that we] must sacrifice them to the convictions of others (Rand 1957 [1992]: 943; Galts Speech, Rand 1961a: 142). In foreign policy, altruism is used to justify and gain support for Americas intervention in other countries (1966a). Altruism is also the reason why so many sympathize with, or even praise, bloody dictatorships that proudly proclaim that the sacrifice of the individual is a necessary and noble means to the goal of the collective good (Rand 1966a).

As a moral code, altruism is impractical, because its requirements are contrary to the requirements of life and happiness, both the agents and other peoples. As such, it is also profoundly immoral. Altruism leaves us without any moral guidance in our everyday lives and gives morality a bad name.

What, then, is the psychological explanation for the widespread equation of altruism with morality? Rand suggests various explanations reminiscent of Nietzsches analysis of the psychology of altruism. The theorists and preachers of altruism are motivated largely by a desire to control and manipulate others by playing on their guilt. Those who accept their teachings typically do so either because of guilt over their own superior achievements, or because, lacking any intellectual integrity, love of truthor a passionate dedication to an idea, they have nothing much worth saving, and so do not mind sacrificing themselves (Selfishness Without a Self, 1973b; 1982a). Some altruists are altruists because their mentalities are still frozen in a tribal past when survival required the sacrifice of some for the sake of others (1973b). Rand herself rejects a zero-sum picture of human relationships, so long as everyone in the relationship acts rationally.

Rands defense of selfishness and rejection of altruism are part of the reason both for her popularity with the general reader, and her unpopularity with philosophers and other intellectuals, although some would no doubt agree with her rejection of abject self-sacrifice and her recognition of proper concern with the self as moral (Falk 1963; Gilligan 1982; Hampton 1993; Badhwar 1993a). The general reader who responds positively to Rands work finds, for the first time, a moral justification for pursuing a life of her or his own and a liberation from unearned guilt. The philosopher who responds negatively to her work finds many biased and simplistic interpretations of philosophers and philosophical doctrines, including her claim that she is the first to consistently defend a morality of rational self-interest, all other philosophers having defended either altruism or mysticism (Pojman 1995). Her critics also challenge her equation of altruism with abject self-sacrifice (Rachels 2000, Flew 1984), and her claim (explained below) that there is no conflict between peoples rational interests (Flew 1984). An adequate interpretation of her views, however, requires attention both to the fact that, in the absence of special obligations created by bonds of love, contract, or family, she regards others needs as making no claim on us, and to the fact that she is an uncompromising defender of justice, honesty, and respect for others as ends in themselves.

Rands moral society is a society of independent individuals who respect each others natural rights to life, liberty, and property, and who trade value for value, materially and spiritually. They live, in her words, by the trader principle. Individual (natural) rights and the trader principle are both dictated by the fact that, as rational, independent beings, we need to think and act for our proper survival (1961b: 31). Both are required by respect for individuals as ends in themselves, not mere means to others ends.

Rights are a moral conceptthe concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individuals actions to the principles guiding his relationship with othersthe concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social contextthe link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law. (1963b: 92).

These natural rights are basically rights to actions, not to things or outcomes, and they can be violated only through the initiation of force or fraud. Hence, all natural rights are negative, that is, claims on others non-interference, and not claims on them to provide one with certain goods or outcomes.[8] The fundamental right is the right to life: the right to take the actions necessary for sustaining the life proper to a human being.

The right to life meansthe freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.). (1963b: 93)

The right to liberty is the right to act (including to write and speak) on ones judgment; the right to the pursuit of happiness is the right to pursue goals for ones own fulfillment; the right to property is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values (1963b: 94). Like the mind-body dichotomy, the common dichotomy between human rights and the right to property is a false one, because to own ones life is to own ones actions and their fruits (1962b: 91).[9] Just as there is a causal and logical connection between the virtues, so there is between these rights: a government that violates human rights also violates property rights. Thus, for example, in violating the right to freedom of expression by banning obscene speech on TV, the government violates the property right of the owners of the TV station to use their property as they see fit. Like other libertarians, both right (market) and left (egalitarian), Rand opposes state regulation of morality, as well as forced service to the state, whether military or civilian. She criticizes both conservatives and liberals (as these terms are understood in American politics) for wanting government to control the realm they regard as important: the spiritual or moral realm in the case of conservatives, and the material or economic realm in the case of liberals (1981b). Both sides thus betray a lack of understanding of the fact that human beings need to be free in both realms to be free in either.

There is much that is of great value here, especially Rands insight that we would not have rights if we did not need them for our survival and happiness (Miller & Mossoff forthcoming; Badhwar forthcoming-a). But critics point out that grounding all rights in the right to take the actions necessary for proper survival entails that one has no right to take actions that are contrary to proper survival: blindly following a guru instead of thinking for oneself, living off others because one prefers the life of a couch potato to fending for oneself, wasting ones property instead of using it wisely, or, most obviously, committing suicide (Mack 1984; Zwolinski forthcoming; Badhwar forthcoming-a). Yet the freedom to do only that which is morally good or rational is not a freedom at all. But this is not Rands consistent position. For example, she also says that, as fallible creatures, human beings

must be free to agree or disagree, to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, each according to his own rational judgment. (1965: 17)

Some commentators rely on this statement to argue that Rand is not restricting rights to actions that are necessary for proper survival (Miller & Mossoff forthcoming). But it would be more accurate to say that, while this position is the one that is compatible with her deep-seated commitment to liberty and a minimal government, she also often makes statements that entail the opposite.

Rand argues that the only just social-political system, the only system compatible with our rational nature and with the right of individuals to live for their own sakes, is capitalism (1965, 1967b), that is,

laissez-faire capitalismwith a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. (1961b, 1964a)

State regulation of the market, she argues, is responsible for corrupting both state and market institutions, just as political regulation of religion (or religious regulation of politics), wherever it exists, corrupts both state and religious institutions. Regulation creates the opportunity for the trading of favors between politicians and religious leaders, and politicians and businesses. Atlas Shrugged offers a complex and compelling depiction of the economic, political, and moral corruption spawned by cronyism between government and business. Laissez-faire capitalism is the only [social] system that bans force from social relationships domestically and abroad, because the trader and the warrior are antagonists (Rand 1966a). Rands conception of capitalism is, thus, more radical than the mainstream conception, and her defense of it significantly different both from the utilitarian defenses given by most economists, and the religious defenses given by many conservatives (see Den Uyl & Rasmussen 1984b; Machan 1984). She does, of course, praise capitalism (or semi-capitalism) for creating widespread prosperity, but this feature is itself explained only by the fact that it leaves individuals free to produce in peace. In Atlas Shrugged, Rand distinguishes between the few business people who earn their money through honest effort, without seeking favors from the government, and the vast majority who are members of the aristocracy of pull (crony capitalists, in contemporary terminology) and get rich only through such favors, a situation that she thinks prevails, and has always prevailed, in the real world (Rand 1964c). She holds that for a short period in the nineteenth-century America came closer to a laissez-faire system than any other society before or since, but that capitalism remains an unknown ideal. Some critics complain, however, that in her non-fiction (1961c) Rand does not always recognize the aristocrats of pull in the real worldbusiness leaders who lobby politicians for subsidies for themselves and restrictions on their competitors (Rothbard 1968; Johnson 2006).

Rand rejects the criticism that unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism would lead to a concentration of power in a few hands and undermine equality of opportunity because laissez-faire capitalism requires the rule of law, a well-defined system of property rights, freedom of contract, and, as a corollary, a government that abstains from all favoritism.

Rand holds that there is no conflict between one persons rational interests and anothers, hence that respecting other peoples rights is perfectly compatible with advancing or preserving ones own interests. Is it true, however, that rational interests cannot conflict? It seems that whenever two people have an interest in one good, for example, a job, and are equally qualified to have it, their rational interests conflict, Perhaps what Rand has in mind is that rational interests dont necessarily conflict, that is, that it is not in their nature to conflict. Their conflict is due to external factors, such as only one job for two qualified people. But is such conflict compatible with rights in an egoistic framework? And can rights be defended within an egoistic framework? Critics object that respect for others rights cannot be justified only as a means to ones ultimate value, whether this be survival or happiness (Mack 1984; Flew 1984). For under perfectly realistic scenarios, ones ultimate value can require one to violate anothers right to life or property. In her justification of rights we see the same unresolved tension between the instrumentalist strand and the deontic strand that we do in her justification of morality in general (Mack 1984, 2003). The eudaimonist strand in Rands justification, however, allows her to respond that respect for others rights expresses our recognition of the fact that others are ends in themselves, a recognition that is required by justice, and that justice, along with the other virtues, is necessary for leading a happy life.

Rand defines government as

an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area. (1963a: 125)

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Ayn Rand (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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CNN town hall gives Libertarian Party an unprecedented shot …

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Jun 242016
 

ALibertarian Party debate in Las Vegas last month featured Penn Jillette you know, the talking half of Penn & Teller as the moderator. Other questioners included Carrot Top, Drew Carey, Clay Aiken and Arsenio Hall.

The discourse was more substantive than one might have expected no thanks toCarrot Top, who just wanted to know what slogans the candidates might put on Donald Trump-style trucker hats but for a party that wants to be taken seriously in presidential politics, the entertainer-laden event probably didn’t advance the cause.

This is why Wednesday’s Libertarian town hall live in prime time on CNN is a big deal. It marks the first time Libertarian candidates will participate in a live presidential forum on one of the three major cable news channels. Chris Cuomo, who has moderated town hall events with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders this election, will run the show, posing questions to Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld, while also fielding inquiries from the audience.

Notably, CNN is billing the questions as being “similar to those posed to the Democratic and Republican candidates during the primaries.” In other words, CNN is taking Johnson and Weld seriously for an evening, at least.

The two former governors (Johnson of New Mexico and Weld of Massachusetts) have enjoyed a spike in coverage lately. With the presumptive major-party nominees registering historically bad favorability ratings, the Libertarian ticket which Johnson also led in 2012 is getting more attention than usual. In polls that include him, Johnson’s support averages 8.5 percent, according to RealClearPolitics.

[The Libertarian Party: So hot right now]

But much of the coverage has centered not on what Johnson stands for but what effect he might have on Trump and Clinton. Which of the two real contenders is more likely to lose voters to this third-party interloper? Could he somehow prevent either one from winning a majority in the Electoral College by picking off a state or more (Utah anybody)?

Those are worthwhile considerations, but CNN’s town hall figures to give the Libertarian nominee an opportunity on a big stage to talk about more than playing spoiler.

“It’s sort of a perfect setup for Johnson and Weld to go more in-depth,” said Mitchell McKinney, who chairs the communication department at the University of Missouri. “What else do they believe? This will give them a chance to flesh that out.”

McKinney has studied presidential debates that include third-party candidates a small sample that includes, most recently, three from 1992, when independent Ross Perot joined Republican President George H.W. Bush and Democratic nominee Bill Clinton. McKinney found that outsiders like Perot are often ignored for long stretches and, when questioned, asked not about their policies but about their credibility as candidates.

A town hall format, with no opponents on the stage, should mitigate the dismissiveness, McKinney said. He added that a good showing by Johnson could help him qualify for general election debates in the fall. Johnson would have to get his poll numbers up to 15 percent.

Larry Diamond, faculty director of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, is a leading advocate for lowering the threshold to 10 percent. He believes the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sets the rules, is “clearly biased against the entry of a third option.” (Commission co-chair Michael McCurry told the “Open Mind” public television program in January that a third candidate “would be welcome in these debates.”) Whatever the case, Diamond thinks CNN’s decision to host a Libertarian town hall is a “modest but noteworthy development.”

“Maybe more significant is that the Libertarian ticket is starting to get more media attention generally,” he said.

A CNN spokeswoman did not respond to questions about why the cable channel decided to sponsor the event.

The closest Libertarian candidates have come to the level of exposure they stand to receive Wednesday was a primary debate that aired on tape delay in two parts, a week a part on Fox Business Network in April. Libertarian journalist John Stossel moderated.

“It was John Stossel who first raised the issue about the lack of national media attention the Libertarian Party was receiving,” said Bill Shine, senior executive vice president of programming at Fox Business. “And with the growing number of disenfranchised voters, we thought it was important to help viewers vet the candidates before the party tickets were declared. We’re flattered that CNN decided to follow our lead months after the fact.”

The question for Johnson and Weld is whether others in the media will follow suit. The CNN town hall could signal a new, more legitimate status for the Libertarian candidates in the eyes of the press. Or it could be a novelty event created to fill a slow Wednesday evening between the end of the primaries and the start of the major-party conventions. We’ll see.

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CNN town hall gives Libertarian Party an unprecedented shot …

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What Is Posthumanism? University of Minnesota Press

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Jun 242016
 

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Beyond humanism and anthropocentrism

Can a new kind of humanitiesposthumanitiesrespond to the redefinition of humanity’s place in the world by both the technological and the biological or “green” continuum in which the “human” is but one life form among many? Exploring this radical repositioning, Cary Wolfe ranges across bioethics, cognitive science, animal ethics, gender, and disability to develop a theoretical and philosophical approach responsive to our changing understanding of ourselves and our world.

What Is Posthumanism? is an original, thoroughly argued, fundamental redefinition and refocusing of posthumanism. Firmly distinguishing posthumanism from discourses of the posthuman or transhumanism, this book will be at the center of discussion for a long time to come.

Donna Haraway, author of When Species Meet

What does it mean to think beyond humanism? Is it possible to craft a mode of philosophy, ethics, and interpretation that rejects the classic humanist divisions of self and other, mind and body, society and nature, human and animal, organic and technological? Can a new kind of humanitiesposthumanitiesrespond to the redefinition of humanitys place in the world by both the technological and the biological or green continuum in which the human is but one life form among many?

Exploring how both critical thought along with cultural practice have reacted to this radical repositioning, Cary Wolfeone of the founding figures in the field of animal studies and posthumanist theoryranges across bioethics, cognitive science, animal ethics, gender, and disability to develop a theoretical and philosophical approach responsive to our changing understanding of ourselves and our world. Then, in performing posthumanist readings of such diverse works as Temple Grandins writings, Wallace Stevenss poetry, Lars von Triers Dancer in the Dark, the architecture of Diller+Scofidio, and David Byrne and Brian Enos My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, he shows how this philosophical sensibility can transform art and culture.

For Wolfe, a vibrant, rigorous posthumanism is vital for addressing questions of ethics and justice, language and trans-species communication, social systems and their inclusions and exclusions, and the intellectual aspirations of interdisciplinarity. In What Is Posthumanism? he carefully distinguishes posthumanism from transhumanism (the biotechnological enhancement of human beings) and narrow definitions of the posthuman as the hoped-for transcendence of materiality. In doing so, Wolfe reveals that it is humanism, not the human in all its embodied and prosthetic complexity, that is left behind in posthumanist thought.

Cary Wolfe holds the Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Chair in English at Rice University. His previous books include Critical Environments: Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics of the Outside, Observing Complexity: Systems Theory and Postmodernity, and Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal, all published by the University of Minnesota Press.

What Is Posthumanism? is an original, thoroughly argued, fundamental redefinition and refocusing of posthumanism. Firmly distinguishing posthumanism from discourses of the posthuman or transhumanism, this book will be at the center of discussion for a long time to come.

Donna Haraway, author of When Species Meet

Wolfe offers a smart, provocative account of posthumanism as an idea and as a way of thinking that has consequences extending from the way universities are organized to decisions regarding public policy bioethics. Although his writing is complex and demanding, the ethical and ecological urgency with which he frames his readings combines with the wide, diversified scope of his scholarship to make this a work to be reckoned with.

Wolfes book, without a doubt, supplies important insights.

Wolfe has created an incredibly useful primer on posthumanist theory. For anyone attempting to engage in academic work relating to these theories, this book is a highly recommended starting point.

Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley

It is one of those books that sucks you in almost immediately.

ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

Readers . . . will find Wolfes analysis of both visual and audio culture to be thought-provoking.

Science Fiction Film and Television

It is a profound, thoroughly researched study with far-reaching consequences for public policy, bioethics, education, and the arts.

Science, Culture, Integrated Yoga

What Is Posthumanism? is an intelligent, extensively argued and challenging work.

Wolfes work shifts the tired terms of the debate in new and needed directions, offering strength and strategies to all those for whom simplistic, technophilic accounts of the posthuman condition are a smooth road to nowhere different.

Electronic Book Review

Tremendous intellectual, scholarly, and artistic breadth.

As a blueprint for where a posthumanist approach could take cultural theory, his book is conceptually invaluable.

Wolfes posthumanism is brilliant in the way it allows us to realize that each of these species might have different forms of perception, different ways of being in the world, and that those differences are actually analogous with otherness among human beings.

Wolfe deserves credit for a rich set of discussions that, taken together, bring out the interest of the intellectual trend that he calls posthumanism.

UMP blog: Discovering the HUMAN

3/24/2010 Part of the unfortunate fallout of the conceptual apparatus of humanism is that it gives us an overly simple picturea fantasy, reallyof what the human is. Consider, for example, the rise of what is often called transhumanism, often taken to be a defining discourse of posthumanism (as in Ray Kurzweils work on the singularitythe historical moment at which engineering developments such as nanotechnology enable us to transcend our physical and biological limitations as embodied beings, ushering in a new phase of evolution). As many of its proponents freely admit, the philosophical ideals of transhumanism are quite identifiably humanistnot only in their dream of transcending the life of the body and our animal origins but also in their investment in the ideals of human perfectibility, rationality, autonomy, and agency. Read more …

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What Is Posthumanism? University of Minnesota Press

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Superintelligence – Nick Bostrom – Oxford University Press

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Jun 212016
 

Superintelligence Paths, Dangers, Strategies Nick Bostrom Reviews and Awards

“I highly recommend this book” –Bill Gates

“Nick Bostrom makes a persuasive case that the future impact of AI is perhaps the most important issue the human race has ever faced. Instead of passively drifting, we need to steer a course. Superintelligence charts the submerged rocks of the future with unprecedented detail. It marks the beginning of a new era.” –Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science, University of California, Berkley

“Those disposed to dismiss an ‘AI takeover’ as science fiction may think again after reading this original and well-argued book.” –Martin Rees, Past President, Royal Society

“This superb analysis by one of the world’s clearest thinkers tackles one of humanity’s greatest challenges: if future superhuman artificial intelligence becomes the biggest event in human history, then how can we ensure that it doesn’t become the last?” –Professor Max Tegmark, MIT

“Terribly important … groundbreaking… extraordinary sagacity and clarity, enabling him to combine his wide-ranging knowledge over an impressively broad spectrum of disciplines – engineering, natural sciences, medicine, social sciences and philosophy – into a comprehensible whole… If this book gets the reception that it deserves, it may turn out the most important alarm bell since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring from 1962, or ever.” –Olle Haggstrom, Professor of Mathematical Statistics

“Valuable. The implications of introducing a second intelligent species onto Earth are far-reaching enough to deserve hard thinking” –The Economist

“There is no doubting the force of [Bostrom’s] arguments…the problem is a research challenge worthy of the next generation’s best mathematical talent. Human civilisation is at stake.” –Clive Cookson, Financial Times

“Worth reading…. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes” –Elon Musk, Founder of SpaceX and Tesla

“Every intelligent person should read it.” –Nils Nilsson, Artificial Intelligence Pioneer, Stanford University

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Superintelligence – Nick Bostrom – Oxford University Press

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The Second Amendment Is About Revolution

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Jun 212016
 

Last week, Rolling Stone published an article by David S. Cohen, a law professor who thinks the Second Amendment should be repealed. The Second Amendment needs to be repealed because it is outdated, a threat to liberty and a suicide pact, writes Cohen. When the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791, there were no weapons remotely like the AR-15 assault rifle and many of the advances of modern weaponry were long from being invented or popularized.

