EPA restores common sense to overaggressive water regulations

by Tim Huelskamp and James Taylor


The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday it is rolling back some of the excessive, and possibly illegal, water regulations imposed by the Obama administration. EPA’s announcement is a welcome relief for homeowners and property owners impacted by overly aggressive EPA officials.

As a federal executive agency, EPA can only enforce laws that have been passed by Congress. While EPA has some rule making authority, it cannot make up laws of its own and then decide to enforce them. This is a very important check against a dictatorial presidency or executive branch. Regarding water regulations, Congress, via the Clean Water Act, has given the executive branch authority to regulate only those bodies of water that are “navigable waters of the United States.”

EPA has always asserted a broad definition for navigable waters. Dating back to the 1980s, EPA has asserted it can regulate smaller, streams and tributaries that cannot be navigated but that flow into navigable waters. EPA has also asserted it can regulate wetlands that are adjacent to navigable waters.

The Obama administration attempted in 2015 to further expand the definition of navigable waters to include such entities as isolated ponds, dormant stream beds that are dry most of the year, and minor depressions in the land that hold water only in the immediate aftermath of significant rainfall.

The consequences of the 2015 regulatory overreach can, and have been, devastating. Overly aggressive EPA officials tell farmers they cannot manage or cultivate farmlands that hold isolated puddles merely a few days of the year. Homeowners are told they cannot landscape or fill in nuisance depressions in their property that hold water briefly after a heavy rain. Federal bureaucrats have stripped homeowners and families of practical ownership rights to property they have purchased and managed for generations. Property owners who defy the EPA and other federal bureaucrats face steep penalties and fines.

Citizen lawsuits have been moderately successful challenging the Obama administration’s overreach. Courts have blocked enforcement of the Obama administration’s 2015 regulations in 28 states. Still, homeowners and landowners in the remaining 22 states remain subject to the oppressive 2015 regulations. The issue has been a likely candidate for eventual Supreme Court review, but in the meantime, people remain subject to the unfair policy.

The Trump EPA is thankfully proposing to restore common sense to EPA regulatory authority. The agency proposes to walk back the Obama administration’s asserted authority to regulate stream beds and land depressions that are usually dry. EPA will no longer regulate wetlands unless they are “physically and meaningfully connected” to waters under EPA jurisdiction. EPA will also eliminate subjective criteria for determining whether land or water features qualify under navigable waters jurisdiction, granting individuals more certainty about how they can use their property. These corrections are long overdue, and represent another example of President Trump keeping campaign promises to reduce environmental and regulatory overreach.

Environmental activists are sounding an alarm about potential environmental harms, but their arguments are weak. EPA will still regulate all navigable waters, as well as meaningful permanent and intermittent tributaries to navigable waters. Also, very importantly, all 50 states have their own environmental laws and regulations, allowing regulation above and beyond navigable waters as defined by EPA. For normally dry streambeds, isolated depressions that only occasionally hold water, and other land features that the Obama administration sought to regulate, regulations will once again come from state and local governments that are more responsive and accountable to the people and communities being regulated.

EPA’s proposed rule will continue to provide strong environmental protection for the waterways Congress authorized EPA to regulate. At the same time, the proposed rule will roll back executive branch overreach and protect the rights of homeowners and landowners.


Google Caught Misleading Users About Tracking Location Data

by Jack Davis


Google can always find you.

Contrary to claims Google was making to consumers, The Associated Press reported that some Google apps “automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.”

According to the AP, when a user simply opens the Maps app, that user’s location is stored.  Asking for weather updates means that a phone will note where the user was when the request was made.

But the AP also found random searches for subjects such as  “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” resulted in the phone tracking a user’s latitude and longitude.

Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist, had his lab test and verify the AP’s findings. The AP reported that whether the apps were installed on iPhones of Android phones, the results were the same. Mayer said that’s a problem.

“If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” Mayer said. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”

The company said users are informed of what their phones are up to.

“Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete, or turn it off at any time,” the company said in a statement, Bloomberg News reported.

.“… we make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions.”

Google needs to know where users are, one commentator said.

