Tag Archives: ethics

Immortality might not be boring after all

Via George Dvorsky, ethicist Alexandre Erler has a rejoinder for me, and for others who believe that immortality might become boring.

Here it should be stressed that even though some people might find the human lifespan that characterizes today’s developed countries optimal, and even though they might feel that any additional years they might gain would quickly become boring and would decrease their sense of the value of their life as a whole, this clearly isn’t everyone’s perception of things. Some people have creative powers, a range of projects, and a thirst for knowledge and pleasure that make their current life expectancy seem extremely limiting.

(Kinda where we were going while biting back at Paul Carr’s “deathhackers” diatribe the other day. The prospect of being able to get more things done certainly appeals, but right now I’d prefer an effective mechanism for suppressing the need to sleep eight hours in every twenty four.)

As for those who might share Walsh’s view and enjoy their life more due to the awareness of their own mortality, they might still preserve that benefit by committing themselves not to use life extension technologies when these become widely available. Of course, when the time to kick the bucket seemed near, they might find themselves unable to respect their previous commitment. But they might perhaps protect themselves from such a hazard by writing advance directives stipulating that life extension procedures should not be made available to them.

In other words, “if it bothers you so much, opt out publicly”. Seems fair enough to me.

But I wonder if immortality (or even a significant increase in longevity) still looks possible in a world without antibiotics? For those rich enough to quarantine themselves away from myriad virulent microbial nasties in the general populace, probably so… and they’re the folk who’ll get access to longevity treatments first.

Three-course specials at The House Of Longpig

The lines between futurism, architecture and conceptual art continue to blur and fade (if they ever existed anywhere other than our own minds, that is); a chap called Mitchell Joachim is working on making a house from meat. Yes, a house. Made – grown, to be more precise – from in vitro tissue culture. A meat house. House made of meat. [image ganked from INHABITAT]

The In Vitro Habitat... AKA "meat house"

While we’re talking about in vitro meat, Wired UK turned over the mic to Warren Ellis, as they do on a monthly basis, and he decided to talk about cannibalism. Fans of Ellis’ reputation-making series Transmetropolitan will remember that The City was full of places where you could eat pretty much anything, all the way up (or is it down?) to cultured human flesh, and that riff gets echoed here:

… the technology is there to start generating human meat without the dubious ethical intervention of human slaughter. Which is harder than you’d think, and the artificial meat version wouldn’t have any Rohypnol precipitate in its cell structure. If there’s no human shoe-beasts involved in the butchery, where’s the problem? Show me the ethical hurdles to ordering a cultured manburger.

I demand that science do its job and allow us all to indulge in a consumer experiment: are humans the most delicious meat of all? Furthermore, I think there’s an easy way to access more funding for this goal: celebrity cell donation.

Of course, Uncle Warren is being ironic here, and has no real interest in eating human flesh, cultured or otherwise.


The cost of Apple’s success

So, Apple’s market capitalization has passed that of old guard Microsoft. At the same time, they’re investigating a spate of suicides at one of the Asian megafactories that supplies their hardware, and they’re about to get hit with the same sort of anti-trust lawsuits that dogged Bill Gates and company over the last decade [via SlashDot].

Many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip, I guess…

Who wants to live forever?

OK, here’s a deceptively simple debate to start the week off with – if physical immortality was available to you, would you take it? Arguing the case against is Annalee “io9” Newitz, and here’s Jason Stoddard playing earnest devil’s advocate for the longevity lobby.

I have no ethical issues with human immortality, but I’m not sure it appeals to me personally; I’ve long believed that mortality is the only thing that has truly motivated humans to create things greater than themselves, and as such I kind of like the knowledge that I’ve only got so long to get stuff done. That said, every year that passes sees my faith in that idea becoming more shaky…

So, what’s your choice – to go gentle into that good night, or to burn the candle at both ends forever?

The ethics of pirating ebooks

Via Ars Technica, here’s a New York Times columnist reframing the pirated-ebooks debate as an ethical issue rather than a legal one, in response to a question asking whether it was wrong to download a pirated ebook version of a book already owned in hardcopy. His answer: it’s not legal, but it could be arged to be perfectly ethical. Although that ethical assessment rather hinges on one’s perspective:

Unsurprisingly, many in the book business take a harder line. My friend Jamie Raab, the publisher of Grand Central Publishing and an executive vice president of the Hachette Book Group, says: “Anyone who downloads a pirated e-book has, in effect, stolen the intellectual property of an author and publisher. To condone this is to condone theft.”

Yet it is a curious sort of theft that involves actually paying for a book. Publishers do delay the release of e-books to encourage hardcover sales — a process called “windowing” — so it is difficult to see you as piratical for actually buying the book ($35 list price, $20 from Amazon) rather than waiting for the $9.99 Kindle edition.

I tuned out a lot of the fine-detail wrangling over the Amazon/Macmillan debacle and the events that followed in its wake (simply because I didn’t have the spare time to read it all), so I’m unaware whether the notion of a blanket ownership license (e.g. where buying a hardcopy gives you rights to an electronic copy as well) was ever put forward.

It’s no cure for piracy, of course, but it’s an option that at least acknowledges some of the unaddressed issues currently surrounding content available in multiple formats. I’m somewhat heartened to see that the publishers are thinking hard about it, and publicly; hopefully, if they continue to avoid doing an ostrich impersonation, they won’t go the way of the record labels.

Further evidence that ebook piracy is a geek-o-sphere topic du jour: if Diesel Sweeties is satirising it, you know an issue has really arrived. 🙂