Category: Essays

Intimate Technology

Why human enhancement requires technological citizenship

New technologies – from artificial intelligence to synthetic biology – are set to alter the world, the human condition, and our very being in ways that are hard to imagine. The discussion of these developments limits itself as a rule to individual values. But it is also crucial to talk about the collective human values that we wish to guarantee in our intimate technological society. That brings an important political question is at the table. How to develop and implement human enhancement technologies in a socially responsible way?

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Wild Systems

Here’s how the Dutch are embracing blockchain in the polder

Smiling broadly and rattling with enthusiasm, the 33-year-old Rylana Doesburg shows off a QR-code on her phone: an angular pattern of black and white squares. “Thanks to this picture, last month I was able to buy rompers, a winter coat, and Christmas presents for my daughter.” For three months this single mother from Zuidhorn, the Netherlands, has made use of the “child package” from the municipality.

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Meat the Future

The Idea for Lab-Grown Meat Was Born in a Prisoner-of-War Camp

The phone call was as unexpected as the American accent at the other end of the line. And when she hung up a few moments later, Ira van Eelen had to stop to catch her breath.

More than two years had passed since the 53-year-old Dutch woman had spoken that in depth to anyone about her father’s work. She’d more or less given up on the possibility that her father’s idea—more than an idea, a lifelong passion into which Ira had been drafted into pursuing over the course of decades of obsession—would ever become a reality. Now, caught by surprise at the tail end of summer, she was being asked to rethink everything.

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Artificial Womb

Ectogenesis, Artificial Womb, Human Egg?

Humanity is facing the disconnection between biological reproduction and the body, facilitated by the emerging technology of the Artificial Womb. Envisioned in bleak science fiction scenarios many times in the past, this technology is about to become a reality in our present. But how will it affect our culture – and how should that new culture be designed? If birds lay eggs, why shouldn’t humans do that, too?

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Next Nature

Letter to Humanity

The Letter to Humanity is addressed to all 7 billion people on Earth and available in twenty-five languages. It encourages a new perspective on the role of humanity on Earth. The letter urges humans not to be slaves or victims of technology, but to use technology to enhance humanity.

Dear Humanity,

It feels strange writing you a letter, I admit. Letters are generally addressed to an individual or a limited group of people. It’s unusual to write to humanity as a whole. You don’t even have a postal address, and I doubt you get much correspondence. Still, I thought it was time I wrote.

Obviously, I realise I can’t possibly reach you completely – if only because humanity not only consists of every person who’s alive right now but also of everyone who’s ever lived. That’s an estimated 107 billion people. And then there are all the others who haven’t been born yet – hopefully there will be a great many of them. I’ll return to that later, but before we talk about the future, I’d like to look back.

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Meat the Future

But Will Lab-Grown Meat Be Kosher?

Jews, at least some Jews, have been asking if artificial flesh is kosher for a very long time. You can even find debates on the subject in the Talmud, depending on how you define “flesh” and “artificial.” In the Tractate Sanhedrin (65b), two Rabbis, Chanina and Oshaia, spend every Sabbath evening studying the Kabbalistic Book of Creation (Sefer Yetzirah). They use its teachings to create a calf, which they then eat, evidently without slaughtering it according to kosher law, or kashrut. Interpreters of the Tractate debated whether kashrut had been violated, a questionable point given the special genesis of the animal in question.

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Read Nicholas Carr's essay on the transhumanist dream of having wings.
Augmented Bodies

I Want Wings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I. Angels and Superheroes

In 2008, Samuel O. Poore, a plastic surgeon who teaches at the University of Wisconsin’s medical school, published an article in the Journal of Hand Surgery titled “The Morphological Basis of the Arm-to-Wing Transition.” Drawing on evolutionary and anatomical evidence, he laid out a workable method for using the techniques of modern reconstructive surgery, including bone fusing and skin and muscle grafting, to “fabricate human wings from human arms.” Although the wings, in the doctor’s estimation, would not be capable of generating the lift needed to get a person off the ground, they might nonetheless serve “as cosmetic features simulating, for example, the nonfunctional wings of flightless birds.”

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Silk Pavilion
Wild Systems

The Enlightenment Is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement

We humans are changing. We have become so intertwined with what we have created that we are no longer separate from it. We have outgrown the distinction between the natural and the artificial. We are what we make. We are our thoughts, whether they are created by our neurons, by our electronically augmented minds, by our technologically mediated social interactions, or by our machines themselves. We are our bodies, whether they are born in womb or test tube, our genes inherited or designed, organs augmented, repaired, transplanted, or manufactured.

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Wild Systems

The Biosphere Code Manifesto

As a result of a discussions that took place during the event The Biosphere Code in Stockholm on 4th October 2015, Stockholm University researcher Victor Galaz and colleagues outlined a manifesto for algorithms in the environment.

The precepts for an in-progress Biosphere Code Manifesto are a recommendation for using algorithms borne out of growing awareness that they so deeply permeate our technology “they consistently and subtly shape human behavior and our influence on the world’s landscapes, oceans, air, and ecosystems” as The Guardian wrote in an extensive article.

We are just starting to understand the effects that algorithms have on our lives. But their environmental impact may be even greater, demanding public scrutiny. Here the Biosphere Code Manifesto v1.0, with its seven principles.

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Intimate Technology

Intimate Technology: the Battle for Our Body and Behaviour

Technology is nestling itself within us and between us, has knowledge about us and can act just like us. Think of brain implants, artificial balancing organs and bio-cultured heart valves. Technology therefore becomes a part of our bodies and our identities. It places itself between us on a large scale; we use social media to show ourselves to the outside world and to communicate with each other.

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