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Inevitable Transhumanism? How Emerging Strategic Technologies will affect the Future of Humanity

Military robot

A military robot gets prepared to inspect a bomb. Photo: Kevin L. Moses Sr./Wikimedia Commons.

It is ironic and indeed counterintuitive that our own human nature has a huge potential to drive us towards physical and cognitive enhancements that may completely alter the characteristics of our species. As I have outlined in a previous work, human nature is defined by emotional amoral egoism[i]. Humans are genetically and neuro-chemically programmed to `feel good` and are driven by a number of factors, which I call the “Neuro P5”: “power, profit, pleasure, pride and permanency”. Consequently, if a technology appears which enhances any of these strong motivators, our neurochemically-mediated calculations, emotions and survival instincts will intuitively push us in that direction. I therefore believe such technologies bring us on the brink of inevitable transhumanism. This radical human metamorphosis and enhancement (physical and cognitive), through the convergence of various emerging strategic technologies, is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’, ‘how’, and “at what cost”. » More

Soldier, Human or Both?

Just let it out

Just let it out! Photo: SuperFantastic/flickr

As the controversy surrounding Rolling Stone‘s profile of General Stanley McChrystal (and the comments of his staff) winds down, NYT columnist David Brooks offers up an interesting thought about soldiers, or really, anyone who is a subordinate: They complain.

And they’re human.

Venting is part of being human. And even though members of the military are held to a higher behavioral standard than a common employee, is it really that extraordinary that McChrystal and his aides had some not-too-flattering words for the US president and his administration?

From Brooks’ article:

Military people are especially prone to these sorts of outbursts. In public, they pay lavish deference to civilian masters who issue orders from the comfort of home. Among themselves, they blow off steam, sometimes in the crudest possible terms.

Now, as to the intelligence of the military folks who decided to blow off steam in front of a reporter (it seems that McChrystal was done in more by hearsay than anything else), that’s a whole other post.

But, do we hold members of the military up to too high a standard by expecting them to remain ‘strong and silent’? Shouldn’t they be allowed to kvetch, vent, gripe and do whatever they need to do (within reason) to let off steam?

Since, at least in the US, they volunteered to put their lives on the line for their country, shouldn’t they have the right to complain…even if it is about the commander-in-chief and his administration?

Another question: Does complaining about someone or something automatically equal a lack of respect for that someone or something?

Again, I think it was absolutely asinine, especially in the day-and-age of gotcha journalism for McChystal’s aides to repeat his words in front of a reporter, but if you’re in the type of high-pressure situations that military members find themselves in, perhaps kvetching is understandable.

Because even though they’re in the armed forces, they’re humans too.

Charter for Compassion: Should We Really Need This?

An announcement landed in my inbox last night about the unveiling of a project called the “Charter for Compassion.” The brainchild of author and former nun Karen Armstrong, the Charter is a call to action for folks to behave with, well, compassion toward one another.

“We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.”

After signing the Charter, participants are prompted to detail their acts of compassion on the site.

The Charter and the video (see above) are beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. They both show what can happen when people from all walks of life join together for a common, wonderful cause.

But here’s the question I posed a few minutes ago to a colleague about the project: “Have we fallen so far that we have to go to a website to remind us to be human?”

“This is a ritual…people need rituals,” he replied. “Rituals help you remind yourself of your duties.”

Darned good point.

But still, do projects such as the Charter change or tweak how people behave toward one another? Or, do they preach to the choir? Can we expect to see Than Shwe’s name (verified, please) on the list of affirmers?

One can hope.

One can also hope that the time will come when the site returns a “404 not found” page because it wasn’t needed anymore…we’d learned how to treat each other with compassion without having to be reminded to do so.

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Is Twitter Eroding our Humanity?

Fire Hydrant with quote / Will Lion, flickr

Fire Hydrant with quote / Will Lion, flickr

First it was TV, then it was video games, now Twitter? Are these things really contributing to the decay of the human psyche, our morality and our ability to concentrate? Or is this just paranoid blame-seeking, intent on vilifying the entire spectrum of modern day tools part of our everyday life?

The ISN blog presents two viewpoints- mine and that of my co-worker Cristina Viehmann. Let the debate begin!

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