“They build advertising information out of data,” said Peter Lenz, the senior geospatial analyst at Dstillery, an advertising technology company. “More data for them presumably means more profit.”

After the report revealed Google’s practices, the Electronic Privacy Information Center wrote to the Federal Trade Commission saying that Google’s action “clearly violates” a 2011 settlement with the government over Google’s privacy practices, the AP reported.
12:04 PM - 15 Aug 2018
WIRED‏Verified account @WIRED

If you use Google Maps, Google is tracking you right now. Even if you turned off Location History, the search giant still tracks and stores your location. There's a way to stop it—but it takes a lot of digging. Here’s a handy step-by-step guide Here

Google also responded to the report by making a change in what it told consumers, according to a follow-up AP report

Google formerly told users that “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

Google now says, “This setting does not affect other location services on your device.” It adds that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”

Google is owned by Alphabet Inc.

cience



Voters Consider Energy Price Hikes in Arizona, Nevada, Washington

by H. Sterling Burnett


Voters in Arizona, Nevada and Washington state will soon decide if they want to pay more for less reliable electricity.

Progressive California billionaire Tom Steyer is trying to take California’s energy policies on the road. California energy prices are among the highest in the country, and Golden State residents suffer more non-disaster-related blackouts and brownouts than any other state. In a vain effort to control the weather 100 years into the future, California has adopted policies that restrict fossil-fuel use and severely limit residents’ energy choices. The result: high energy prices and unreliable electricity that works only when the sun and wind cooperate.

At a time when residents and businesses are fleeing California to seek more affordable energy and homes, California is now trying to export its misguided energy policies beyond its borders.

This November, voters in Arizona and Nevada will consider ballot proposals that would mandate an increase in the proportion of electricity generated from renewable power sources to 50 percent by 2030. Both measures are bankrolled by Steyer.

Additionally, Washington state voters, for the second time in three years, will consider a ballot initiative to impose the nation’s first tax on carbon-dioxide emissions.

The plain truth is, if voters approve these initiatives they will be paying higher prices for energy with little or no environmental benefit. Numerous studies have revealed that states with renewable energy mandates have experienced increased energy prices. The Brookings Institution found replacing conventional power with wind power raises electricity prices by 50 percent. Even worse, replacing conventional power with solar power triples electricity costs. In short, the higher the mandate, the higher the costs.

Europe is further along the renewable energy path than the United States, and the results are telling. Despite a 25 percent increase in wind power and 6 percent growth in solar over the past decade, carbon emissions actually increased in 2017, by 1.8 percent, due to the fact that “idling fossil fuel plants must be quickly brought online when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, and, just like cars in traffic, idling engines produce more carbon emissions,” as reported by Nevada’s Sparks Tribune. Meanwhile, electricity costs across the European Union have increased by 23 percent during the past decade.

The same is true in the United States. Under its current renewable power mandate, Arizona produces 7 percent of its energy from wind and solar, an amount required to increase to 15 percent by 2025. The Energy Information Administration reports that meeting the current 7 percent requirement has already added $304 a year to the average Arizonan’s electric bill — meeting the 50 percent standard proposed in Steyer’s ballot initiative could cost Arizona residents an additional $2,100 annually.

The results are the same for Nevada. Over the last five years, the average Nevadan saw his or her electric bill rise by 11 percent, despite that nationally rates fell on average by 1 percent — and declined even more in states without green-energy mandates. This is due in part to Nevada’s existing renewable energy mandate.

A 2013 study commissioned by the Nevada Policy Research Institute showed that simply meeting the current requirement (utilities get 25 percent of the electric power they supply by 2025) would likely raise power prices by an additional 11 percent. This would also cost the state more than 3,000 jobs. Requiring 50 percent renewable energy just five years later, after the low hanging “inexpensive” power switching as already been accomplished, will make rates and job losses skyrocket even further.

Washington state’s carbon-dioxide tax would impose a penalty of $15 per metric ton on carbon-dioxide emissions, rising $2 per ton annually until the state meets its goal of reducing emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels. Evergreen State auditors found residents would pay approximately $2.2 billion more in taxes during its first five years of implementation, with gasoline prices likely to rise by 13 cents per gallon and the costs of home-heating oil likely to rise by 15 cents per gallon in 2020, the year the tax would take effect.