In the wake of the Orlando massacre, Cohen reasons, now is the time to acknowledge a profound but obvious truththe Second Amendment is wrong for this country and needs to be jettisoned.

This isnt the first time liberals have mused out loud about whether the Second Amendment is really necessary, or whether it really means individuals have a right to own guns. But tragedies like Orlando seem to revive all the old arguments. Not that commentators are very knowledgeable about the weapons theyd like to ban. An AR-15, for example, cant fire 700 rounds per minute, nor can any guy whos taken a shop class modify a semi-automatic rifle into a fully automatic in five minutes, as Michael Moore seems to think.

But even if an AR-15 only fires once every time you squeeze the trigger, even if it cant be easily converted into an automatic, just taking the rifle for what it is, liberals want to know: who needs a gun like that? How many rounds do you need to be able to fire per minute to kill a deer, or ward off a burglar? Does anyone really need a 25-round magazine? Isnt the only reason for such firepower to make killing people as efficient as possible? Isnt this a weapon of war? Why would American civilians need to own weapons of war?

Turns out, thats precisely the right question to ask. The Second Amendment, after all, doesnt recognize our right to hunt deer or protect ourselves from criminals. Owning guns certainly makes doing those things easier, but its not why the Founders bothered to codify gun rights. They were getting at something elsethe right of revolution.

Simply put, the purpose of the Second Amendment is to give the people the means to overthrow the government in the event it becomes tyrannical.

Most gun control advocates scoff at this. Indeed, its an argument that even some conservatives are hesitant to make. How could the people, armed with rifles and pistols, overthrow the government? On its face, it seems absurd.

More on that in a minute. But first, consider that the Second Amendment is unique among the amendments enumerated in the Bill of Rights because it contains a kind of explanatory preamble: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Edward J. Erler, a political science professor at California State University, San Bernardino, and an expert on the Second Amendment, has argued that the right of revolution is asserted in the Declaration of Independence, which states that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governednot every power, only just powers, which the people delegate to a government that is by definition limited to the purposes for which it was established, the Safety and Happiness of the people. Furthermore, the Declaration states that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government. Erler says this is what has come to be known as the right of revolution,

an essential ingredient of the social compact and a right which is always reserved to the people. The people can never cede or delegate this ultimate expression of sovereign power. Thus, in a very important sense, the right of revolution (or even its threat) is the right that guarantees every other right. And if the people have this right as an indefeasible aspect of their sovereignty, then, by necessity, the people also have a right to the means to revolution. Only an armed people are a sovereign people, and only an armed people are a free peoplethe people are indeed a militia.

In recent years an argument has become popular on the American Left that the Second Amendment means only that a well regulated militia has the right to bear arms, not individuals. The idea is that, say, the State of Texas can form a militia and arm it accordingly, but individual Texans have no inherent right to the private ownership of firearms.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court repudiated this idea in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. The late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion for the majority and quoted Blackstones Commentaries on the Laws of England, which recognizes the natural right of resistance and self-preservation. Scalia insisted that the Second Amendment acknowledges rights that predate the Constitution, such as the right of revolution.

But Erler argues that Scalia was wrong to imply that Second Amendment rights were codified from the common lawthey were, in fact, natural rights, deriving their status from the Laws of Nature and of Natures God. Like the right to revolution, the right to self-defense or self-preservation can never be ceded to government.

So what does this mean in practice? Are we to conclude that the Founders imagined a day when civilians armed with AR-15s and Glocks might one day march on Washington DC if the government ever became tyrannical? If the Second Amendment guarantees our right to the means of revolution, does that mean civilians should also be allowed to own tanks and artillery?

Not quite. The Founders thought standing armies were a threat to liberty, which means they surely would have thought that standing private armies constituted the same threat. Self-preservation and self-defense might be natural right, but even in Heller the Supreme Court indicated that there could be reasonable limitations on gun ownership.

To answer the scoffers on the Left, though, imagine what an American revolutionthe exercise of first principlesmight look like in the twenty-firstcentury. The government, or a branch of it (most likely the executive) becomes destructive to the ends for which it was established. It tyrannizes the people, takes their property, deprives them of their rights, destroys their lives. A revolution, or an abolishment of that government, would likely not be a civilian undertaking but a military one. Working in conjunction with other branches of the federal government and perhaps some state governments, the military would effect a coup dtat.

It would likely be a kind of civil war, and civilians would likely be caught up in it at some point. Perhaps they would form local militias to defend their homes and businesses. Perhaps they would volunteer their services to military commanders or state police forces. Perhaps they would simply want to ensure the safety of their families.

To do any of that, they would need to be armed. Just as the Founders envisioned.

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The Second Amendment Is About Revolution

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The Golden Rule – harryhiker.com

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Jun 192016
 

My Ethics and the Golden Rule (New York and London: Routledge, 2013) is a fairly comprehensive treatment of the golden rule. It covers a wide range of topics, such as how the golden rule connects with world religions and history, how it applies to practical areas like moral education and business, and how it can be understood and defended philosophically. I wrote this to be a “golden-rule book for everyone,” from students to general readers to specialists. Click here for a video overview or here to preview the first 30 pages. Click here to order (or click here for the Kindle version, which I fine-tuned to fit the e-book format).

I got interested in the golden rule in 1968, after hearing a talk in Detroit by R.M. Hare. I did a masters thesis (1969 Wayne State University) and doctoral dissertation (1977 Michigan) on the golden rule. Since then, I’ve done many book chapters and articles on the golden rule (the short essay above is adapted from my golden-rule entry in the Blackwell Dictionary of Business Ethics). Three of my earlier books have much on the golden rule.

My Ethics: A Contemporary Introduction, second edition (Routledge, 2011) is an introductory textbook in moral philosophy. Chapters 7 to 9 talk about how to understand, defend, and apply the golden rule. This book is written in a simple way and should be understandable to the general reader. This book and Formal Ethics have cool Web exercises and EthiCola downloadable exercise software, much of which deals with the golden rule.

My Introduction to Logic, second edition (Routledge, 2010) has a chapter that formalizes a system of ethics, leading to a proof of the golden rule in symbolic logic. This gets pretty technical. Other books of mine have golden-rule parts, including my Historical Dictionary of Ethics, Anthology of Catholic Philosophy (the essay on pages 523-31), and Ethics: Contemporary Readings. To order any of my books, click here or here. Several of my books are available in e-book format: Kindle, Sony, Routledge (search for author Gensler). Yes, the golden rule does have an intellectual component; it’s not as simple as it might seem.

Here are some books on the golden rule by others: (1) R.M. Hare’s Freedom and Reason (Oxford 1963) greatly influenced my thinking; compared to Hare, I am more neutral on foundational issues, formulate the golden rule a little differently, and am more of a logician at heart. (2) Jeff Wattles’s The Golden Rule (Oxford 1996) emphasizes historical and religious aspects and thus complements my logical-rational approach; I have benefited much from our discussions. (3) Oliver du Roy’s La rgle d’or: Le retour d’une maxime oublie (Cerf 2009) and Histoire de la rgle d’or (Cerf 2012); here is a short talk of his on the golden rule, in English and French. (4) Martin Bauschke’s Die Goldene Regel: Staunen, Verstehen, Handeln (Erbverlag 2010). (5) Howard (Q.C.) Terry’s Golden Rules and Silver Rules of Humanity (Infinity 2011). (6) Mike Bushman’s Doing Unto Others (Altfuture 2015).

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The Golden Rule – harryhiker.com

Psychedelics: LSD, Mushrooms, Salvia | Facts | Drug Policy …

 Psychedelics  Comments Off on Psychedelics: LSD, Mushrooms, Salvia | Facts | Drug Policy …
Jun 192016
 

Psychedelic drugs include LSD (acid), psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline (found in peyote), ibogaine, salvia, and DMT (found in ayahuasca). Psychedelic substances have been used for thousands of years for religious and therapeutic purposes.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, psychedelic drugs such as LSD were considered promising treatments for a broad range of psychological and psychiatric conditions. Tens of thousands of people were introduced to them in clinical studies, as an adjunct to psychotherapy, or as part of a religious or spiritual practice.

By the late 1960s, however, as millions of people experimented with them, psychedelics became symbols of youthful rebellion, social upheaval, and political dissent. By the early 1970s, the government had halted scientific research to evaluate their medical safety and efficacy. The ban persisted for decades, but has gradually been lifted over the past decade.

Today, there are dozens of studies taking place to evaluate the medical safety and efficacy of psychedelics, and the Supreme Court has ruled that psychedelics can be used as part of the practices of certain organized religions.

Facts

Sources:

Grinspoon, Lester and James B. Bakalar. 1997. Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered. New York: The Lindesmith Center.

Grob, Charles and Roger Walsh, ed. Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Expore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics. SUNY University of New York Press, 2005.

Stamets, Paul, Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World, Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1996.

Stolaroff, Myron. The Secret Chief. Sarasota, FL: MAPS, 2006.

Strassman, R. J. 1984. Adverse Reactions to Psychedelic Drugs: A Review of the Literature. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 172: 577-95.

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Psychedelics: LSD, Mushrooms, Salvia | Facts | Drug Policy …

 Posted by at 2:39 pm  Tagged with:

Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program

 Neurotechnology  Comments Off on Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program
Jun 192016
 

We are developing neurotechnology based on the neurophysiology and behavior of animal models. We developed two classes of biomimetic autonomous underwater vehicles (see above). The first is an 8-legged ambulatory vehicle that is based on the lobster and is intended for autonomous remote-sensing operations in rivers and/or the littoral zone ocean bottom with robust adaptations to irregular bottom contours, current and surge. The second vehicle is an undulatory system that is based on the lamprey and is intended for remote sensing operations in the water column with robust depth/altitude control and high maneuverability. These vehicles are based on a common biomimetic control, actuator and sensor architecture that features highly modularized components and low cost per vehicle. Operating in concert, they can conduct autonomous investigation of both the bottom and water column of the littoral zone or rivers. These systems represent a new class of autonomous underwater vehicles that may be adapted to operations in a variety of habitat

We are collaborating with investigators at The University of California, The University of Alabama and Newcastle University to apply principles of synthetic biology to the integration of a hybrid microbot. The aim of this research is to construct Cyberplasm, a micro-scale robot integrating microelectronics with cells in which sensor and actuator genes have been inserted and expressed. This will be accomplished using a combination of cellular device integration, advanced microelectronics and biomimicry; an approach that mimics animal models; in the latter we will imitate some of the behavior of the marine animal the sea lamprey. Synthetic muscle will generate undulatory movements to propel the robot through the water. Synthetic sensors derived from yeast cells will be reporting signals from the immediate environment. These signals will be processed by an electronic nervous system. The electronic brain will, in turn, generate signals to drive the muscle cells that will use glucose for energy. All electronic components will be powered by a microbial fuel cell integrated into the robot body.

This research aims to harness the power of synthetic biology at the cellular level by integrating specific gene parts into bacteria, yeast and mammalian cells to carry out device like functions. Moreover this approach will allow the cells/bacteria to be simplified so that the input/output (I/O) requirements of device integration can be addressed. In particular we plan to use visual receptors to couple electronics to both sensation and actuation through light signals. In addition synthetic biology will be carried out at the systems level by interfacing multiple cellular /bacterial devices together, connecting to an electronic brain and in effect creating a multi-cellular biohybrid micro-robot. Motile function will be achieved by engineering muscle cells to have the minimal cellular machinery required for excitation/contraction coupling and contractile function. The muscle will be powered by mitochondrial conversion of glucose to ATP, an energetic currency in biological cells, hence combining power generation with actuation.

We are also developing neuronal circuit based controllers for both robots and neurorehabilitative devices. These controllers are based on

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Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program

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Human cloning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Cloning  Comments Off on Human cloning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jun 192016
 

Human cloning is the creation of a genetically identical copy of a human. The term is generally used to refer to artificial human cloning, which is the reproduction of human cells and tissue. It does not refer to the natural conception and delivery of identical twins. The possibility of human cloning has raised controversies. These ethical concerns have prompted several nations to pass laws regarding human cloning and its legality.

Two commonly discussed types of theoretical human cloning are: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning would involve cloning cells from a human for use in medicine and transplants, and is an active area of research, but is not in medical practice anywhere in the world, as of January 2016[update]. Two common methods of therapeutic cloning that are being researched are somatic-cell nuclear transfer and, more recently, pluripotent stem cell induction. Reproductive cloning would involve making an entire cloned human, instead of just specific cells or tissues.

Although the possibility of cloning humans had been the subject of speculation for much of the 20th century, scientists and policy makers began to take the prospect seriously in the mid-1960s.

Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Joshua Lederberg advocated cloning and genetic engineering in an article in The American Naturalist in 1966 and again, the following year, in The Washington Post.[1] He sparked a debate with conservative bioethicist Leon Kass, who wrote at the time that “the programmed reproduction of man will, in fact, dehumanize him.” Another Nobel Laureate, James D. Watson, publicized the potential and the perils of cloning in his Atlantic Monthly essay, “Moving Toward the Clonal Man”, in 1971.[2]

With the cloning of a sheep known as Dolly in 1996 by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the idea of human cloning became a hot debate topic.[3] Many nations outlawed it, while a few scientists promised to make a clone within the next few years. The first hybrid human clone was created in November 1998, by Advanced Cell Technology. It was created using SCNT – a nucleus was taken from a man’s leg cell and inserted into a cow’s egg from which the nucleus had been removed, and the hybrid cell was cultured, and developed into an embryo. The embryo was destroyed after 12 days.[4]

In 2004 and 2005, Hwang Woo-suk, a professor at Seoul National University, published two separate articles in the journal Science claiming to have successfully harvested pluripotent, embryonic stem cells from a cloned human blastocyst using somatic-cell nuclear transfer techniques. Hwang claimed to have created eleven different patent-specific stem cell lines. This would have been the first major breakthrough in human cloning.[5] However, in 2006 Science retracted both of his articles on clear evidence that much of his data from the experiments was fabricated.[6]

In January 2008, Dr. Andrew French and Samuel Wood of the biotechnology company Stemagen announced that they successfully created the first five mature human embryos using SCNT. In this case, each embryo was created by taking a nucleus from a skin cell (donated by Wood and a colleague) and inserting it into a human egg from which the nucleus had been removed. The embryos were developed only to the blastocyst stage, at which point they were studied in processes that destroyed them. Members of the lab said that their next set of experiments would aim to generate embryonic stem cell lines; these are the “holy grail” that would be useful for therapeutic or reproductive cloning.[7][8]

In 2011, scientists at the New York Stem Cell Foundation announced that they had succeeded in generating embyronic stem cell lines, but their process involved leaving the oocyte’s nucleus in place, resulting in triploid cells, which would not be useful for cloning.[10][11]

In 2013, a group of scientists led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov published the first report of embryonic stem cells created using SCNT. In this experiment, the researchers developed a protocol for using SCNT in human cells, which differs slightly from the one used in other organisms. Four embryonic stem cell lines from human fetal somatic cells were derived from those blastocysts. All four lines were derived using oocytes from the same donor, ensuring that all mitochondrial DNA inherited was identical. A year later, a team led by Robert Lanza at Advanced Cell Technology reported that they had replicated Mitalipov’s results and further demonstrated the effectiveness by cloning adult cells using SCNT.[3][12]

In somatic cell nuclear transfer (“SCNT”), the nucleus of a somatic cell is taken from a donor and transplanted into a host egg cell, which had its own genetic material removed previously, making it an enucleated egg. After the donor somatic cell genetic material is transferred into the host oocyte with a micropipette, the somatic cell genetic material is fused with the egg using an electric current. Once the two cells have fused, the new cell can be permitted to grow in a surrogate or artificially.[13] This is the process that was used to successfully clone Dolly the sheep (see section on History in this article).[3]

Creating induced pluripotent stem cells (“iPSCs”) is a long and inefficient process. Pluripotency refers to a stem cell that has the potential to differentiate into any of the three germ layers: endoderm (interior stomach lining, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs), mesoderm (muscle, bone, blood, urogenital), or ectoderm (epidermal tissues and nervous system).[14] A specific set of genes, often called “reprogramming factors”, are introduced into a specific adult cell type. These factors send signals in the mature cell that cause the cell to become a pluripotent stem cell. This process is highly studied and new techniques are being discovered frequently on how to better this induction process.

