Freitag, 3. Mai 2013

"DEFCON 20 - Hacking Humanity: Human Augmentation and You" (video)

Here are my notes & comments:
  • it's a DEF CON 2012 talk: light-hearted fun combined with more serious ideas
  • I am feeling nostalgic since I used to be very interested in hacking.
  • I noticed that hackers are still sexist/use sexist language
  • All sorts of medical devices to mitigate health problems exist, from cardiac pacemakers to cochlear implants. In that sense, human enhancement has existed for decades or centuries. Subdermal implants are relatively advanced and it would be nice if they could run on endogenous glucose (already done in the lab).
    However, medical devices are always usually inferior to the real deal. Oscar Pistorius' leg prosthetics may trump flesh and bone.
  • What are the ethics of prosthetics if they are better than their natural counterparts? In the most brutal and simplified case: yes, people will cut off their limbs to gain an edge in sports.
  • nootropics, etc.
  • mainstreaming of this concept is important
  • early technology, implants can be very dangerous (RFID chips caused sarcomas according to the video)
  • They recommend "humanity plus" and the "singularity institute" but left out imminst.org and sens.org; I am not very familiar with the first two and cannot vouch for them. The problem is there are serious thinkers considering human enhancement, but also embarrassing figures like Ray Kurzweil.



Offtopic: The Pistorius Ban
I have NOT followed this in detail, so take my reasoning with a grain of salt. I have wondered about the ethics involved since I read about this case. So why do I believe the ban was wrong and damaging to human augmentation?
How do you become a top athlete? You do it by training (internal factor) and by winning the genetic lottery (external factors like biomechanics). Since the latter is neither just nor takes any skill, it is something we would like to avoid. This is the concept of equal opportunity. While doping, for instance, may act as an equalizer* consistent with "equal opportunity", it violates another principle: safety & free choice. If doping were legal athletes would feel pressured to risk their lives to perform well, even more so than they do now.

In contrast supplementation with creatine and caffeine is entirely "unnatural", probably effective in several sports, equalizing* and tournament legal because it is safe.

I fail to see how consciously choosing artificial limbs with superior biomechanics is more unethical than winning the genetic lottery and choosing the right parents.
Every athlete who can safely increase their performance should be allowed to do so. (That is why amputation could be considered doping in this case.)

*it has been speculated that doping disproportionately helps those with lower performance

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