The higher energy prices and increased energy instability will be for naught with regards to preventing global warming. The United States is already reducing its emissions without such draconian policies, but even if it weren’t, nothing done in the United States can prevent a global rise in emissions because developing countries are adding huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as they industrialize.

Only the IRS, politicians and climate fanatics could love these high-cost, no-return ballot initiatives. Let’s hope Arizona, Nevada and Washington state residents see through the green smokescreen the ballot initiatives’ advocates are emitting.


Trump, Educated by Heartland, Makes Bold Pitch for Climate Realism

President Trump has stood up more firmly for sound science and climate realism than any prior president.

President Donald Trump this week stood firm when subjected to a 60 Minutes interrogation on climate, making a bold pitch for climate realism. The Heartland Institute was happy to help the president in his successful efforts.

60 Minutes journalist Leslie Stahl began the interrogation by asking Trump if he thought climate change is a hoax. While declining to use the word “hoax,” Trump cast doubt on the notion that humans are creating a global warming crisis.

“Something’s changing and it’ll change back again…. But I don’t know that it’s manmade,” said Trump.

Trump referenced the economy-killing schemes proposed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as well as the $100-billion-annual wealth transfers to developing nations under the Paris climate agreement.

“I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs. I don’t want to be put at a disadvantage,” Trump explained.

When Stahl attempted to argue that scientists at NOAA and NASA make alarming global warming predictions, Trump immediately countered, “We have scientists that disagree with that.”

Scientists affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA have joined scores of other scientists making the case for global warming skepticism at The Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change series. Thousands of other scientists have signed the Oregon Petition, expressing similar skepticism about global warming alarmism.

Trump also noted that climate change has been a natural occurrence for millions of years.

Trump followed up his schooling of Leslie Stahl with an interview this Tuesday with the Associated Press.

Responding to a challenge about hurricanes, Trump observed the many hurricanes 50 or more years ago that were as strong or stronger as recent hurricanes.

“We had worse hurricanes in 1890. We had a worse hurricane 50 years ago. We’ve gone through a period, actually, fairly recently, where we have very few,” said Trump.

“What I’m not willing to do is sacrifice the economic well-being of our country for something that nobody really knows,” Trump insisted. “And you have scientists on both sides of the issue. And I agree the climate changes, but it goes back and forth, back and forth. So we’ll see.”

When presented with a “scientists say” question, Trump quickly saw through the misleading generalization and corrected it.

“No, no. Some say that and some say differently,” Trump noted.

The Heartland Institute has been happy to help President Trump understand the truth about climate change, as well as see through the traps the media constantly tries to spring on climate realists. During the White House transition after Trump’s election in November 2016, The Heartland Institute – at the request of Trump’s top staff – put together a PowerPoint presentation on climate change for the president’s viewing. His bold and powerful messaging on the topic and citation of global warming facts closely reflects The Heartland Institute’s views and published information on the topic.

President Trump has stood up more firmly for sound science and climate realism than any prior president. We look forward to helping him do more of the same throughout his presidency.


Personhood of a Transhuman and the Data Dilemma

by Gourav Krishna Nandi, Montana State University - Bozeman, MT


{An interesting 2014 article on what might constitute personhood in a transhuman- ED}

[“Data” refers to the anthropomorphized android from Star Trek]

Abstract

Personhood is often thought to be a characteristic possessed by those who can make decisions, have moral worth and responsibilities, and can participate in civil and political rights. Are these attributes exclusive to the naturally born and naturally maintained humans? If we, in the foreseeable future, are to adapt to the assimilation of individuals with technological enhancements in society, how should we regard the personhood of such enhanced sentient beings? In this paper, I use Hume's distinction between an idea and a belief to analyze our differences in the perception of personhood in a naturally born human and a transhuman. Using the instance of Julian Savulescu’s intelligent and independent observer and Gene Roddenberry’s android character Data, I argue that personhood is an evolving idea that does not depend on strict social constraints, but is similar to the mathematical definition of infinity, an abstract approximation.