Depending on the method used, reprogramming of adult cells into iPSCs for implantation could have severe limitations in humans. If a virus is used as a reprogramming factor for the cell, cancer-causing genes called oncogenes may be activated. These cells would appear as rapidly dividing cancer cells that do not respond to the body’s natural cell signaling process. However, in 2008 scientists discovered a technique that could remove the presence of these oncogenes after pluripotency induction, thereby increasing the potential use of iPSC in humans.[15]

Both the processes of SCNT and iPSCs have benefits and deficiencies. Historically, reprogramming methods were better studied than SCNT derived embryonic stem cells (ESCs). However, more recent studies have put more emphasis on developing new procedures for SCNT-ESCs. The major advantage of SCNT over iPSCs at this time is the speed with which cells can be produced. iPSCs derivation takes several months while SCNT would take a much shorter time, which could be important for medical applications. New studies are working to improve the process of iPSC in terms of both speed and efficiency with the discovery of new reprogramming factors in oocytes.[citation needed] Another advantage SCNT could have over iPSCs is its potential to treat mitochondrial disease, as it utilizes a donor oocyte. No other advantages are known at this time in using stem cells derived from one method over stem cells derived from the other.[16]

Work on cloning techniques has advanced our basic understanding of developmental biology in humans. Observing human pluripotent stem cells grown in culture provides great insight into human embryo development, which otherwise cannot be seen. Scientists are now able to better define steps of early human development. Studying signal transduction along with genetic manipulation within the early human embryo has the potential to provide answers to many developmental diseases and defects. Many human-specific signaling pathways have been discovered by studying human embryonic stem cells. Studying developmental pathways in humans has given developmental biologists more evidence toward the hypothesis that developmental pathways are conserved throughout species.[17]

iPSCs and cells created by SCNT are useful for research into the causes of disease, and as model systems used in drug discovery.[18][19]

Cells produced with SCNT, or iPSCs could eventually be used in stem cell therapy,[20] or to create organs to be used in transplantation, known as regenerative medicine. Stem cell therapy is the use of stem cells to treat or prevent a disease or condition. Bone marrow transplantation is a widely used form of stem cell therapy.[21] No other forms of stem cell therapy are in clinical use at this time. Research is underway to potentially use stem cell therapy to treat heart disease, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.[22][23] Regenerative medicine is not in clinical practice, but is heavily researched for its potential uses. This type of medicine would allow for autologous transplantation, thus removing the risk of organ transplant rejection by the recipient.[24] For instance, a person with liver disease could potentially have a new liver grown using their same genetic material and transplanted to remove the damaged liver.[25] In current research, human pluripotent stem cells have been promised as a reliable source for generating human neurons, showing the potential for regenerative medicine in brain and neural injuries.[26]

In bioethics, the ethics of cloning refers to a variety of ethical positions regarding the practice and possibilities of cloning, especially human cloning. While many of these views are religious in origin, the questions raised by cloning are faced by secular perspectives as well. Human therapeutic and reproductive cloning are not commercially used; animals are currently cloned in laboratories and in livestock production.

Advocates support development of therapeutic cloning in order to generate tissues and whole organs to treat patients who otherwise cannot obtain transplants,[27] to avoid the need for immunosuppressive drugs,[28] and to stave off the effects of aging.[29] Advocates for reproductive cloning believe that parents who cannot otherwise procreate should have access to the technology.[30]

Opposition to therapeutic cloning mainly centers around the status of embyronic stem cells, which has connections with the abortion debate.[31]

Some opponents of reproductive cloning have concerns that technology is not yet developed enough to be safe – for example, the position of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as of 2014[update],[32] while others emphasize that reproductive cloning could be prone to abuse (leading to the generation of humans from whom organs and tissues would be harvested),[33][34] and have concerns about how cloned individuals could integrate with families and with society at large.[35][36]

Religious groups are divided, with some[which?] opposing the technology as usurping God’s (in monotheistic traditions) place and, to the extent embryos are used, destroying a human life; others support therapeutic cloning’s potential life-saving benefits.[37][38]

In 2015 it was reported that about 70 countries had banned human cloning.[39]

Australia has prohibited human cloning,[40] though as of December 2006[update], a bill legalizing therapeutic cloning and the creation of human embryos for stem cell research passed the House of Representatives. Within certain regulatory limits, and subject to the effect of state legislation, therapeutic cloning is now legal in some parts of Australia.[41]

Canadian law prohibits the following: cloning humans, cloning stem cells, growing human embryos for research purposes, and buying or selling of embryos, sperm, eggs or other human reproductive material.[42] It also bans making changes to human DNA that would pass from one generation to the next, including use of animal DNA in humans. Surrogate mothers are legally allowed, as is donation of sperm or eggs for reproductive purposes. Human embryos and stem cells are also permitted to be donated for research.[citation needed]

There have been consistent calls in Canada to ban human reproductive cloning since the 1993 Report of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. Polls have indicated that an overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose human reproductive cloning, though the regulation of human cloning continues to be a significant national and international policy issue. The notion of “human dignity” is commonly used to justify cloning laws. The basis for this justification is that reproductive human cloning necessarily infringes notions of human dignity.[43][44][45][46]

Human cloning is prohibited in Article 133 of the Colombian Penal Code.[47]

The European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine prohibits human cloning in one of its additional protocols, but this protocol has been ratified only by Greece, Spain and Portugal. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union explicitly prohibits reproductive human cloning. The charter is legally binding for the institutions of the European Union under the Treaty of Lisbon and for member states of the Union implementing EU law.[48][49]

India does not have specific law regarding cloning but has guidelines prohibiting whole human cloning or reproductive cloning. India allows therapeutic cloning and the use of embryonic stem cells for research proposes.[50][51]

Human cloning is explicitly prohibited in Article 24, “Right to Life” of the 2006 Constitution of Serbia.[52]

In terms of section 39A of the Human Tissue Act 65 of 1983, genetic manipulation of gametes or zygotes outside the human body is absolutely prohibited. A zygote is the cell resulting from the fusion of two gametes; thus the fertilised ovum. Section 39A thus prohibits human cloning.

On January 14, 2001 the British government passed The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001[53] to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 by extending allowable reasons for embryo research to permit research around stem cells and cell nuclear replacement, thus allowing therapeutic cloning. However, on November 15, 2001, a pro-life group won a High Court legal challenge, which struck down the regulation and effectively left all forms of cloning unregulated in the UK. Their hope was that Parliament would fill this gap by passing prohibitive legislation.[54][55] Parliament was quick to pass the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001 which explicitly prohibited reproductive cloning. The remaining gap with regard to therapeutic cloning was closed when the appeals courts reversed the previous decision of the High Court.[56]

The first license was granted on August 11, 2004 to researchers at the University of Newcastle to allow them to investigate treatments for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.[57] The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, a major review of fertility legislation, repealed the 2001 Cloning Act by making amendments of similar effect to the 1990 Act. The 2008 Act also allows experiments on hybrid human-animal embryos.[58]

On December 13, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly began elaborating an international convention against the reproductive cloning of humans. A broad coalition of States, including Spain, Italy, the Philippines, the United States, Costa Rica and the Holy See sought to extend the debate to ban all forms of human cloning, noting that, in their view, therapeutic human cloning violates human dignity. Costa Rica proposed the adoption of an international convention to ban all forms of human cloning. Unable to reach a consensus on a binding convention, in March 2005 a non-binding United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning, calling for the ban of all forms of human cloning contrary to human dignity, was adopted.[59][60]

In 1998, 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2007, the United States House of Representatives voted whether to ban all human cloning, both reproductive and therapeutic. Each time, divisions in the Senate over therapeutic cloning prevented either competing proposal (a ban on both forms or reproductive cloning only) from passing. On March 10, 2010 a bill (HR 4808) was introduced with a section banning federal funding for human cloning.[61] Such a law, if passed, would not prevent research from occurring in private institutions (such as universities) that have both private and federal funding. There are currently no federal laws in the United States which ban cloning completely, and any such laws would raise difficult constitutional questions similar to the issues raised by abortion.[citation needed] Fifteen American states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia) ban reproductive cloning and three states (Arizona, Maryland, and Missouri) prohibit use of public funds for such activities.[62]

Science fiction has used cloning, most commonly and specifically human cloning, due to the fact that it brings up controversial questions of identity.[63][64] In Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), human cloning is a major plot device that not only drives the story but also makes the reader think critically about what identity means; this concept was re-examined fifty years later in C. J. Cherryhs novels Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983) and Cyteen (1988). Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go centers on human clones and considers the ethics of the practice.

The reduction in the value of the individual human life in a resource-optimized clone-based society is examined in the 1967 novel Logan’s Run, and the later movie.

A recurring sub-theme of cloning fiction is the use of clones as a supply of organs for transplantation. The 2005 Kazuo Ishiguro novel Never Let Me Go and the 2010 film adaption[65] are set in an alternate history in which cloned humans are created for the sole purpose of providing organ donations to naturally born humans, despite the fact that they are fully sentient and self-aware. The 2005 film The Island[66] revolves around a similar plot, with the exception that the clones are unaware of the reason for their existence. In the futuristic novel The House of the Scorpion, clones are used to grow organs for their wealthy “owners”, and the main character was a complete clone.

The use of human cloning for military purposes has also been explored in several works. Star Wars portrays human cloning in Clone Wars,[67]Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, in the form of the Grand Army of the Republic, an army of cloned soldiers.

Orphan Black, a sci-fi/drama television series explores the ethical issues, and biological advantages/disadvantages of human cloning through a fictional scientific study on the behavioral adaptation of clones in society.[68]

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Human cloning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Ethics of Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research …

 Cloning  Comments Off on The Ethics of Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research …
Jun 192016
 

“California Cloning: A Dialogue on State Regulation” was convened October 12, 2001, by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. Its purpose was to bring together experts from the fields of science, religion, ethics, and law to discuss how the state of California should proceed in regulating human cloning and stem cell research.

A framework for discussing the issue was provided by Center Director of Biotechnology and Health Care Ethics Margaret McLean, who also serves on the California State Advisory Committee on Human Cloning. In 1997, the California legislature declared a “five year moratorium on cloning of an entire human being” and requested that “a panel of representatives from the fields of medicine, religion, biotechnology, genetics, law, bioethics and the general public” be established to evaluate the “medical, ethical and social implications” of human cloning (SB 1344). This 12-member Advisory Committee on Human Cloning convened five public meetings, each focusing on a particular aspect of human cloning: e.g., reproductive cloning, and cloning technology and stem cells. The committee is drafting a report to the legislature that is due on December 31, 2001. The report will discuss the science of cloning, and the ethical and legal considerations of applications of cloning technology. It will also set out recommendations to the legislature regarding regulation of human cloning. The legislature plans to take up this discussion after January. The moratorium expires the end of 2002.

What should the state do at that point? More than 80 invited guests came to SCU for “California Cloning” to engage in a dialogue on that question. These included scientists, theologians, businesspeople from the biotechnology industry, bioethicists, legal scholars, representatives of non-profits, and SCU faculty. Keynote Speaker Ursula Goodenough, professor of biology at Washington University and author of Genetics, set the issues in context with her talk, “A Religious Naturalist Thinks About Bioethics.” Four panels addressed the specific scientific, religious, ethical, and legal implications of human reproductive cloning and stem cell research. This document gives a brief summary of the issues as they were raised by the four panels.

Science and Biotechnology Perspectives

Thomas Okarma, CEO of Geron Corp., launched this panel with an overview of regenerative medicine and distinguished between reproductive cloning and human embryonic stem cell research. He helped the audience understand the science behind the medical potential of embryonic stem cell research, with an explanation of the procedures for creating stem cell lines and the relationship of this field to telomere biology and genetics. No brief summary could do justice to the science. The reader is referred to the report of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee (http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/stemcell.pdf) for a good introduction.

Responding to Okarma, were J. William Langston, president of the Parkinsons Institute, and Phyllis Gardner, associate professor of medicine and former dean for medical education at Stanford University. Both discussed the implications of the presidents recent restrictions on stem cell research for the non-profit sector. Langston compared the current regulatory environment to the Reagan era ban on fetal cell research, which he believed was a serious setback for Parkinsons research. He also pointed out that stem cell research was only being proposed using the thousands of embryos that were already being created in the process of fertility treatments. These would ultimately be disposed of in any event, he said, arguing that it would be better to allow them to serve some function rather than be destroyed. President Bush has confined federally-funded research to the 64 existing stem cell lines, far too few in Langstons view. In addition, Langston opposed bans on government funding for stem cell research because of the opportunities for public review afforded by the process of securing government grants.

Gardner talked about the differences between academic and commercial research, suggesting that both were important for the advancement of science and its application. Since most of the current stem cell lines are in the commercial sector and the president has banned the creation of new lines, she worried that universities would not continue to be centers of research in this important area. That, she argued, would cut out the more serendipitous and sometimes more altruistic approaches of academic research. Also, it might lead to more of the brain drain represented by the recent move of prominent UCSF stem cell researcher Roger Pedersen to Britain. Gardner expressed a hope that the United States would continue to be the “flagship” in stem cell research. Her concerns were echoed later by moderator Allen Hammond, SCU law professor, who urged the state, which has been at the forefront of stem cell research to consider the economic impact of banning such activity. All three panelists commended the decision of the state advisory committee to deal separately with the issues of human cloning and stem cell research.

Religious Perspectives

Two religion panelists, Suzanne Holland and Laurie Zoloth, are co editors of The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics and Public Policy (MIT Press, 2001). Holland, assistant professor of Religious and Social Ethics at the University of Puget Sound, began the panel with a discussion of Protestant ideas about the sin of pride and respect for persons and how these apply to human reproductive cloning. Given current safety concerns about cloning, she was in favor of a continuing ban. But ultimately, she argued, cloning should be regulated rather than banned outright. In fact, she suggested, the entire fertility industry requires more regulation. As a basis for such regulation, she proposed assessing the motivation of those who want to use the technology. Those whose motives arise from benevolence–for example, those who want to raise a child but have no other means of bearing a genetically related baby–should be allowed to undergo a cloning procedure. Those whose motives arise more from narcissistic considerations — people who want immortality or novelty — should be prohibited from using the technology. She proposed mandatory counseling and a waiting period as a means of assessing motivation.

Zoloth reached a different conclusion about reproductive cloning based on her reading of Jewish sources. She argued that the availability of such technology would make human life too easily commodified, putting the emphasis more on achieving a copy of the self than on the crucial parental act of creating “a stranger to whom you would give your life.” She put the cloning issue in the context of a system where foster children cannot find homes and where universal health care is not available for babies who have already been born. While Zoloth reported that Jewish ethicists vary considerably in their views about reproductive cloning, there is fairly broad agreement that stem cell research is justified. Among the Jewish traditions she cited were:

The embryo does not have the status of a human person.

There is a commandment to heal.

Great latitude is permitted for learning.

The world is uncompleted and requires human participation to become whole.

Catholic bioethicist Albert Jonsen, one of the deans of the field, gave a historical perspective on the cloning debate, citing a paper by Joshua Lederburg in the 1960s, which challenged his colleagues to look at the implications of the then-remote possibility. He also traced the development of Catholic views on other new medical technologies. When organ transplantation was first introduced, it was opposed as a violation of the principal, “First, do no harm” and as a mutilation of the human body. Later, the issue was reconceived in terms of charity and concern for others. One of the key questions, Jonsen suggested, is What can we, as a society that promotes religious pluralism, do when we must make public policy on issues where religious traditions may disagree. He argued that beneath the particular teachings of each religion are certain broad themes they share, which might provide a framework for the debate. These include human finitude, human fallibility, human dignity, and compassion.

Ethics Perspectives

Lawrence Nelson, adjunct associate professor of philosophy at SCU, opened the ethics panel with a discussion of the moral status of the human embryo. Confining his remarks to viable, extracorporeal embryos (embryos created for fertility treatments that were never implanted), Nelson argued that these beings do have some moral status–albeit it weak–because they are alive and because they are valued to varying degrees by other moral agents. This status does entitle the embryo to some protection. In Nelsons view, the gamete sources whose egg and sperm created these embryos have a unique connection to them and should have exclusive control over their disposition. If the gamete sources agree, Nelson believes the embryos can be used for research if they are treated respectfully. Some manifestations of respect might be:

They are used only if the goal of the research cannot be obtained by other methods.

The embryos have not reached gastrulation (prior to 14 to 18 days of development).

Those who use them avoid considering or treating them as property.

Their destruction is accompanied by some sense of loss or sorrow.

Philosophy Professor Barbara MacKinnon (University of San Francisco), editor of Human Cloning: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy, began by discussing the distinction between reproductive and therapeutic cloning and the slippery slope argument. She distinguished three different forms of this argument and showed that for each, pursuing stem cell research will not inevitably lead to human reproductive cloning. MacKinnon favored a continuing ban on the latter, citing safety concerns. Regarding therapeutic cloning and stem cell research, she criticized consequentialist views such as that anything can be done to reduce human suffering and that certain embryos would perish anyway. However, she noted that non-consequentialist concerns must also be addressed for therapeutic cloning, among them the question of the moral status of the early embryo. She also made a distinction between morality and the law, arguing that not everything that is immoral ought to be prohibited by law, and showed how this position relates to human cloning.

Paul Billings, co-founder of GeneSage, has been involved in crafting an international treaty to ban human reproductive cloning and germ-line genetic engineering. As arguments against human cloning he cited:

There is no right to have a genetically related child.

Cloning is not safe.

Cloning is not medically necessary.

Cloning could not be delivered in an equitable manner.

Billings also believes that the benefits of stem cell therapies have been “wildly oversold.” Currently, he argues, there are no effective treatments coming from this research. He is also concerned about how developing abilities in nuclear transfer technology may have applications in germ-line genetic engineering that we do not want to encourage. As a result, he favors the current go-slow approach of banning the creation of new cell lines until some therapies have been proven effective. At the same time, he believes we must work to better the situation of the poor and marginalized so their access to all therapies is improved.

Legal Perspectives

Member of the State Advisory Committee on Human Cloning Henry “Hank” Greely addressed some of the difficulties in creating a workable regulatory system for human reproductive cloning. First he addressed safety, which, considering the 5 to 10 times greater likelihood of spontaneous abortion in cloned sheep, he argued clearly justifies regulation. The FDA has currently claimed jurisdiction over this technology, but Greely doubted whether the courts would uphold this claim. Given these facts, Greely saw three alternatives for the state of California:

Do nothing; let the federal government take care of it.

Create an FDA equivalent to regulate the safety of the process, an alternative he pointed out for which the state has no experience.

Continue the current ban on the grounds of safety until such time as the procedure is adjudged safe. Next Greely responded to suggestions that the state might regulate by distinguishing between prospective cloners on the basis of their motivation, for example, denying a request to clone a person to provide heart tissue for another person but okaying a request if cloning were the only opportunity a couple might have to conceive a child. Greely found the idea of the state deciding on such basis deeply troubling because it would necessitate “peering into someones soul” in a manner that government is not adept at doing.

The impact of regulation on universities was the focus of Debra Zumwalts presentation. As Stanford University general counsel, Zumwalt talked about the necessity of creating regulations that are clear and simple. Currently, federal regulations on stem cells are unclear, she argued, making it difficult for universities and other institutions to tell if they are in compliance. She believes that regulations should be based on science and good public policy rather than on politics. As a result, she favored overall policy being set by the legislature but details being worked out at the administrative level by regulatory agencies with expertise. Whatever regulations California develops should not be more restrictive than the federal regulations, she warned, or research would be driven out of the state. Like several other speakers, Zumwalt was concerned about federal regulations restricting stem cell research to existing cell lines. That, she feared, would drive all research into private hands. “We must continue to have a public knowledge base,” she said. Also, she praised the inherent safeguards in academic research including peer review, ethics panels, and institutional review boards.

SCU Presidential Professor of Ethics and the Common Good June Carbone looked at the role of California cloning decisions in contributing to the governance of biotechnology. California, she suggested, cannot address these issues alone, and thus might make the most useful contribution by helping to forge a new international moral consensus through public debate. Taking a lesson from U.S. response to recent terrorist attacks, she argued for international consensus based on the alliance of principle and self-interest. Such consensus would need to be enforced both by carrot and stick and should, she said, include a public-private partnership to deal with ethical issues. Applying these ideas to reproductive cloning, she suggested that we think about which alliances would be necessary to prevent or limit the practice. Preventing routine use might be accomplished by establishing a clear ethical and professional line prohibiting reproductive cloning. Preventing exceptional use (a determined person with sufficient money to find a willing doctor) might not be possible. As far as stem cell research is concerned, Carbone argued that the larger the investment in such research, the bigger the carrot–the more the funder would be able to regulate the process. That, she suggested, argues for a government role in the funding. If the professional community does not respect the ethical line drawn by politicians, and alternative funding is available from either public sources abroad or private sources at home, the U.S. political debate runs the risk of becoming irrelevant.

“California Cloning” was organized by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and co-sponsored by the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education and Christian Values; the Center for Science, Technology, and Society; the SCU School of Law; the High Tech Law Institute; the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Community of Science Scholars Initiative; and the law firm of Latham & Watkins.

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The Ethics of Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research …

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Cloning

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Jun 192016
 

ANIMAL CLONING

A clone is an organism that is descended from and genetically identical to a single common ancestor. Animals can be cloned by embryo splitting or nuclear transfer. Embryo splitting involves bisecting the multicellular embryo at an early stage of development to generate “twins”. This type of cloning occurs naturally and has also been performed in the laboratory with a number of animal species.

Cloning can also be achieved by nuclear transfer where the genetic material from one cell is placed into a “recipient” unfertilized egg that has had its genetic material removed by a process called enucleation. The first mammals were cloned via nuclear transfer during the early1980s, almost 30 years after the initial successful experiments with frogs . Numerous mammalian species have been cloned from cells of preimplantation embryos: namely mice, rats, rabbits, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle and even two rhesus monkeys, NETI and DETTO .

DOLLY, the sheep, was the first animal that was cloned via nuclear transfer from a cultured adult cell . A diverse range of adult tissues have now been successfully cloned in a variety of species including cattle , mice , pigs , cats , rabbits , goats , and zebrafish .

The proportion of adult cell nuclei to develop into live offspring after transfer into an enucleated egg is very low . High rates of abortion have been observed at various stages of pregnancy after placement of the eggs containing the adult cell nuclei into recipient animals . Various abnormalities have been observed in cloned cows and mice after birth and this has been found to be somewhat dependent on the type of tissue that originated the nuclei used to make the clone . The reasons for the low efficiency of cloning by nuclear transfer are currently under investigation but it is thought that it may be related to insufficient nuclear reprogramming as the cloned nuclei goes from directing the production of an adult somatic cell to directing the production of a whole new embryo.

Mammals Cloned From Adult Cells (Table from De Berardino, 2001)

Cloning offers the opportunity to make transgenic animals from cultured cells that have been genetically engineered . The first genetically engineered or transgenic mammalian clones were sheep born in 1997 carrying the coding sequences for human clotting factor IX, which is an important therapeutic for hemophiliacs. One of these transgenic sheep, POLLY, expressed this protein in her milk . Cloning may also be useful for the preservation of rare and endangered species , and in human therapeutics where patients may be able to clone their own nuclei to make healthy tissue that could be used to replace diseased tissue without the risk of immunological rejection.

Making Genetically Engineered Clones (Data from Schnieke et al., 1997; Figure from De Berardino, 2001). Fetal cells in culture were transfected with a DNA sequence containing a selectable marker (neomycin resistance), the human gene for clotting factor IX, and a regulatory sequence to direct the gene to function only in the mammary gland. Following selection for neomycin resistance, nucleus from surviving cells were each transferred to an enucleated egg. Of the three transgenic clones born, one named POLLY survived and later secreted human clotting factor in her milk. Polly is the first transgenic mammalian clone.

Companies Using Cloning Technology

Cyagra

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc

Viagen

University of Idaho CloneZone

REFERENCES

1. Briggs,R, King,TJ: Transplantation of living nuclei from blastula cells into enucleated frogs’ eggs. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.U.S.A 39: 455-463 (1952).

2. Meng,L, Ely,JJ, Stouffer,RL, Wolf,DP: Rhesus monkeys produced by nuclear transfer. Biol Reprod 57: 454-459 (1997).

3. Wilmut,I, Schnieke,AE, McWhir,J, Kind,AJ, Campbell,KH: Viable offspring derived from fetal and adult mammalian cells. Nature 385: 810-813 (1997).

4. Galli,C, Duchi,R, Moor,RM, Lazzari,G: Mammalian leukocytes contain all of the genetic information necessary for the development of a new individual. Cloning 1: 161-170 (1999).

5. Hill,JR, Burghardt,RC, Jones,K, Long,CR, Looney,CR, Shin,T, Spencer,TE, Thompson,JA, Winger,QA, Westhusin,ME: Evidence for placental abnormality as the major cause of mortality in first-trimester somatic cell cloned bovine fetuses. Biol Reprod 63: 1787-1794 (2000).

6. Kato,Y, Tani,T, Sotomaru,Y, Kurokawa,K, Kato,J, Doguchi,H, Yasue,H, Tsunoda,Y: Eight calves cloned from somatic cells of a single adult. Science 282: 2095-2098 (1998).

7. Kubota,C, Yamakuchi,H, Todoroki,J, Mizoshita,K, Tabara,N, Barber,M, Yang,X: Six cloned calves produced from adult fibroblast cells after long-term culture. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.U.S.A 97: 990-995 (2000).

8. Shiga,K, Fujita,T, Hirose,K, Sasae,Y, Nagai,T: Production of calves by transfer of nuclei from cultured somatic cells obtained from Japanese black bulls. Theriogenology 52: 527-535 (1999).

9. Wells,DN, Misica,PM, Tervit,HR: Production of cloned calves following nuclear transfer with cultured adult mural granulosa cells. Biol Reprod 60: 996-1005 (1999).

10. Zakhartchenko,V, Alberio,R, Stojkovic,M, Prelle,K, Schernthaner,W, Stojkovic,P, Wenigerkind,H, Wanke,R, Duchler,M, Steinborn,R, Mueller,M, Brem,G, Wolf,E: Adult cloning in cattle: potential of nuclei from a permanent cell line and from primary cultures. Mol.Reprod Dev. 54: 264-272 (1999).

11. Ogura,A, Inoue,K, Ogonuki,N, Noguchi,A, Takano,K, Nagano,R, Suzuki,O, Lee,J, Ishino,F, Matsuda,J: Production of male cloned mice from fresh, cultured, and cryopreserved immature Sertoli cells. Biol Reprod 62: 1579-1584 (2000).

12. Wakayama,T, Perry,AC, Zuccotti,M, Johnson,KR, Yanagimachi,R: Full-term development of mice from enucleated oocytes injected with cumulus cell nuclei. Nature 394: 369-374 (1998).

13. Wakayama,T, Yanagimachi,R: Cloning of male mice from adult tail-tip cells. Nat.Genet. 22: 127-128 (1999).

14. Polejaeva,IA, Chen,SH, Vaught,TD, Page,RL, Mullins,J, Ball,S, Dai,Y, Boone,J, Walker,S, Ayares,DL, Colman,A, Campbell,KH: Cloned pigs produced by nuclear transfer from adult somatic cells. Nature 407: 86-90 (2000).

15. Shin,T, Kraemer,D, Pryor,J, Liu,L, Rugila,J, Howe,L, Buck,S, Murphy,K, Lyons,L, Westhusin,M: A cat cloned by nuclear transplantation. Nature 415: 859 (2002).

16. Chesne,P, Adenot,PG, Viglietta,C, Baratte,M, Boulanger,L, Renard,JP: Cloned rabbits produced by nuclear transfer from adult somatic cells. Nature Biotechnology 20: 366-369 (2002).

17. Keefer,CL, Baldassarre,H, Keyston,R, Wang,B, Bhatia,B, Bilodeau,AS, Zhou,JF, Leduc,M, Downey,BR, Lazaris,A, Karatzas,CN: Generation of dwarf goat (Capra hircus) clones following nuclear transfer with transfected and nontransfected fetal fibroblasts and in vitro-matured oocytes. Biol Reprod 64: 849-856 (2001).

18. Lee,KY, Huang,HG, Ju,BS, Yang,ZG, Lin,S: Cloned zebrafish by nuclear transfer from long-term-cultured cells. Nature Biotechnology 20: 795-799 (2002).

19. Tsunoda,Y, Kato,Y: Recent progress and problems in animal cloning. Differentiation 69: 158-161 (2002).

20. Di Berardino,MA: Animal cloning–the route to new genomics in agriculture and medicine. Differentiation 68: 67-83 (2001).

21. Schnieke,AE, Kind,AJ, Ritchie,WA, Mycock,K, Scott,AR, Ritchie,M, Wilmut,I, Colman,A, Campbell,KH: Human factor IX transgenic sheep produced by transfer of nuclei from transfected fetal fibroblasts. Science 278: 2130-2133 (1997).

22. Lanza,RP, Cibelli,JB, Diaz,F, Moraes,CT, Farin,PW, Farin,CE, Hammer.C.J., West,MD, Damiani,P: Cloning of an endangered species (Bos gaurus) using interspecies nuclear transfer. Cloning 2: 79-90 (2000).

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Socio-Economic Collapse | Prometheism.net

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Jun 172016
 

In archaeology, the classic Maya collapse refers to the decline of Maya civilization and abandonment of Maya cities in the southern Maya lowlands of Mesoamerica between the 8th and 9thcenturies, at the end of the Classic Mayan Period. Preclassic Maya experienced a similar collapse in the 2nd century.

The Classic Period of Mesoamerican chronology is generally defined as the period from 250 to 900, the last century of which is referred to as the Terminal Classic.[1] The classic Maya collapse is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in archaeology. Urban centers of the southern lowlands, among them Palenque, Copn, Tikal, Calakmul, went into decline during the 8th and 9thcenturies and were abandoned shortly thereafter. Archaeologically, this decline is indicated by the cessation of monumental inscriptions and the reduction of large-scale architectural construction at the primary urban centers of the classic period.

Although termed a collapse, it did not mark the end of the Maya civilization; Northern Yucatn in particular prospered afterwards, although with very different artistic and architectural styles, and with much less use of monumental hieroglyphic writing. In the post-classic period following the collapse, the state of Chichn Itz built an empire that briefly united much of the Maya region,[citation needed] and centers such as Mayapn and Uxmal flourished, as did the Highland states of the Kiche and Kaqchikel Maya. Independent Maya civilization continued until 1697 when the Spanish conquered Nojpetn, the last independent city-state. Millions of Maya people still inhabit the Yucatn peninsula today.

Because parts of Maya civilization unambiguously continued, a number of scholars strongly dislike the term collapse.[2] Regarding the proposed collapse, E. W. Andrews IV went as far as to say, in my belief no such thing happened.[3]

The Maya often recorded dates on monuments they built. Few dated monuments were being built circa 500 around ten per year in 514, for example. The number steadily increased to make this number twenty per year by 672 and forty by around 750. After this, the number of dated monuments begins to falter relatively quickly, collapsing back to ten by 800 and to zero by 900. Likewise, recorded lists of kings complement this analysis. Altar Q shows a reign of kings from 426 to 763. One last king not recorded on Altar Q was Ukit Took, Patron of Flint, who was probably a usurper. The dynasty is believed to have collapsed entirely shortly thereafter. In Quirigua, twenty miles north of Copn, the last king Jade Sky began his rule between 895 and 900, and throughout the Maya area all kingdoms similarly fell around that time.[4]

A third piece of evidence of the progression of Maya decline, gathered by Ann Corinne Freter, Nancy Gonlin, and David Webster, uses a technique called obsidian hydration. The technique allowed them to map the spread and growth of settlements in the Copn Valley and estimate their populations. Between 400 and 450, the population was estimated at a peak of twenty-eight thousand between 750 and 800 larger than London at the time. Population then began to steadily decline. By 900 the population had fallen to fifteen thousand, and by 1200 the population was again less than 1000.

Some 88 different theories or variations of theories attempting to explain the Classic Maya Collapse have been identified.[5] From climate change to deforestation to lack of action by Mayan kings, there is no universally accepted collapse theory, although drought is gaining momentum as the leading explanation.[6]

The archaeological evidence of the Toltec intrusion into Seibal, Peten, suggests to some the theory of foreign invasion. The latest hypothesis states that the southern lowlands were invaded by a non-Maya group whose homelands were probably in the gulf coast lowlands. This invasion began in the 9thcentury and set off, within 100years, a group of events that destroyed the Classic Maya. It is believed that this invasion was somehow influenced by the Toltec people of central Mexico. However, most Mayanists do not believe that foreign invasion was the main cause of the Classic Maya Collapse; they postulate that no military defeat can explain or be the cause of the protracted and complex Classic Collapse process. Teotihuacan influence across the Maya region may have involved some form of military invasion; however, it is generally noted that significant Teotihuacan-Maya interactions date from at least the Early Classic period, well before the episodes of Late Classic collapse.[7]

The foreign invasion theory does not answer the question of where the inhabitants went. David Webster believed that the population should have increased because of the lack of elite power. Further, it is not understood why the governmental institutions were not remade following the revolts, which actually happened under similar circumstances in places like China. A study by anthropologist Elliot M. Abrams came to the conclusion that buildings, specifically in Copan, did not actually require an extensive amount of time and workers to construct.[8] However, this theory was developed during a time period when the archaeological evidence showed that there were fewer Maya people than there are now known to have been.[9] Revolutions, peasant revolts, and social turmoil change circumstances, and are often followed by foreign wars, but they run their course. There are no documented revolutions that caused wholesale abandonment of entire regions.

It has been hypothesized that the decline of the Maya is related to the collapse of their intricate trade systems, especially those connected to the central Mexican city of Teotihuacn. Preceding improved knowledge of the chronology of Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan was believed to have fallen during 700750, forcing the restructuring of economic relations throughout highland Mesoamerica and the Gulf Coast.[10] This remaking of relationships between civilizations would have then given the collapse of the Classic Maya a slightly later date. However, after knowing more about the events and the time periods that they occurred, it is now believed that the strongest Teotihuacan influence was during the 4th and 5thcenturies. In addition, the civilization of Teotihuacan started to lose its power, and maybe even abandoned the city, during 600650. This differs greatly from the previous belief that Teotihuacano power decreased during 700750.[11] But since the new decline date of 600650 has been accepted, the Maya civilizations are now thought to have lived on and prospered for another century and more[12] than what was previously believed. Rather than the decline of Teotihuacan directly preceding the collapse of the Maya, their decline is now seen as contributing to the 6thcentury hiatus.[12]

The disease theory is also a contender as a factor in the Classic Maya Collapse. Widespread disease could explain some rapid depopulation, both directly through the spread of infection itself and indirectly as an inhibition to recovery over the long run. According to Dunn (1968) and Shimkin (1973), infectious diseases spread by parasites are common in tropical rainforest regions, such as the Maya lowlands. Shimkin specifically suggests that the Maya may have encountered endemic infections related to American trypanosomiasis, Ascaris, and some enteropathogens that cause acute diarrheal illness. Furthermore, some experts believe that, through development of their civilization (that is, development of agriculture and settlements), the Maya could have created a disturbed environment, in which parasitic and pathogen-carrying insects often thrive.[13] Among the pathogens listed above, it is thought that those that cause the acute diarrheal illnesses would have been the most devastating to the Maya population. This is because such illness would have struck a victim at an early age, thereby hampering nutritional health and the natural growth and development of a child. This would have made them more susceptible to other diseases later in life. Such ideas as this could explain the role of disease as at least a possible partial reason for the Classic Maya Collapse.[14]

Mega-droughts hit the Yucatn Peninsula and Petn Basin areas with particular ferocity, as thin tropical soils decline in fertility and become unworkable when deprived of forest cover,[15] and due to regular seasonal drought drying up surface water.[16] Colonial Spanish officials accurately documented cycles of drought, famine, disease, and war, providing a reliable historical record of the basic drought pattern in the Maya region.[17]

Climatic factors were first implicated in the Collapse as early as 1931 by Mayanists Thomas Gann and J.E.S. Thompson.[18] In The Great Maya Droughts, Richardson Gill gathers and analyzes an array of climatic, historical, hydrologic, tree ring, volcanic, geologic, lake bed, and archeological research, and demonstrates that a prolonged series of droughts probably caused the Classic Maya Collapse.[19] The drought theory provides a comprehensive explanation, because non-environmental and cultural factors (excessive warfare, foreign invasion, peasant revolt, less trade, etc.) can all be explained by the effects of prolonged drought on Classic Maya civilization.[20]

Climatic changes are, with increasing frequency, found to be major drivers in the rise and fall of civilizations all over the world.[21] Professors Harvey Weiss of Yale University and Raymond S. Bradley of the University of Massachusetts have written, Many lines of evidence now point to climate forcing as the primary agent in repeated social collapse.[22] In a separate publication, Weiss illustrates an emerging understanding of scientists:

Within the past five years new tools and new data for archaeologists, climatologists, and historians have brought us to the edge of a new era in the study of global and hemispheric climate change and its cultural impacts. The climate of the Holocene, previously assumed static, now displays a surprising dynamism, which has affected the agricultural bases of pre-industrial societies. The list of Holocene climate alterations and their socio-economic effects has rapidly become too complex for brief summary.[23]

The drought theory holds that rapid climate change in the form of severe drought brought about the Classic Maya collapse. According to the particular version put forward by Gill in The Great Maya Droughts,

[Studies of] Yucatecan lake sediment cores provide unambiguous evidence for a severe 200-year drought from AD800 to 1000 the most severe in the last 7,000years precisely at the time of the Maya Collapse.[24]

Climatic modeling, tree ring data, and historical climate data show that cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere is associated with drought in Mesoamerica.[25] Northern Europe suffered extremely low temperatures around the same time as the Maya droughts. The same connection between drought in the Maya areas and extreme cold in northern Europe was found again at the beginning of the 20thcentury. Volcanic activity, within and outside Mesoamerica, is also correlated with colder weather and resulting drought, as the effects of the Tambora volcano eruption in 1815 indicate.[26]

Mesoamerican civilization provides a remarkable exception: civilization prospering in the tropical swampland. The Maya are often perceived as having lived in a rainforest, but technically, they lived in a seasonal desert without access to stable sources of drinking water.[27] The exceptional accomplishments of the Maya are even more remarkable because of their engineered response to the fundamental environmental difficulty of relying upon rainwater rather than permanent sources of water. The Maya succeeded in creating a civilization in a seasonal desert by creating a system of water storage and management which was totally dependent on consistent rainfall.[28] The constant need for water kept the Maya on the edge of survival. Given this precarious balance of wet and dry conditions, even a slight shift in the distribution of annual precipitation can have serious consequences.[16] Water and civilization were vitally connected in ancient Mesoamerica. Archaeologist and specialist in pre-industrial land and water usage practices, Vernon Scarborough, believes water management and access were critical to the development of Maya civilization.[29]

Critics of the drought theory wonder why the southern and central lowland cities were abandoned and the northern cities like Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Coba continued to thrive.[30] One critic argued that Chichen Itza revamped its political, military, religious, and economic institutions away from powerful lords or kings.[31] Inhabitants of the northern Yucatn also had access to seafood, which might have explained the survival of Chichen Itza and Mayapan, cities away from the coast but within reach of coastal food supplies.[32] Critics of the drought theory also point to current weather patterns: much heavier rainfall in the southern lowlands compared to the lighter amount of rain in the northern Yucatn. Drought theory supporters state that the entire regional climate changed, including the amount of rainfall, so that modern rainfall patterns are not indicative of rainfall from 800 to 900. LSU archaeologist Heather McKillop found a significant rise in sea level along the coast nearest the southern Maya lowlands, coinciding with the end of the Classic period, and indicating climate change.[33]

David Webster, a critic of the megadrought theory says that much of the evidence provided by Gill comes from the northern Yucatn and not the Southern part of the peninsula, where Classic Maya civilization flourished. He also states that if water sources were to have dried up, then several city-states would have moved to other water sources. The fact that Gill suggests that all water in the region would have dried up and destroyed Maya civilization is a stretch, according to Webster.[34]

A study published in Science in 2012 found that modest rainfall reductions, amounting to only 25 to 40 percent of annual rainfall, may have been the tipping point to the Mayan collapse. Based on samples of lake and cave sediments in the areas surrounding major Mayan cities, the researchers were able to determine the amount of annual rainfall in the region. The mild droughts that took place between 800-950 would therefore be enough to rapidly deplete seasonal water supplies in the Yucatn lowlands, where there are no rivers.[35][36][37]

Some ecological theories of Maya decline focus on the worsening agricultural and resource conditions in the late Classic period. It was originally thought that the majority of Maya agriculture was dependent on a simple slash-and-burn system. Based on this method, the hypothesis of soil exhaustion was advanced by Orator F. Cook in 1921. Similar soil exhaustion assumptions are associated with erosion, intensive agricultural, and savanna grass competition.