Introduction

This paper explores the notion of anthropocentric bias against a transhuman individual

As neuro-informatics and cognitive sciences continue to flourish and impact the average citizen, the analysis of new technology driven social standards is paramount. I focus on a contemporary issue concerning personhood as a set of societal beliefs that would play such a role, if we are, in the foreseeable future, to adapt to a transhuman society.  At the outset, the paper analyzes the classical attributes of personhood from the lens of ideas and beliefs proposed by David Hume. Owing to the scope of this work, I limit the definition of personhood to its empirical association with the existence of the human, where personhood is an elementary entity that differentiates a human from a non-human; hence, personhood is inseparable from the human. The existence of a human implies the existence of personhood in them. The contrapositive states, if an individual does not possess personhood, they cannot be a human.  Furthermore, considering the limits, I concentrate on how transhumanism fits.

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into human society. In other words, can we consider a transhuman to be a human-individual who possesses personhood? How would technology affect such an idea? In an attempt to answer this, I contrast the separation of the human and the natural, from an oriental perspective proposed by Ryuichi Ida in his essay “Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.”4    Lastly, I examine a concrete instance of what it means to be a human by using Gene Roddenberry’s android character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation  to argue that being human and possessing personhood is an intangible idea, a mathematically and materialistically unreachable quantity, which is founded on the conceptions laid down by social constraints.5

 

2. Of Beliefs and Ideas:


According to David Hume, the belief of a concept is a subset of the idea of the concept itself.6 Every aspect of a belief is constrained in the set of ideas. 7  Mathematically, this results in the possible existence of the certain properties of a concept in which we can conceive and not believe. Hume further hypothesizes that the notion of both our ideas and our beliefs as molded by our experiences is empirically

4.  Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogatio n from an Asian Perspective., Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human  Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

5.  Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek: The Next Generation.

6.  “The idea of an object is an essential part of the belief of it, but not the whole.” Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.

7.  “We conceive many things, which we do not believe.” Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief. A Treatise of Human Nature.

 
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axiomatic.8   An idea of a concept is an immediate result of the sensory experiences of the world and its possible logical consequences, whereas, the belief  of a certain idea is dependent on the objective laws that the world is subjected to, in accordance to our senses. Hume provides the examples of a companion proposing the events concerning the death of Caesar in his bed, and mercury being heavier than gold.9   According to the proposed conjecture, the idea of Caesar’s death on his bed is conceivable through our sensory inputs, but the experience of the world with the historical evidence suggests otherwise.10  Caesar’s death on his bed is thus merely an idea , owing to the definition of death, a bed and our acquaintance with Caesar. I dismiss it as a belief   because history disproves it.

To equate this characteristic to the idea of transhumanism, I perform an empirical analysis. Let us begin with an example of a conception along Hume’s distinction of relations of ideas and matters of fact.11


Ideas/ Caesar’s death on his bed

Beliefs/ Caesar’s death by Brutus

 

Where does the personhood of a Transhuman lie in this venn diagram?

 

8.   Hume, D. Sec. vii  Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.

9.  Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.

A Treatise of Human Nature. “more fusible, than lead, or mercury heavier than gold; it is evident, that notwithstanding my incredulity, I clearly understand his meaning, and form all the same ideas, which he forms ... is it possible for him to conceive any idea, which I cannot conceive; nor conjoin any, which I cannot conjoin.”

10.   Julius Caesar (100 BCE - 44 BCE) was assassinated in the Roman senate

11.   Hume, D. Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.


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In the Enquiry (1748), Hume states that all ideas are derived from their impressions, which he maintains are the results of sensations.12  What I deduce from experience are therefore copies of my sensations. He reasons that even the basic axioms require oneself to possess knowledge which are the results of the accumulation of sense experiences, impressions, that cannot be exclusively deduced by reason.13   The idea of a green grass-blade, for an instance, consists of several components, all of which may be reduced to the senses. The perception of the color of the grass-blade is dependent on my visual senses. The visible light waves, consisting of various wavelengths reflect from the blade. The color that I perceive as green is the result of the absorption of all other wavelengths by the grass-blade. The shape of the blade is subjected to my touch senses. As such, the idea of a grass-blade is dependent on the conception of its various components. The existence of the grass blade in my mind is what Hume calls an idea.14   The components of the conception of the blade are constant in me as a result of previous experiences. However, the capability to stretch the idea of the grass blade in accordance to my conceptions is what I further contemplate, as the idea of personhood and its relation to the concept of transhumanism. The belief of the grass, on the other hand, includes just the possibility of the occurrence of the idea.  For instance, my brain has noticed in the past, the presence of snow on a grass-blade. But, it never contemplates the existence of a white grass-blade, for it is in the domain of an idea and not a belief. The green-ness of the blade is a component of its concept, and I