More recent investigations have shown a complicated variety of intensive agricultural techniques utilized by the Maya, explaining the high population of the Classic Maya polities. Modern archaeologists now comprehend the sophisticated intensive and productive agricultural techniques of the ancient Maya, and several of the Maya agricultural methods have not yet been reproduced. Intensive agricultural methods were developed and utilized by all the Mesoamerican cultures to boost their food production and give them a competitive advantage over less skillful peoples.[38] These intensive agricultural methods included canals, terracing, raised fields, ridged fields, chinampas, the use of human feces as fertilizer, seasonal swamps or bajos, using muck from the bajos to create fertile fields, dikes, dams, irrigation, water reservoirs, several types of water storage systems, hydraulic systems, swamp reclamation, swidden systems, and other agricultural techniques that have not yet been fully understood.[39] Systemic ecological collapse is said to be evidenced by deforestation, siltation, and the decline of biological diversity.

In addition to mountainous terrain, Mesoamericans successfully exploited the very problematic tropical rainforest for 1,500years.[40] The agricultural techniques utilized by the Maya were entirely dependent upon ample supplies of water. The Maya thrived in territory that would be uninhabitable to most peoples. Their success over two millennia in this environment was amazing.[41]

Anthropologist Joseph Tainter wrote extensively about the collapse of the Southern Lowland Maya in his 1988 study, The Collapse of Complex Societies. His theory about Mayan collapse encompasses some of the above explanations, but focuses specifically on the development of and the declining marginal returns from the increasing social complexity of the competing Mayan city-states.[42] Psychologist Julian Jaynes suggested that the collapse was due to a failure in the social control systems of religion and political authority, due to increasing socioeconomic complexity that overwhelmed the power of traditional rituals and the kings authority to compel obedience.[43]

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Superintelligence – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Jun 172016
 

A superintelligence is a hypothetical agent that possesses intelligence far surpassing that of the brightest and most gifted human minds. “Superintelligence” may also refer to a property of problem-solving systems (e.g., superintelligent language translators or engineering assistants) whether or not these high-level intellectual competencies are embodied in agents that act in the world.

University of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom defines superintelligence as “an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.”[1] The program Fritz falls short of superintelligence even though it is much better than humans at chess because Fritz cannot outperform humans in other tasks. Following Hutter and Legg, Bostrom treats superintelligence as general dominance at goal-oriented behavior, leaving open whether an artificial or human superintelligence would possess capacities such as intentionality (cf. the Chinese room argument) or first-person consciousness (cf. the hard problem of consciousness).

Technological researchers disagree about how likely present-day human intelligence is to be surpassed. Some argue that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will probably result in general reasoning systems that lack human cognitive limitations. Others believe that humans will evolve or directly modify their biology so as to achieve radically greater intelligence. A number of futures studies scenarios combine elements from both of these possibilities, suggesting that humans are likely to interface with computers, or upload their minds to computers, in a way that enables substantial intelligence amplification.

Some researchers believe that superintelligence will likely follow shortly after the development of artificial general intelligence. The first sentient machines are likely to immediately hold an enormous advantage in at least some forms of mental capability, including the capacity of perfect recall, a vastly superior knowledge base, and the ability to multitask in ways not possible to biological entities. This may give them the opportunity toeither as a single being or as a new speciesbecome much more powerful than humans, and to displace them.[3]

A number of scientists and forecasters argue for prioritizing early research into the possible benefits and risks of human and machine cognitive enhancement, because of the potential social impact of such technologies.

Philosopher David Chalmers argues that artificial general intelligence is a very likely path to superhuman intelligence. Chalmers breaks this claim down into an argument that AI can achieve equivalence to human intelligence, that it can be extended to surpass human intelligence, and that it can be further amplified to completely dominate humans across arbitrary tasks.

Concerning human-level equivalence, Chalmers argues that the human brain is a mechanical system, and therefore ought to be emulatable by synthetic materials. He also notes that human intelligence was able to biologically evolve, making it more likely that human engineers will be able to recapitulate this invention. Evolutionary algorithms in particular should be able to produce human-level AI. Concerning intelligence extension and amplification, Chalmers argues that new AI technologies can generally be improved on, and that this is particularly likely when the invention can assist in designing new technologies.

If research into strong AI produced sufficiently intelligent software, it would be able to reprogram and improve itself a feature called “recursive self-improvement”. It would then be even better at improving itself, and could continue doing so in a rapidly increasing cycle, leading to a superintelligence. This scenario is known as an intelligence explosion. Such an intelligence would not have the limitations of human intellect, and may be able to invent or discover almost anything.

Computer components already greatly surpass human performance in speed. Bostrom writes, Biological neurons operate at a peak speed of about 200 Hz, a full seven orders of magnitude slower than a modern microprocessor (~2 GHz). Moreover, neurons transmit spike signals across axons at no greater than 120 m/s, “whereas existing electronic processing cores can communicate optically at the speed of light”. Thus, the simplest example of a superintelligence may be an emulated human mind that’s run on much faster hardware than the brain. A human-like reasoner that could think millions of times faster than current humans would have a dominant advantage in most reasoning tasks, particularly ones that require haste or long strings of actions.

Another advantage of computers is modularity, that is, their size or computational capacity can be increased. A non-human (or modified human) brain could become much larger than a present-day human brain, like many supercomputers. Bostrom also raises the possibility of collective superintelligence: a large enough number of separate reasoning systems, if they communicated and coordinated well enough, could act in aggregate with far greater capabilities than any sub-agent.

There may also be ways to qualitatively improve on human reasoning and decision-making. Humans appear to differ from chimpanzees in the ways we think more than we differ in brain size or speed.[10] Humans outperform non-human animals in large part because of new or enhanced reasoning capacities, such as long-term planning and language use. (See evolution of human intelligence and primate cognition.) If there are other possible improvements to reasoning that would have a similarly large impact, this makes it likelier that an agent can be built that outperforms humans in the same fashion humans outperform chimpanzees.

All of the above advantages hold for artificial superintelligence, but it is not clear how many hold for biological superintelligence. Physiological constraints limit the speed and size of biological brains in many ways that are inapplicable to machine intelligence. As such, writers on superintelligence have devoted much more attention to superintelligent AI scenarios.

Carl Sagan suggested that the advent of Caesarean sections and in vitro fertilization may permit humans to evolve larger heads, resulting in improvements via natural selection in the heritable component of human intelligence.[13] By contrast, Gerald Crabtree has argued that decreased selection pressure is resulting in a slow, centuries-long reduction in human intelligence, and that this process instead is likely to continue into the future. There is no scientific consensus concerning either possibility, and in both cases the biological change would be slow, especially relative to rates of cultural change.

Selective breeding and genetic engineering could improve human intelligence more rapidly. Bostrom writes that if we come to understand the genetic component of intelligence, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis could be used to select for embryos with as much as 4 points of IQ gain (if one embryo is selected out of two), or with larger gains (e.g., up to 24.3 IQ points gained if one embryo is selected out of 1000). If this process is iterated over many generations, the gains could be an order of magnitude greater. Bostrom suggests that deriving new gametes from embryonic stem cells could be used to iterate the selection process very rapidly. A well-organized society of high-intelligence humans of this sort could potentially achieve collective superintelligence.

Alternatively, collective intelligence might be constructible by better organizing humans at present levels of individual intelligence. A number of writers have suggested that human civilization, or some aspect of it (e.g., the Internet, or the economy), is coming to function like a global brain with capacities far exceeding its component agents. If this systems-based superintelligence relies heavily on artificial components, however, it may qualify as an AI rather than as a biology-based superorganism.

A final method of intelligence amplification would be to directly enhance individual humans, as opposed to enhancing their social or reproductive dynamics. This could be achieved using nootropics, somatic gene therapy, or braincomputer interfaces. However, Bostrom expresses skepticism about the scalability of the first two approaches, and argues that designing a superintelligent cyborg interface is an AI-complete problem.

Most surveyed AI researchers expect machines to eventually be able to rival humans in intelligence, though there is little consensus on timescales. At the 2006 AI@50 conference, 18% of attendees reported expecting machines to be able “to simulate learning and every other aspect of human intelligence” by 2056; 41% of attendees expected this to happen sometime after 2056; and 41% expected machines to never reach that milestone.[18]

In a survey of the 100 most cited authors in AI (as of May 2013, according to Microsoft Academic Search), the median year by which respondents expected machines “that can carry out most human professions at least as well as a typical human” (assuming no global catastrophe occurs) with 10% confidence is 2024 (mean 2034, st. dev. 33 years), with 50% confidence is 2050 (mean 2072, st. dev. 110 years), and with 90% confidence is 2070 (mean 2168, st. dev. 342 years). These estimates exclude the 1.2% of respondents who said no year would ever reach 10% confidence, the 4.1% who said ‘never’ for 50% confidence, and the 16.5% who said ‘never’ for 90% confidence. Respondents assigned a median 50% probability to the possibility that machine superintelligence will be invented within 30 years of the invention of approximately human-level machine intelligence.

Bostrom expressed concern about what values a superintelligence should be designed to have. He compared several proposals:

Responding to Bostrom, Santos-Lang raised concern that developers may attempt to start with a single kind of superintelligence.

It has been suggested that learning computers that rapidly become superintelligent may take unforeseen actions or that robots would out-compete humanity (one technological singularity scenario).[22] Researchers have argued that, by way of an “intelligence explosion” sometime over the next century, a self-improving AI could become so powerful as to be unstoppable by humans.[23]

Concerning human extinction scenarios, Bostrom (2002) identifies superintelligence as a possible cause:

When we create the first superintelligent entity, we might make a mistake and give it goals that lead it to annihilate humankind, assuming its enormous intellectual advantage gives it the power to do so. For example, we could mistakenly elevate a subgoal to the status of a supergoal. We tell it to solve a mathematical problem, and it complies by turning all the matter in the solar system into a giant calculating device, in the process killing the person who asked the question.

In theory, since a superintelligent AI would be able to bring about almost any possible outcome and to thwart any attempt to prevent the implementation of its goals, many uncontrolled, unintended consequences could arise. It could kill off all other agents, persuade them to change their behavior, or block their attempts at interference.[24]

Eliezer Yudkowsky explains: “The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.”[25]

Bill Hibbard advocates for public education about superintelligence and public control over the development of superintelligence.

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Ethical Issues In Advanced Artificial Intelligence

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Jun 172016
 

The ethical issues related to the possible future creation of machines with general intellectual capabilities far outstripping those of humans are quite distinct from any ethical problems arising in current automation and information systems. Such superintelligence would not be just another technological development; it would be the most important invention ever made, and would lead to explosive progress in all scientific and technological fields, as the superintelligence would conduct research with superhuman efficiency. To the extent that ethics is a cognitive pursuit, a superintelligence could also easily surpass humans in the quality of its moral thinking. However, it would be up to the designers of the superintelligence to specify its original motivations. Since the superintelligence may become unstoppably powerful because of its intellectual superiority and the technologies it could develop, it is crucial that it be provided with human-friendly motivations. This paper surveys some of the unique ethical issues in creating superintelligence, and discusses what motivations we ought to give a superintelligence, and introduces some cost-benefit considerations relating to whether the development of superintelligent machines ought to be accelerated or retarded.

KEYWORDS: Artificial intelligence, ethics, uploading, superintelligence, global security, cost-benefit analysis

1. INTRODUCTION

A superintelligence is any intellect that is vastly outperforms the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom, and social skills.[1] This definition leaves open how the superintelligence is implemented it could be in a digital computer, an ensemble of networked computers, cultured cortical tissue, or something else.

On this definition, Deep Blue is not a superintelligence, since it is only smart within one narrow domain (chess), and even there it is not vastly superior to the best humans. Entities such as corporations or the scientific community are not superintelligences either. Although they can perform a number of intellectual feats of which no individual human is capable, they are not sufficiently integrated to count as intellects, and there are many fields in which they perform much worse than single humans. For example, you cannot have a real-time conversation with the scientific community.

While the possibility of domain-specific superintelligences is also worth exploring, this paper focuses on issues arising from the prospect of general superintelligence. Space constraints prevent us from attempting anything comprehensive or detailed. A cartoonish sketch of a few selected ideas is the most we can aim for in the following few pages.

Several authors have argued that there is a substantial chance that superintelligence may be created within a few decades, perhaps as a result of growing hardware performance and increased ability to implement algorithms and architectures similar to those used by human brains.[2] It might turn out to take much longer, but there seems currently to be no good ground for assigning a negligible probability to the hypothesis that superintelligence will be created within the lifespan of some people alive today. Given the enormity of the consequences of superintelligence, it would make sense to give this prospect some serious consideration even if one thought that there were only a small probability of it happening any time soon.

2. SUPERINTELLIGENCE IS DIFFERENT

A prerequisite for having a meaningful discussion of superintelligence is the realization that superintelligence is not just another technology, another tool that will add incrementally to human capabilities. Superintelligence is radically different. This point bears emphasizing, for anthropomorphizing superintelligence is a most fecund source of misconceptions.

Let us consider some of the unusual aspects of the creation of superintelligence:

Superintelligence may be the last invention humans ever need to make.

Given a superintelligences intellectual superiority, it would be much better at doing scientific research and technological development than any human, and possibly better even than all humans taken together. One immediate consequence of this fact is that:

Technological progress in all other fields will be accelerated by the arrival of advanced artificial intelligence.

It is likely that any technology that we can currently foresee will be speedily developed by the first superintelligence, no doubt along with many other technologies of which we are as yet clueless. The foreseeable technologies that a superintelligence is likely to develop include mature molecular manufacturing, whose applications are wide-ranging:[3]

a) very powerful computers

b) advanced weaponry, probably capable of safely disarming a nuclear power

c) space travel and von Neumann probes (self-reproducing interstellar probes)

d) elimination of aging and disease

e) fine-grained control of human mood, emotion, and motivation

f) uploading (neural or sub-neural scanning of a particular brain and implementation of the same algorithmic structures on a computer in a way that perseveres memory and personality)

g) reanimation of cryonics patients

h) fully realistic virtual reality

Superintelligence will lead to more advanced superintelligence.

This results both from the improved hardware that a superintelligence could create, and also from improvements it could make to its own source code.

Artificial minds can be easily copied.

Since artificial intelligences are software, they can easily and quickly be copied, so long as there is hardware available to store them. The same holds for human uploads. Hardware aside, the marginal cost of creating an additional copy of an upload or an artificial intelligence after the first one has been built is near zero. Artificial minds could therefore quickly come to exist in great numbers, although it is possible that efficiency would favor concentrating computational resources in a single super-intellect.

Emergence of superintelligence may be sudden.

It appears much harder to get from where we are now to human-level artificial intelligence than to get from there to superintelligence. While it may thus take quite a while before we get superintelligence, the final stage may happen swiftly. That is, the transition from a state where we have a roughly human-level artificial intelligence to a state where we have full-blown superintelligence, with revolutionary applications, may be very rapid, perhaps a matter of days rather than years. This possibility of a sudden emergence of superintelligence is referred to as the singularity hypothesis.[4]

Artificial intellects are potentially autonomous agents.

A superintelligence should not necessarily be conceptualized as a mere tool. While specialized superintelligences that can think only about a restricted set of problems may be feasible, general superintelligence would be capable of independent initiative and of making its own plans, and may therefore be more appropriately thought of as an autonomous agent.

Artificial intellects need not have humanlike motives.

Human are rarely willing slaves, but there is nothing implausible about the idea of a superintelligence having as its supergoal to serve humanity or some particular human, with no desire whatsoever to revolt or to liberate itself. It also seems perfectly possible to have a superintelligence whose sole goal is something completely arbitrary, such as to manufacture as many paperclips as possible, and who would resist with all its might any attempt to alter this goal. For better or worse, artificial intellects need not share our human motivational tendencies.

Artificial intellects may not have humanlike psyches.

The cognitive architecture of an artificial intellect may also be quite unlike that of humans. Artificial intellects may find it easy to guard against some kinds of human error and bias, while at the same time being at increased risk of other kinds of mistake that not even the most hapless human would make. Subjectively, the inner conscious life of an artificial intellect, if it has one, may also be quite different from ours.

For all of these reasons, one should be wary of assuming that the emergence of superintelligence can be predicted by extrapolating the history of other technological breakthroughs, or that the nature and behaviors of artificial intellects would necessarily resemble those of human or other animal minds.

3. SUPERINTELLIGENT MORAL THINKING

To the extent that ethics is a cognitive pursuit, a superintelligence could do it better than human thinkers. This means that questions about ethics, in so far as they have correct answers that can be arrived at by reasoning and weighting up of evidence, could be more accurately answered by a superintelligence than by humans. The same holds for questions of policy and long-term planning; when it comes to understanding which policies would lead to which results, and which means would be most effective in attaining given aims, a superintelligence would outperform humans.

There are therefore many questions that we would not need to answer ourselves if we had or were about to get superintelligence; we could delegate many investigations and decisions to the superintelligence. For example, if we are uncertain how to evaluate possible outcomes, we could ask the superintelligence to estimate how we would have evaluated these outcomes if we had thought about them for a very long time, deliberated carefully, had had more memory and better intelligence, and so forth. When formulating a goal for the superintelligence, it would not always be necessary to give a detailed, explicit definition of this goal. We could enlist the superintelligence to help us determine the real intention of our request, thus decreasing the risk that infelicitous wording or confusion about what we want to achieve would lead to outcomes that we would disapprove of in retrospect.

4. IMPORTANCE OF INITIAL MOTIVATIONS

The option to defer many decisions to the superintelligence does not mean that we can afford to be complacent in how we construct the superintelligence. On the contrary, the setting up of initial conditions, and in particular the selection of a top-level goal for the superintelligence, is of the utmost importance. Our entire future may hinge on how we solve these problems.

Both because of its superior planning ability and because of the technologies it could develop, it is plausible to suppose that the first superintelligence would be very powerful. Quite possibly, it would be unrivalled: it would be able to bring about almost any possible outcome and to thwart any attempt to prevent the implementation of its top goal. It could kill off all other agents, persuade them to change their behavior, or block their attempts at interference. Even a fettered superintelligence that was running on an isolated computer, able to interact with the rest of the world only via text interface, might be able to break out of its confinement by persuading its handlers to release it. There is even some preliminary experimental evidence that this would be the case.[5]

It seems that the best way to ensure that a superintelligence will have a beneficial impact on the world is to endow it with philanthropic values. Its top goal should be friendliness.[6] How exactly friendliness should be understood and how it should be implemented, and how the amity should be apportioned between different people and nonhuman creatures is a matter that merits further consideration. I would argue that at least all humans, and probably many other sentient creatures on earth should get a significant share in the superintelligences beneficence. If the benefits that the superintelligence could bestow are enormously vast, then it may be less important to haggle over the detailed distribution pattern and more important to seek to ensure that everybody gets at least some significant share, since on this supposition, even a tiny share would be enough to guarantee a very long and very good life. One risk that must be guarded against is that those who develop the superintelligence would not make it generically philanthropic but would instead give it the more limited goal of serving only some small group, such as its own creators or those who commissioned it.

If a superintelligence starts out with a friendly top goal, however, then it can be relied on to stay friendly, or at least not to deliberately rid itself of its friendliness. This point is elementary. A friend who seeks to transform himself into somebody who wants to hurt you, is not your friend. A true friend, one who really cares about you, also seeks the continuation of his caring for you. Or to put it in a different way, if your top goal is X, and if you think that by changing yourself into someone who instead wants Y you would make it less likely that X will be achieved, then you will not rationally transform yourself into someone who wants Y. The set of options at each point in time is evaluated on the basis of their consequences for realization of the goals held at that time, and generally it will be irrational to deliberately change ones own top goal, since that would make it less likely that the current goals will be attained.

In humans, with our complicated evolved mental ecology of state-dependent competing drives, desires, plans, and ideals, there is often no obvious way to identify what our top goal is; we might not even have one. So for us, the above reasoning need not apply. But a superintelligence may be structured differently. If a superintelligence has a definite, declarative goal-structure with a clearly identified top goal, then the above argument applies. And this is a good reason for us to build the superintelligence with such an explicit motivational architecture.

5. SHOULD DEVELOPMENT BE DELAYED OR ACCELERATED?

It is hard to think of any problem that a superintelligence could not either solve or at least help us solve. Disease, poverty, environmental destruction, unnecessary suffering of all kinds: these are things that a superintelligence equipped with advanced nanotechnology would be capable of eliminating. Additionally, a superintelligence could give us indefinite lifespan, either by stopping and reversing the aging process through the use of nanomedicine[7], or by offering us the option to upload ourselves. A superintelligence could also create opportunities for us to vastly increase our own intellectual and emotional capabilities, and it could assist us in creating a highly appealing experiential world in which we could live lives devoted to in joyful game-playing, relating to each other, experiencing, personal growth, and to living closer to our ideals.

The risks in developing superintelligence include the risk of failure to give it the supergoal of philanthropy. One way in which this could happen is that the creators of the superintelligence decide to build it so that it serves only this select group of humans, rather than humanity in general. Another way for it to happen is that a well-meaning team of programmers make a big mistake in designing its goal system. This could result, to return to the earlier example, in a superintelligence whose top goal is the manufacturing of paperclips, with the consequence that it starts transforming first all of earth and then increasing portions of space into paperclip manufacturing facilities. More subtly, it could result in a superintelligence realizing a state of affairs that we might now judge as desirable but which in fact turns out to be a false utopia, in which things essential to human flourishing have been irreversibly lost. We need to be careful about what we wish for from a superintelligence, because we might get it.

One consideration that should be taken into account when deciding whether to promote the development of superintelligence is that if superintelligence is feasible, it will likely be developed sooner or later. Therefore, we will probably one day have to take the gamble of superintelligence no matter what. But once in existence, a superintelligence could help us reduce or eliminate other existential risks[8], such as the risk that advanced nanotechnology will be used by humans in warfare or terrorism, a serious threat to the long-term survival of intelligent life on earth. If we get to superintelligence first, we may avoid this risk from nanotechnology and many others. If, on the other hand, we get nanotechnology first, we will have to face both the risks from nanotechnology and, if these risks are survived, also the risks from superintelligence. The overall risk seems to be minimized by implementing superintelligence, with great care, as soon as possible.

REFERENCES

Bostrom, N. (1998). “How Long Before Superintelligence?” International Journal of Futures Studies, 2. http://www.nickbostrom.com/superintelligence.html

Bostrom, N. (2002). “Existential Risks: Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards.” Journal of Evolution and Technology, 9. http://www.nickbostrom.com/existential/risks.html

Drexler, K. E. Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. (Anchor Books: New York, 1986). http://www.foresight.org/EOC/index.html

Freitas Jr., R. A. Nanomedicine, Volume 1: Basic Capabilities. (Landes Bioscience: Georgetown, TX, 1999). http://www.nanomedicine.com

Hanson, R., et al. (1998). “A Critical Discussion of Vinge’s Singularity Concept.” Extropy Online. http://www.extropy.org/eo/articles/vi.html

Kurzweil, R. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. (Viking: New York, 1999).

Moravec, H. Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind. (Oxford University Press: New York, 1999).

Vinge, V. (1993). “The Coming Technological Singularity.” Whole Earth Review, Winter issue.

Yudkowsky, E. (2002). “The AI Box Experiment.” Webpage. http://sysopmind.com/essays/aibox.html

Yudkowsky, E. (2003). Creating Friendly AI 1.0. http://www.singinst.org/CFAI/index.html

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Ethical Issues In Advanced Artificial Intelligence

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Top Ten Cybernetic Upgrades Everyone Will Want

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Jun 172016
 

by Lifeboat Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member Michael Anissimov. Science fiction, computer games, anime cyborgs are everywhere. Transhumanists are philosophers who believe that one day, cybernetic upgrades will be so powerful, elegant, and inexpensive that everyone will want them. This report lists ten major upgrades that I think will be adopted by 2050. The List 10. Disease Immunity Between 20 and 40 years into the future, we will become capable of building artificial antibodies that outperform their natural equivalents. Instead of using chemical signaling that relies on diffusion to reach its target, these antibodies will communicate with rapid acoustic pulses. Instead of proteins, they will be made using much more durable polymers or even diamond. These antibodies will move through the bloodstream more quickly than other cells in the body, and will take up less space and resources, meaning that there will be room for many more. Using super-biological methods for identifying and neutralizing foreign viruses and bacteria, these tiny robots will still function in harmony with our own bodies. They will probably be powered either by glucose, ATP (like natural antibodies), or acoustically. There are already bloodborne microbots today which are not rejected by the immune system these are the precursors of tomorrows nanorobotics. Through their presence and continued operation, they will eliminate all susceptibility to disease in those who have them running through their veins. This will not make people immortal, but it will allow them to walk into a room contaminated with a flesh-eating virus in nothing but a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. For more on artificial antibodies and other body-integrated nanites, see Nanomedicine. 9. Telemicroscopic, Full-Spectrum Vision There are microscopes that weigh one tenth of an ounce. Some birds of prey have vision so sharp that they can spot a hare a mile away. We have compact devices that can scan the electromagnetic spectrum from x-rays to radio waves, and everything in between. Our eyes in their current form can do none of these things. But in time, they will be upgraded. There are already prosthetic retinas that can provide low-resolution artificial vision for blind people. Its simply a matter of time until better prosthetic eyes are created, and their sharpness, contrast, and resolution is superior to what evolution gave us. The biggest challenge may end up not actually being about building a superior artificial eye, but remodeling the visual cortex so that it can process the info and relay it to the rest of the brain in such a way that its not overwhelmed. 8. Telepathy/Brain-Computer Interfacing Ever wanted to send someone a message with nothing but your mind, or have a neural implant that gives your brain direct access to Google? Hundreds of corporate and academic labs across the world are working on projects that generate progress in this area. Check out the Berlin Brain-Computer Interface, which lets you move the cursor around on a screen with only your EEG waves and 20 minutes of training. Miniature fMRI will allow us to continue increasing the bandwidth between brain and computer, eventually allowing for a mental typewriter that converts thoughts into text. A tiny transmitter could send this to a bone-conduction device on the receiving person, letting them hear the message without sound. NASA is also working on a device to transcribe silent, subvocal speech. Like many transhumanist upgrades, these will probably start as efforts to help people who are handicapped, then evolve into powerful tools that can be used by anyone bold enough to adopt them. 7. Super-Strength Early in 2006, scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas, led by Dr. Ray H. Baughman, developed artificial muscles 100 times stronger than our own, powered by alcohol and hydrogen. Leonid Taranenko, the former Soviet weightlifter, holds the world record for power lifting a 266 kg (586 lbs) dumbbell. If Leos natural muscles were replaced with Dr. Baughmans synthetic polymer muscles, he could lift 26,600 kg, or about 30 tons. Thats equivalent to this yacht, the Nova Spirit. Super-strength is an interesting area in that the technology to do it has already been invented the only step remaining is actually weaving the fiber into a human body which, today, would be complicated and messy, not to mention probably illegal. However, that doesnt mean that it wont be done, probably within the next couple decades. Further improvements to the process could make it safe for normal people, numerous ethics questions notwithstanding. One benefit of improved muscles is that wed be far less vulnerable to unfortunate accidents. They could also provide armor against bullets or other forms of attack. One downside is that people could use them to bully others around. Guess the good guys will need even bigger muscles. 6. Improved Appearance In general, there is a lot of agreement as to who is attractive and who is less so. Numerous experiments have shown that while there are slight subjective differences in who we want to get with, we are biologically programmed to look for certain facial and physical features that correlate with increased fitness. For the time being, this is unavoidable. The only way to change it would be to reach inside our neural circuitry and start severing connections. Until we choose to do that, we can improve our own lives and the lives of those who have to look at us by looking as pretty or handsome as possible. We brush our teeth, keep fit, take showers, and all that other great stuff that helps us score. Some of us even visit the plastic surgeon, with mixed results. Surveys show that certain procedures, like liposuction, have very high patient satisfaction rates. As the safety and precision of our body modification technologies improves, well be able to change our faces and bodies with minimal fuss, and maximal benefit. Everyone will be able to be stunningly attractive. And the really great thing? Well always be able to enjoy it. If everyone becomes attractive, we wont regard the slightly less attractive of the lot as ugly our brain doesnt work that way. An attractive person is attractive, whether or not others are around. A planet full of attractive people could do a lot to improve our quality of life. 5. Psychokinesis In the real world, psychokinesis is a bunch of wishful thinking and pseudoscience. Despite the roughly 30% of people who think that its possible to affect objects through the mind alone, history and evidence make it clear that this is total nonsense. There are no psychics and there never have been. However, that doesnt mean that we cant create technopsychics artificially. By 2030, well be cranking out utility fog swarms of tiny machines that fly through the air and interlock with robotic arms. By combining brain-computer interfaces, like the type used by Claudia Mitchell to move her prosthetic arm, with utility fog, we will have direct-thought connections with powerful external robotics, allowing non-fictional psychokinesis. Utility fog, once all the necessary software for it is developed, will be capable of cooperating to perform practically any physical task or simulate a wide range of materials. Because utility fog could be distributed at low density and still accomplish a lot, a room filled with utility fog would look empty, and people in it could move and breathe normally. They would only notice once the fog is activated either by a central computer, or a neural interface. Once a connection is achieved, practically anything could be accomplished with the proper programming. Throwing objects through the air, hovering over the ground, cracking an egg from across the room, materializing orbs of energy all the antics weve always wanted to perform, but never had the means to. 4. Autopoiesis/Allopoiesis Autopoiesis is Greek for self-creation. Allopoiesis is other-creation. Our body engages in both all the time we start as a fetus that creates itself until it becomes an adult, then, essentially stops. Our body produces things external to itself, but usually involving an extended process of cooperation with thousands of other human beings and the entire economy. In the future, there will be cybernetic upgrades that allow for personal autopoietic and allopoietic manufacturing, probably based on molecular nanotechnology. Using whatever raw material is available, complex construction routines, and internal nanomanufacturing units, well be able to literally breathe life into dirt. If our arms or legs get blown off, well be able to use manufacturing modules in other parts of our body to regenerate them. Instead of building robots in a factory, well build them ourselves. The possibilities are quite expansive, but this would require technology more sophisticated than anything discussed thus far in this list. 3. Flight Human flight, outside of an airplane this was recently achieved by former military pilot Yves Rossy, who flew 7,750 ft above the Alps in his 10 ft wide, self-designed aerofoil. You can see a video of it here. The airfoil weighs only 110 lbs and cost just under $300,000. Over the next few decades, the weight will come down, the strength and flexibility will go up, and eventually it will be difficult to distinguish between people in aerofoils and people that can just fly whenever they want. Using high strength-to-weight materials like fullerenes, we will fly using wings that weigh only a fraction of our own weight and fold into our clothing or body when not in use. Rossy achieved speeds of 115 mph, but with superior materials and greater tolerance for acceleration and wind, our cybernetic flight speeds are more likely to top 500 mph. To take off from the ground, well simply use our super-muscles to jump to the highest object around and begin our flight from there. With personal flight, commercial airliners will become obsolete. The only problem left will be dodging each other. 2. Superintelligence When we think of superintelligence, we tend to think of the ways it is portrayed in fiction the character able to multiply 6 fifty digit numbers in his head, learn ten languages in a month, repeat the catch phrase Thats not logical, and other tired cliches. True superintelligence would be something radically different a person able to see the obvious solution that the entire human race missed, conceive of and implement advanced plans or concepts that the greatest geniuses would never think of, understand and rewrite its own cognitive processes on the most fundamental level, and so on. A cybernetic superintelligence would not just be another genius human, it would be something entirely superhuman something that could completely change the world overnight. For the same reason that we cant write a book with a character smarter than ourselves, we cant imagine the thoughts or actions of a true superintelligence, because theyd be beyond us. Whether it is developed through uploading, neuroengineering, or artificial intelligence, remains to be seen. 1. Immortality The ultimate upgrade would be physical immortality. Everything else pales by comparison. Today, there are already entire movements based around the idea. Realizing the possibility of immortality requires seeing a human being as a physical system composed of working parts that cooperate to make up the whole, some of which have the tendency to get old and break down. Cambridge biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey has identified seven causes of aging, which are believed to be comprehensive, because its been decades since a degenerative process has occurred in the body with an unknown cause. Defeating aging, then, would simply require addressing these one by one. They are: cell depletion, supernumerary cells, chromosomal mutations, mitochondrial mutations, cellular junk, extracellular junk, and protein cross-links. A few pioneering researchers are looking towards solutions, but accepting the possibility requires looking at aging as a disease and not as a necessary component of life. Well then, that just about wraps up our list. See you in 2050, alright?

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Top Ten Cybernetic Upgrades Everyone Will Want

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Space Exploration News – Space News, Space Exploration …

 Space Exploration  Comments Off on Space Exploration News – Space News, Space Exploration …
Jun 172016
 

The jagged shores of Pluto’s highlands

This enhanced color view from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto’s great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula. (Krun …

After decades of research to discern seasonal patterns in Martian dust storms from images showing the dust, but the clearest pattern appears to be captured by measuring the temperature of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

Astronomers using the upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico have produced the most detailed radio map yet of the atmosphere of Jupiter, revealing the massive movement of ammonia gas that underlies the colorful …

On Pluto, icebergs floating in a sea of nitrogen ice are key to a possible explanation of the quilted appearance of the Sputnik Planum region of the dwarf planet’s surface.

Space station astronauts opened the world’s first inflatable space habitat Monday and floated inside.

The US government, in a first, is preparing to approve a private commercial space mission beyond the Earth’s orbit, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

(Phys.org)Discovered in 1983, the near-Earth asteroid Phaethon is an intriguing object, primarily due to its unusual orbit. Recently, an international team of astronomers has conducted a detailed study of this unique space …

For some comets, breaking up is not that hard to do. A new study led by Purdue University and the University of Colorado Boulder indicates the bodies of some periodic comets – objects that orbit the sun in less than 200 years …

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took this stunning image of Pluto only a few minutes after closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image was obtained at a high phase angle -that is, with the sun on the other side of Pluto, …

One of Europe’s smallest states, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, cast its eyes to the cosmos on Friday, announcing it would draw up a law to facilitate mining on asteroids.

An important amino acid called glycine has been detected in a comet for the first time, supporting the theory that these cosmic bodies delivered the ingredients for life on Earth, researchers said Friday.

(Phys.org)As we become more advanced in astronomy, continuously searching and finding lots of potentially habitable extrasolar planets that could harbor alien life, it seems that it’s not a matter of if but when we will …

(Phys.org)In September 2016, NASA plans to launch its first-ever asteroid sample return mission loaded with tasks that will help us better understand the composition of asteroids, their origin, and possibly even Earth’s …

(Phys.org)The team that has posted a project called KickSat on crowd sourcing site KickStarter, has arranged to have the tiny satellite system sent to the International Space Station on July 6. KickSat is a satellite system …

Europe’s trailblazing spacecraft Rosetta has resumed its exploration of a comet hurtling through the Solar System after a “dramatic weekend” in which contact with Earth was lost for nearly 24 hours, mission control said Thursday.

Before humans could take their first steps on the moon, that mysterious and forbidding surface had to be reconnoitered by robots. When President John Kennedy set a goal of landing astronauts on the lunar surface in 1961, …

After the Apollo missions scooped up rocks from the Moon’s surface and brought them home, scientists were convinced for decades that they had proof our nearest celestial neighbour was drier than a bone.

Since its launch five years ago, there have been three forces tugging at NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it speeds through the solar system. The sun, Earth and Jupiter have all been influentiala gravitational trifecta of sorts. …

A tiny mirror could make a huge difference for scientists trying to understand what’s happening in the micron-scale structures of living cells.

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) detected a clear signal from oxygen in a galaxy located 13.1 billion light-years away from us. This is the most distant oxygen ever detected. Oxygen …

A new maker of self-driving vehicles burst onto the scene Thursday in partnership with IBM’s supercomputer platform Watson, and it’s ready to roll right now.

For the past 40 years, eye-tracking technologywhich can determine where in a visual scene people are directing their gazehas been widely used in psychological experiments and marketing research, but it’s required pricey …

A team of University of Miami researchers has developed a model to identify behavioral patterns among serious online groups of ISIS supporters that could provide cyber police and other anti-terror watchdogs a roadmap to their …

A facial recognition database compiled by the FBI has more than 400 million images to help criminal investigations, but lacks adequate safeguards for accuracy and privacy protection, a congressional audit shows.

In the Canadian province of Quebec, a study of more than 26,000 trees across an area the size of Spain forecasts potential winners and losers in a changing climate.

In an essay to be published on June 17, 2016 in Science magazine Susan Landau, professor of cybersecurity policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), argues that the FBI’s recent and widely publicized efforts to compel …

The first eukaryote is thought to have arisen when simpler archaea and bacteria joined forces. But in an Opinion paper published June 16 in Trends in Cell Biology, researchers propose that new genomic evidence derived from …

Picture a singer, accompanied by a grand piano. As the singer’s voice dances through multiple octaves of range, the pianist’s fingers trip from one end of the keyboard to the other. Both the singer’s voice and the piano are …

China’s massive investment to mitigate the ecosystem bust that has come in the wake of the nation’s economic boom is paying off. An international group of scientists finds both humans and nature can thrivewith careful …

The supermassive black holes found at the centre of every galaxy, including our own Milky Way, may, on average, be smaller than we thought, according to work led by University of Southampton astronomer Dr Francesco Shankar.

(Phys.org)A team of researchers with the Carnegie Institution for Science and the University of Pennsylvania has developed a model that allows for accurately predicting how ferroelectric materials will behave when exposed …

New research shows permafrost below shallow Arctic lakes is thawing as a result of changing winter climate.

Moving through water can be a drag, but the use of supercavitation bubbles can reduce that drag and increase the speed of underwater vehicles. Sometimes these bubbles produce a bumpy ride, but now a team of engineers from …

Researchers at the Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE) at UT Dallas are working to develop an affordable electronic nose that can be used in breath analysis for a wide range of health diagnosis.

An exhaustive look at how bacteria hold their ground and avoid getting pushed around by their environment shows how dozens of genes aid the essential job of protecting cells from popping when tensions run high.

A new procedure developed at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) may revolutionize the culturing of adult stem cells. In their report that has been published online prior to its appearance in the August 6 issue of Cell Stem …

University of Iowa researchers are working with a California-based startup company to make clean energy from sunlight and any source of water.

The world won’t be able to fish its way to feeding 10 billion people by mid-century, but a shift in management practices could save hundreds of millions of fish-dependent poor from malnutrition, according to an analysis led …

Modern rockets and their launch vehicles commonly rely on hydrogen-oxygen mixtures as propellant, but this combination is highly explosive. The Challenger space shuttle catastrophe of 1986 is associated with self-ignition …

University of Utah materials science and engineering associate professor Mike Scarpulla wants to shed light on semiconductorsliterally.

The competition is fierce and only the strongest survive the obstacle course within the female reproductive tract. Of the millions of sperm that enter the vagina, only about 10 or so make it to the oocyte or egg, demonstrating …

The researchers have established that chickens – just like people – have colour constancy. For birds, this means that they, in different environments and under different lighting conditions, recognise the colour of, for instance, …

On December 26, 2015 at 03:38:53 UTC, scientists observed gravitational wavesripples in the fabric of spacetimefor the second time.

First postulated more than 230 years ago, black holes have been extensively researched, frequently depicted, even featured in sci-fi films.

Carbon dioxide emissions from dry and oxygen-rich environments are likely to play a much greater role in controlling future rates of climate change caused by permafrost thaw than rates of methane release from oxygen-poor …

(Phys.org)Cell phones and Wi-Fi devices typically transmit data using radio waves, but as the demand for wireless data transfer increases, congestion in the radio spectrum is expected to become more of a problem. One way …

When an astronomical observatory detected two black holes colliding in deep space, scientists celebrated confirmation of Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves. A team of astrophysicists wondered something else: Had …

May’s temperatures broke global records yet again, as the northern hemisphere finishes its hottest spring on record, statistics released Tuesday by NASA showed.

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Stairway to Heaven: Psychedelics Soothe Dying – ABC News

 Psychedelics  Comments Off on Stairway to Heaven: Psychedelics Soothe Dying – ABC News
Jun 172016
 

For the last eight years, Nicky has struggled with advanced ovarian cancer, and despite repeated rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, it’s unclear how long she has to live.

“Ovarian cancer has a very bleak outlook — less than 30 percent make it to five years,” said the 67-year-old former New York City French teacher. “I was diagnosed in 2002, and I was going in to my fourth year and had a recurrence — which was like the proverbial shoe dropping — and it frightened me so much.”

“For the moment, there is no pain,” she said. “The most difficult part is leaving this world early. I wasn’t ready to get on that bus.”

But last May, Nicky volunteered to take a psychedelic “trip” on psilocybin — the hallucinogenic compound from “magic mushrooms” — which has been used for thousands of years by indigenous cultures to reach higher levels of spirituality and consciousness.

Today, even after losing seven friends from her cancer support group in 15 months, Nicky said she is less afraid of death and is living her life more “honestly and authentically.”

Nicky was one of the first terminally ill participants in an ongoing study at New York University on the use of hallucinogens to help those with terminal illnesses.

“I had a wonderful life, a fabulous child and beautiful grandchildren, and here my life was cut short,” she said. “I thought of my two granddaughters and not seeing them growing up and graduating from college — it made me profoundly sad. I wanted to do something for myself, to be able to live more in the moment, rather than worrying about the future and having all these existential thoughts about what life was all about.”

Her “trip” took place under full medical supervision in a warm, living room-like setting with art books, fresh fruit, flowers and soothing music. She was given a pill in an earthenware chalice and a single rose, then hunkered down on a cozy sofa with eyeshades and headphones.

“I was in a dome and it was all bejeweled with colors, mostly striped, like a kaleidoscope, but not turning,” she said. “Every once in awhile, the dome would open up at the top and send a luminescence,” she said. “I was in awe and could feel myself taking deep breaths. At the same, tears were running down my face, but I was not crying.”

“It was incredible,” she said. “I wanted to share it. I couldn’t believe the world could be so beautiful.”

Researchers at New York University say that in a controlled setting, hallucinogens, which alter perception and cognition, can help patients reduce the anxiety, personal isolation and fear of death.

“I am still not ready to die,” said Nicky, who just returned from trips to Mexico and Bali and boxes with a trainer several times a week. “It’s definitely improved my interactions with those closest to me and figuring out how I want to live my life.”

“Has my anxiety of dying gone away? I would say no, I don’t ever want to die. Will I be able to walk toward death with a little less fear? Perhaps,” she said. “I know it sounds trite, but I live more in the moment,” she said.

The three-year study, “Effects of Psilocybin on Anxiety and Psychosocial Distress in Advanced Cancer Patients,” is being privately funded by the Zurich-based Heffter Research Institute , which promotes the use of psychedelics for the alleviation of suffering. Fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it adheres to rigorous safety guidelines and protocols.

Researchers hope that it will one day lead to reclassification of Schedule 1 hallucinogens so that doctors may prescribe them to patients for palliative care, depression and even addiction.

“It’s daunting working with people in the midst of death,” said principal investigator Dr. Stephen Ross, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the NYU Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction. “To help people to have a good death, and not more chemotherapy, to prepare for the final part of life and to die with dignity and do it in a way that they are not frightened, that is one of the most important endeavors as a physician.”

Ross and his colleagues are looking for 32 patients who are willing to participate in the random, double-blind study. To be eligible, patients must be 18 to 76 years old with the diagnosis of a “potentially life-threatening disease” or advanced or recurrent cancer who are displaying symptoms of acute stress, anxiety or adjustment disorder due to their disease.

Patients are screened carefully — those with psychotic spectrum disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression cannot participate.

“Mysticism is really the cornerstone of all major religions going back millennia,” said co-principal investigator Anthony Bossis , professor of psychiatry and anesthesiology at the NYU School of Medicine.

“It is characterized by a sense of unity, transcendence, connecting to the broader universe and a sense of life and the promotion of personal spirituality,” he said. “It recalibrates how we see our life and gives a sense of sacredness and reshapes how we view death.”

A mystical experience can help root patients like Nicky more in the present, according to Bossis. “People with cancer can spend their final days and months not anxious and improvement in quality of life is attainable,” he said. “These experiences have the potential to do that.”

Scientists across the country have shown a renewed interest in the medical uses of hallucinogens. So far, 80 to 90 patients have had similar experiences in studies on psilocybin at other universities including Johns Hopkins and UCLA.

In a study on 36 patients at Johns Hopkins, researchers looked at the effects of psilocybin on depression. At the 14-month follow-up, more than 60 percent of volunteers rated the experience as among the five most meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives; 58 percent reported a “complete” mystical experience.

“We have come a long way in pain management with the use of opiods , but the sheer anxiety is so hard to address in a medical setting,” said Bossis, a clinical psychologist whose specialty is end-of-life care.

“The heart of this study is to address these levels of suffering and get at the existential [fear] of not being here any longer that we all face,” he said. “We provide an empirical experience where the patient goes into a journey — his own journey — and can find resolution and peace and transformation and return back here to integrate it into their lives.”

Psilocybin, an alkaloid compound in the tryptamine family, is produced by hundreds of species of fungi and acts on the serotonin receptors in the part of the brain responsible for non-verbal imagery and emotion. Its mind-altering effects can last anywhere from three to eight hours.

It is in the same class of chemicals as mescaline, contained in the peyote cactus, which is used in religious ceremonies by Native Americans, and dimethyltryptamine, which is in ayahuasca, used by indigenous South American religions. The effects are sometimes described as similar to near-death experiences. Some research has shown that brain activity under psilocybin mimics closely that of Buddhist monks meditating.

“It appears we are hardwired with neuro-circuitry to meditate and have the spiritual experience,” said Ross.

Psychologist Timothy Leary popularized hallucinogens like LSD in his 1964 book with Ralph Metzner, “The Psychedelic Experience,” which he hailed as a way to “journey into new realms of consciousness.”

“It opens the mind, frees the nervous system of it ordinary patterns and structures,” Leary wrote.

Experiments with LSD took place as early as the late 1940s and 1950s, after it was discovered in an ergot fungus by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hoffman.

By 1965, more than 2,000 papers had described positive results in 40,000 patients with few side effects and a high level of safety in the treatment of psychiatric orders, depression, sexual dysfunction, bereavement and even addiction, according to the British Journal of Psychiatry.

But by 1966, the drug was made illegal after abuses by the hippie counterculture, scientists distanced themselves and the government cracked down on research licenses. By the 1970s, under pressure from the U.S. Justice Department, virtually all research ended.

“It got demonized as a most addictive drug, but the irony is that it is not addictive,” said Ross. “Used in the models we describe, it can actually lead to sustained sobriety.”

Volunteers in the NYU study agree to take part in two full-day sessions, seven weeks apart, where they are administered either a placebo or the psilocybin. They are monitored for anxiety and outcomes two to four weeks prior to drug administration, then one day prior, then again seven hours, one day and several weeks’ intervals until 26 weeks post administration.

Investigators also measure depression, pain and quality of life as well as attitude toward their disease progression at designated intervals.

Beforehand, they undergo preparation for the experience in psychotherapy. “We take their life narrative and their cancer narrative and review all the safety parameters — what happens if X,” said Ross.

When the drug is administered, the patient is paired with a male and female therapist to monitor responses and for comfort.

“Emotional stability optimizes the chance for a good experience,” said Bossis. “Trust with the monitors is crucial . If the patient doesn’t feel safe, we don’t go forward.”

Sometimes the experience is traumatizing, but facing fears is part of the process. Doctors have an antidote to abort the experience, if necessary, or use valium to calm a patient down.

“We encourage them to go inward, to minimize the communication with us and enter the experience, even if it’s something dark and difficult that comes before them,” said Bossis. “We tell patients that no matter where they find themselves, they will return to a normal state of consciousness within six hours.”

Two of the three patients in Nicky’s group have already died. Both reported extraordinary experiences — “a cleansing of the body and soul of grief and sadness and an increase in the acceptance of the disease and the dying process,” according to Bossis.

The patients said they wanted to give back more — financially or emotionally and were able to reconnect with estranged friends and family members. Both were “peaceful and thankful,” at the end, he said.

As for Nicky, the first hour of her psychedelic journey was awe-inspiring, but the second part was deeper and more emotional. At several points, she had to sit up and take off her eyeshades and seek the comfort of Ross and her other therapist.

“I became profoundly sad, and I actually had to sit up after 45 minutes and talk to them and I cried a lot,” she said. “There was another scenario, then I went through the rest by myself.”

In six hours, when it was all over, she stayed and analyzed her experience with the doctors.

“In therapy we had been working on my top five [issues with death or family],” she said. “During my experience, I reordered the hierarchy of issues to lead a more authentic life emotionally. I didn’t realize my number four was actually number one.”

“It was such an enormous gift,” said Nicky. “It’s really amazing that a king’s ransom arrived at my door step.”

Today, Nicky said she would take psilocybin again — “in a New York minute.” She continues her therapy at NYU and will go on a drug trial soon for late-stage ovarian cancer. She also hopes that her openness about the psychedelic experience will help others.

“I don’t think people should be so afraid of something that could be so helpful when you are nearing the end of life,” she said. “I had huge insight into my head. I can still conjure it up and I tried for very long to relive it — it was breathtaking.”

Nicky never expected to find God. “I didn’t have that spiritual experience, but my dome was very close,” she said. “When it opened up several times and let in the light, I would have thought it was my creator if I had been religious.”

For more information on how to participate in the study, contact patient coordinator Krystallia Kalliontzi at 212-998-9252 or kk71@nyu.edu.

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Stairway to Heaven: Psychedelics Soothe Dying – ABC News

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Entheogens including Salvia, LSD, Peyote, and Mushrooms …

 Entheogens  Comments Off on Entheogens including Salvia, LSD, Peyote, and Mushrooms …
Jun 172016
 

(Entheogen Defined) “‘Entheogen’ is a word coined by scholars proposing to replace the term ‘psychedelic’ (Ruck, Bigwood, Staples, Ott & Wasson, 1979), which was perceived to be too socioculturally loaded from its 1960s roots to appropriately denote the revered plants and substances used for traditional sacred rituals.What kinds of plants or chemicals fall into the category of entheogen is a matter of debate, as a large number of inebriants – from tobacco and marijuana to alcohol and opium – have been venerated as gifts from the gods (or God) in different cultures at different times (Fuller, 2000). For the purposes of this paper, however, I will focus on the class of drugs that Lewin (1924/1997) terms ‘phantastica,’ a name deriving from the Greek word for the faculty of the imagination (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1973). Later these substances became known as hallucinogens or psychedelics, a class whose members include lysergic acid derivatives, psilocybin, mescaline and dimethyltryptamine; these all shared physical, chemical, and, when ingested, phenomenological properties and, more importantly, have a history of ritual use as cultural tools to cure illness and/or to mediate cosmological insight (Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1998; Rudgley, 1994, Schultes & Hofmann, 1992;).”

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(Entheogens as Psychedelics) “Another peculiar effect of these drugs is a dramatic change in perception: it appears to the person as if the eyes (the ‘doors of perception’) have been cleansed and the person could see the world as new in all respects ‘as Adam may have seen it on the day of creation’ as Aldous Huxley (1954, p. 17) pointed out in his popular and influential book. This new reality is perceived and interpreted by some individuals as manifestation of the true nature of their mind; hence, the term ‘psychedelic’ was suggested by Osmond (1957). This interpretation has been embraced not only by professional therapists but also by some segments of the public, and gave rise to the ‘Summer of Love’ in San Francisco in 1967 with free distribution of LSD. This perception resulted in the formation of numerous cults, communes, and drug-oriented religious groups (Freedman 1968), permeated the lyrics and style of popular music (acid rock), and was viewed by some as one of the contributing sources of the occasional resurgence of popularity of illegal drug use (Cohen 1966, Szra 1968).”

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(Entheogens as Hallucinogens) “The term ‘hallucinogen’ is widely used and understood in both professional and lay circles, in spite of the fact that hallucinations in the strict psychiatric sense of the word are a relatively rare effect of these drugs (Hollister 1962). What is probably the first reference to hallucinations as produced by peyote appears in Louis Lewins book published in 1924 in German and later translated into English with the nearly identical title Phantastica (Lewin 1924, 1964). In this book by the noted German toxicologist, the term ‘hallucinatoria’ appears as a synonym for phantastica to designate the class of drugs that can produce transitory visionary states ‘without any physical inconvenience for a certain time in persons of perfectly normal mentality who are partly or fully conscious of the action of the drug’ (Lewin 1964, p. 92). Lewin lists peyotl (also spelled ‘peyote’) (Anhalonium lewinii), Indian hemp (Cannabis indica), fly agaric (Agaricus muscarius), thornapple (Datura stramonium), and the South American yahe (also spelled ‘yage’) (Banisteria caapi) as representatives of this class.”

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(Description of Ayahuasca) “Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic tea originally from the Amazon Basin that is supposedly able to induce strikingly similar visions in people independent of their cultural background. Ayahuasca users commonly claim that this regularity across peoples visions is evidence that their visions are not simply the products of their own brains, but rather are representations of spiritual information learned from plant-spirits that one gains access to by drinking the tea.”

(Description of Ayahuasca) “Ayahuasca is a psychedelic decoction made from plants native to the Amazon Basinmost often Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridisand which contains harmala alkaloids and N,Ndimethyltryptamine (DMT), the latter being a controlled substance scheduled under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.”

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(Ayahuasca Folk Healers) “Vegetalismo is a Peruvian Spanish term denoting the folk healing traditions of mestizo curanderos, or healers of mixed indigenous and non-indigenous ancestry who use ayahuasca and other ‘master’ plants for diagnosis and treatment of illnesses (Beyer, 2009; Dobkin de Rios, 1972; Luna, 1986). Known as ayahuasqueros, such folk healers undergo a rigorous process of initiation and training, requiring adherence to strict dietary and sexual abstinence protocols, and sometimes prolonged isolation in the jungle.”

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(Ayahuasca Healing Ceremonies) “Cross-cultural vegetalismo refers to ayahuasca ceremonies based, to varying degrees, on vegetalismo or equivalent traditions from other regions of the Amazon, but conducted primarily for (and increasingly by) non-Amazonians. Urban centres in the region are presently witnessing a boom in what has been pejoratively characterized as ‘ayahuasca tourism’ (Dobkin de Rios, 1994; see also Davidov, 2010; Holman, 2011; Razam, 2009), but cross-cultural vegetalismo ceremonies are also increasingly common outside the Amazon (Labate, 2004). Canadians and other foreigners regularly invite indigenous or mestizo Amazonian ayahuasqueros to their home countries to conduct ceremonies for people in the circles and networks of the sponsors friends and acquaintances (Tupper, 2009asee Appendix). Some individuals are undertaking apprenticeships in the vegetalismo tradition to become neo-shamanic practitioners of ayahuasca healing, in a manner similar to how yoga, Buddhist monastic, ayurvedic, or Chinese medicine practices have been taken up by modern Western disciples exogenous to the respective cultures and traditions of origin.”

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(Legal Status of Ayahuasca) “On February 21 of this year, 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Centro Esprita Beneficente Unio do Vegetal (the UDV) in the case Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General, et al. Petitioners v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Unio do Vegetal et al. The UDV is now legally allowed to drink ayahuasca (which contains the controlled substance DMT) in their ceremonies here in the US.”

(Therapeutic Potential of Ayahuasca) “Aside from indicating a general lack of harm from the religious use of ayahuasca, biomedical and ethnographic studies have also generated preliminary evidence in support of the therapeutic potentials of ayahuasca or its constituents for alleviating substance dependence (Grob et al., 1996; Labate, Santos, Anderson, Mercante, & Barbosa, 2010) and mood and anxiety disorders (Fortunato et al., 2010; Santos, Landeira-Fernandez, Strassman, Motta, & Cruz, 2007). The study of ayahuasca could thus contribute to advances in ethnopharmacology and the cognitive sciences (Shanon, 2002), yet such studies are severely compromised when these traditions face the threat of legal sanction.”

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“LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. It was discovered in 1938 and is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.”

(NIDA’s Description of the Physical Characteristics of LSD) “LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide)also known as acid, blotter, doses, hits, microdots, sugar cubes, trips, tabs, or window panes is one of the most potent moodand perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. It is a clear or white, odorless, water-soluble material synthesized from lysergic acid, a compound derived from a rye fungus. LSD is initially produced in crystalline form, which can then be used to produce tablets known as ‘microdots’ or thin squares of gelatin called ‘window panes.’ It can also be diluted with water or alcohol and sold in liquid form. The most common form, however, is LSD-soaked paper punched into small individual squares, known as ‘blotters.'”

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(LSD Effects According to NIDA) “Sensations and feelings change much more dramatically than the physical signs in people under the influence of LSD. The user may feel several different emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. If taken in large enough doses, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations. The users sense of time and self is altered. Experiences may seem to cross over different senses, giving the user the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds. These changes can be frightening and can cause panic. Some LSD users experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings of despair, fear of losing control, or fear of insanity and death while using LSD. “LSD users can also experience flashbacks, or recurrences of certain aspects of the drug experience. Flashbacks occur suddenly, often without warning, and may do so within a few days or more than a year after LSD use. In some individuals, the flashbacks can persist and cause significant distress or impairment in social or occupational functioning, a condition known as hallucinogen-induced persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD). “Most users of LSD voluntarily decrease or stop its use over time. LSD is not considered an addictive drug since it does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior. However, LSD does produce tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take progressively higher doses to achieve the state of intoxication that they had previously achieved. This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug. In addition, cross-tolerance between LSD and other hallucinogens has been reported.

(Prevalence of and Trends in LSD Use Among Youth) “LSD, one of the major drugs in the hallucinogen class, showed a modest decline in use among 12th graders from 1975 to 1977, followed by considerable stability through 1981 (Figure 5-4g). Between 1981 and 1985, there was a second period of gradual decline, with annual prevalence of use falling from 6.5% to 4.4%. However, after 1985, annual prevalence began to rise very gradually to 5.6% by 1992, making it one of the few drugs to show a rise in use in that period. The increase continued through 1996, with annual prevalence reaching 8.8%, double the low point in 1985. After 1996, annual prevalence declined, including sharp decreases in 2002 and 2003, reaching 1.7% in 2006, the lowest LSD prevalence rate recorded since MTF began. By 2011 the rate was up slightly to 2.7%, having risen by a significant 0.7 percentage points in 2010. We believe that the decline prior to 2002 might have resulted in part from a displacement of LSD by sharply rising ecstasy use. After 2001, when ecstasy use itself began to decline, the sharp further decline in LSD use likely resulted from a drop in the availability of LSD, because attitudes generally have not moved in a way that could explain the fall in use, while perceived availability has.”

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(LSD and Marijuana Use by women) “Our results indicate that this population of sexually active female adolescents and young adults have similar rates of lifetime use of LSD (13%) as reported in other surveys,1,30 and half of these young women report using LSD one or more times in the last year. Prior data suggests that the use of hallucinogens by African Americans is virtually nonexistent across all ages of adolescents and young adults.2,9 In fact, we found that none of our African American young women reported using LSD. However, the proportion of African Americans who reported using marijuana was much greater than either caucasian or Mexican American women.”

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(Effects of LSD) “The physiological effects of this powerful drug have been well documented. These effects can be grouped into five general areas of action: LSD works on the sympathetic nervous system (which is involved in regulation of heart muscle, smooth muscle and glandular organs in a response to stressful situations); the motor system (which is involved in carrying out limb movements); the affective states; thought processes; and it has profound effects upon the sensory and perceptual experience.

“LSD is a semisynthetic preparation originally derived from ergot, an extract of the fungus Claviceps purpurea, which grows as a parasite on rye wheat. The dosage that is required to produce a moderate effect in most subjects is 1 to 3mcg per kilogram of body mass, and the effects can last from seven to 10 hours (Bowman & Rand 1980).

“Stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system following LSD ingestion can lead to effects such as hypothermia with piloerection (hairs standing on end, such as can be found in reports of religious ecstasy), sweating, increased heart rate with palpitations, and elevation of blood pressure and blood glucose levels. These reactions of the autonomic nervous system are not as significant as other effects upon the body: action on the motor system can lead to increased activity of monosynaptic reflexes (such as the knee-jerk response), an increase in muscle tension, tremors, and muscular incoordination. This latter effect of muscular incoordination is also a symptom of religious ecstasy in many cultures, where the worshipper has such a profound feeling of love of God that he is said to be ‘intoxicated by God.'”

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(Creation of LSD) “Chemist Albert Hofmann, working at the Sandoz Corporation pharmaceutical laboratory in Switzerland, first synthesized LSD in 1938. He was conducting research on possible medical applications of various lysergic acid compounds derived from ergot, a fungus that develops on rye grass. Searching for compounds with therapeutic value, Hofmann created more than two dozen ergot-derived synthetic molecules. The 25th was called, in German, Lyserg-Sure-Dithylamid 25, or LSD-25.”

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(Addictive Properties and Tolerance) “Most users of LSD voluntarily decrease or stop its use over time. LSD is not considered an addictive drug since it does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior. However, LSD does produce tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take progressively higher doses to achieve the state of intoxication that they had previously achieved. This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug. In addition, cross-tolerance between LSD and other hallucinogens has been reported.”

(Physical Effects of LSD According to NIDA) “The effects of LSD depend largely on the amount taken. LSD causes dilated pupils; can raise body temperature and increase heart rate and blood pressure; and can cause profuse sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors.”

(Description of Peyote) “Peyote is a small, spineless cactus in which the principal active ingredient is mescaline. This plant has been used by natives in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States as a part of religious ceremonies. Mescaline can also be produced through chemical synthesis.”

(Description of Peyote) “The top of the peyote cactus, also referred to as the crown, consists of disc-shaped buttons that are cut from the roots and dried. These buttons are generally chewed or soaked in water to produce an intoxicating liquid. The hallucinogenic dose of mescaline is about 0.3 to 0.5 grams, and its effects last about 12 hours. Because the extract is so bitter, some individuals prefer to prepare a tea by boiling the cacti for several hours.”

(Effects of Mescaline and Peyote) “The long-term residual psychological and cognitive effects of mescaline, peyotes principal active ingredient, remain poorly understood. A recent study found no evidence of psychological or cognitive deficits among Native Americans that use peyote regularly in a religious setting.2 It should be mentioned, however, that these findings may not generalize to those who repeatedly abuse the drug for recreational purposes. Peyote abusers may also experience flashbacks.”

(Physical Effects) “Its effects can be similar to those of LSD, including increased body temperature and heart rate, uncoordinated movements (ataxia), profound sweating, and flushing. The active ingredient mescaline has also been associated, in at least one report, to fetal abnormalities.”

“Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is obtained from certain types of mushrooms that are indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States. These mushrooms typically contain less than 0.5 percent psilocybin plus trace amounts of psilocin, another hallucinogenic substance.”

(Methods of Use) “Mushrooms containing psilocybin are available fresh or dried and are typically taken orally. Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) and its biologically active form, psilocin (4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine), cannot be inactivated by cooking or freezing preparations. Thus, they may also be brewed as a tea or added to other foods to mask their bitter flavor. The effects of psilocybin, which appear within 20 minutes of ingestion, last approximately 6 hours.”

(Effects of Psilocybin) “The active compounds in psilocybin-containing ‘magic’ mushrooms have LSD-like properties and produce alterations of autonomic function, motor reflexes, behavior, and perception.3 The psychological consequences of psilocybin use include hallucinations, an altered perception of time, and an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Panic reactions and psychosis also may occur, particularly if a user ingests a large dose. Long-term effects such as flashbacks, risk of psychiatric illness, impaired memory, and tolerance have been described in case reports.”

(Physical Effects of Psilocybin) “[Psilocybin] can produce muscle relaxation or weakness, ataxia, excessive pupil dilation, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Individuals who abuse psilocybin mushrooms also risk poisoning if one of many existing varieties of poisonous mushrooms is incorrectly identified as a psilocybin mushroom.”

(Psilocybin and Mystical Experiences) “Overall, the present study shows that psilocybin can dose-dependently occasion mystical-type experiences having persisting positive effects on attitudes, mood, and behavior. The observations that episodes of extreme fear, feeling trapped, or delusions occur at the highest dose in almost 40% of volunteers, that anxiety and fear have an unpredictable time course across the session, and that an ascending sequence of dose exposure may be associated with long-lasting positive changes have implications for the design of therapeutic trials with psilocybin. Considering the rarity of spontaneous mystical experiences in the general population, the finding that more than 70% of volunteers in the current study had ‘complete’ mystical experiences suggests that most people have the capacity for such experiences under appropriate conditions and, therefore, such experiences are biologically normal.”

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(Safety of Psilocybin) “An important finding of the present study is that, with careful volunteer screening and preparation and when sessions are conducted in a comfortable, well-supervised setting, a high dose of 30 mg/70 kg psilocybin can be administered safely. . It is also noteworthy that, despite meetings and prior sessions with monitors ranging from 8 h (when psilocybin was administered on the first session) up to 24 h (when psilocybin was administered on the third session) of contact time, 22% (8 of 36) of the volunteers experienced a period of notable anxiety/dysphoria during the session, sometimes including transient ideas of reference/paranoia. No volunteer required pharmacological intervention and the psychological effects were readily managed with reassurance. The primary monitor remained accessible via beeper/phone to each volunteer for 24 h after each session, but no volunteer called before the scheduled follow-up meeting on the next day. The 1-year follow-up is ongoing but has been completed by most volunteers (30 of 36). In that follow-up, an open-ended clinical interview reflecting on the study experiences and current life situation provides a clinical context conducive to the spontaneous reporting of study-associated adverse events. To date, there have been no reports of persisting perceptional phenomena sometimes attributed to hallucinogen use or of recreational abuse of hallucinogens, and all participants appear to continue to be high-functioning, productive members of society.”

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(Medicinal Potential of Psilocybin) “Today, the medical value of hallucinogens is again being examined in formal psychiatric settings. One substance under investigation is psilocybin, 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, which occurs in nature in various species of mushrooms. Psilocybin is rapidly metabolized to psilocin, which is a potent agonist at serotonin 5-HT1A/2A/2C receptors, with 5-HT2A receptor activation directly correlated with human hallucinogenic activity.16 Psilocybin was studied during the 1960s to establish its psychopharmacological profile; it was found to be active orally at around 10 mg, with stronger effects at higher doses, and to have a 4- to 6-hour duration of experience. Psychological effects were similar to those of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), with psilocybin considered to be more strongly visual, less emotionally intense, more euphoric, and with fewer panic reactions and less chance of paranoia than LSD.”17,18

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(Safety of Psilocybin in Clinical Setting) “Our investigations provided no cause for concern that administration of PY [psilocybin] to healthy subjects is hazardous with respect to somatic health. However, as our data revealed tendencies of PY to temporarily increase blood pressure, we advise subjects suffering from cardiovascular conditions, especially untreated hypertension, to abstain from using PY or PY-containing mushrooms. Furthermore, our results indicate that PY-induced ASC [altered states of consciousness] are generally well tolerated and integrated by healthy subjects. However, a controlled clinical setting is needful, since also mentally stable personalities may, following ingestion of higher doses of PY, transiently experience anxiety as a consequence of loosening of ego-boundaries.”

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(Psilocybin and Treatment of End-Stage Cancer Anxiety) “Despite the limitations, this study demonstrates that the careful and controlled use of psilocybin may provide an alternative model for the treatment of conditions that are often minimally responsive to conventional therapies, including the profound existential anxiety and despair that often accompany advanced-stage cancers. A recent review from the psilocybin research group at Johns Hopkins University describes the critical components necessary for ensuring subject safety in hallucinogen research.36 Taking into account these essential provisions for optimizing safety as well as adhering to strict ethical standards of conduct for treatment facilitators, the results provided herein indicate the safety and promise of continued investigations into the range of medical effects of hallucinogenic compounds such as psilocybin.”

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(Description of Salvia Divinorum) “Salvia divinorum is a perennial herb in the mint family native to certain areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. The plant, which can grow to over three feet in height, has large green leaves, hollow square stems and white flowers with purple calyces, can also be grown successfully outside of this region. Salvia divinorum has been used by the Mazatec Indians for its ritual divination and healing. The active constituent of Salvia divinorum has been identified as salvinorin A. Currently, neither Salvia divinorum nor any of its constituents, including salvinorin A, are controlled under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).”

(Effects of Salvia Divinorum) “Consistent with results from nonhuman animal research (Mowry et al.,2003), the present results suggest a safe physiological profile for salvinorin A at the studied doses, under controlled conditions, and in psychologically and physically healthy hallucinogen-experienced participants. Salvinorin A produced no significant changes in heart rate or blood pressure; no tremor was observed; and no adverse events were reported. Participants tolerated all doses. However, because of the small sample and the healthy, hallucinogen-experienced status of participants, conclusions regarding safety are limited.”

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(Description of Salvia and Its Effects) “Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive plant that can induce dissociative effects and is a potent producer of visual and other hallucinatory experiences. By mass, salvinorin A, the psychoactive substance in the plant, appears to be the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen. Its native habitat is the cloud forests in Mexico. It has been consumed for hundreds of years by local Mazatec shamans, who use it to facilitate visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions.57 It is also used in traditional medicine at lower doses as a diuretic to treat ailments including diarrhoea, anaemia, headaches and rheumatism. Effects include various psychedelic experiences, including past memories (e.g. revisiting places from childhood memory), merging with objects and overlapping realities (such as the perception of being in several locations at the same time).58 In contrast to other drugs, its use often prompts dysphoria, i.e. feelings of sadness and depression, as well as fear. In addition, it may prompt a decreased heart rate, slurred speech, lack of coordination and possibly loss of consciousness.59”

(Effects of Salvia Divinorum) “The putative primary psychoactive agent in SD [Salvia divinorum] is a structurally novel KOR [kappa opioid receptor] agonist named salvinorin A (Ortega et al., 1982; Valds et al., 1984). Consistent with KOR agonist activity, users describe SD in lay literature as hallucinogenic: it produces perceptual distortions, pseudo-hallucinations, and a profoundly altered sense of self and environment, including out-of-body experiences (Aardvark, 1998; Erowid, 2008; Siebert, 1994b; Turner, 1996). SD therefore appears to have the potential to elucidate the role of the KOR receptor system in health and disease (Butelman et al., 2004; Chavkin et al., 2004; Roth et al., 2002).”

(Potential for Abuse or Dependence of Salvia Divinorum) “There was little evidence of dependence in our survey population. At some point, 0.6% (3 people) felt addicted to or dependent upon SD, while 1.2% (6) reported strong cravings for SD. The DSM-IV-R psychiatric diagnostic system in the United States classifies people as drug dependent based on seven criteria. Of the three who reported feelings of addiction or dependence on SD, only one endorsed any DSM-IV criteria (strong cravings and using more SD than planned). When asked about these signs and symptoms individually, 2 additional respondents (0.4%) reported three dependence criteria. None of these individuals reported more than 2 of 13 after-effects characteristic of mu-opioid withdrawal (such as increased sweating, gooseflesh, worsened mood, and diarrhea).”

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(Prevalence of Use of Salvia Divinorum Among Youth) “A tripwire question about use of salvia (or salvia divinorum) in the past 12 months was added in 2010. Salvia is an herb with hallucinogenic properties, common to southern Mexico and Central and South America. Although it currently is not a drug regulated by the Controlled Substances Act, several states have passed legislation to regulate its use. The Drug Enforcement Agency has listed salvia as a drug of concern and is considering classifying it as a Schedule I drug, like LSD or marijuana. The drug has an appreciable annual prevalence: 1.6%, 3.9%, and 5.9% among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in 2011, while lifetime prevalence would be somewhat higher.”

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Entheogens including Salvia, LSD, Peyote, and Mushrooms …

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Pierre Teilhard De Chardin | Designer Children | Prometheism | Euvolution