 

12.  Hume, D.An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

13.   Hume, D. Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.

14.  Hume, D. Sec. vii  Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.

 

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argue that such contemplation of notion of a white grass blade is similar to the concept of a human transhuman, an individual who is transhuman despite possessing the properties of personhood. Let us contemplate the accepted notions of being a human. Humans are born naturally; they have naturally endowed characteristics, which a transhuman does not possess. Hence, I have a socially held belief on whom to assign the “human” tag. Transhumanism underscores the idea of surpassing the natural order, in order to improve the physical and the mental faculty of the human.15   In the next chapter, I use the analogy of Hume’s empirical propositions to classify physical enhancements and broadly the notion of personhood, as an approximation.16

 

2.1 Ryuichi Ida’s concept review

 

It might be assumed as an axiom, under the constraint of our technological and sociological progress, that a human becomes a transhuman only after the application of enhancements, which would not have been present without the existence of present technology.

Ryuichi Ida asserts that the concept of enhancements that pertains to physical and mental enhancements are artificial; a nano-chip inserted into the brain to increase


15.  I describe the natural order as is done by Ida: enhancing the individual in a way that wouldnot have been possible without the humans.

16.  Approximation is equivalent to limiting value in calculus. I use the word to attribute the abilityof, say ‘n’ to reach a value ‘b’. When we state that n is an approximation to the value b, it impliesthat n limits toward the value of b, but never reaches b. Mathematically, n ~  b, but n not = b.

 

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memory and to aid in extensive learning can provide an instance in this regard.17   The existence of the humans is paramount to the existence of the nano-chip. The nano-chip needed the humans to be in the current state of technology. According to Ida, the enhancement using the nano-chip is not natural, i.e, had the humans been absent from the chain of events, the chip would never have existed. However, this stance does not affirm that the existence of the humans is unnatural.

Now, every mention of an improvement in the physical and mental capabilities of a human underscores an artificial enhancement. Ida asserts there is a difference between natural enhancements and artificial enhancements of an individual. He provides an objective illustration: A candidate studying every day for a demanding examination and being rewarded with the highest grade can be termed as the realization of the person using their naturally given capabilities. The mental enhancement that results from a continuous practice using the natural endowments of a person is what, according to the Ida, constitutes the oriental definition of a natural enhancement. However, he opposes the view, where an examinee uses genetic enhancement to improve their performance in the examination. Such a modification, according to Ida, is artificial and accounts for the “control and management of nature through knowledge and technology.”18    I may conclude that Ida’s position implies that every enhancement that is possible due to the presence of the modern humans and

 

17.  Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

18.   Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

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their technological growth is termed as unnatural. Here, the usage of the word “modern” is important, as the enhancements caused due to pre-historic agricultural and urban settlements are considered by Ida as natural.19

 

3. Enhancements as beliefs and concepts

 

Despite Ida’s perception of technology as artificial, he maintains that the humans are fundamentally natural. However, the way the humans have used the natural resources during their evolution to develop technology has separated them from nature, and is thus, unnatural. As such, transhumans can exist if only we develop artificial enhancements. Such individuals cannot be termed as natural and therefore personhood cannot be associated with a transhuman. In the Venn diagram of ideas and beliefs, Ida would place the personhood of a transhuman outside the domain of beliefs.  Humans are thought to have a natural order, and the enhancements acts as a deviation from the natural to create a transhuman is unnatural.

 

3.1 Savulescu’s independent observer

 

Extending Ida’s premise of the natural human, I state two possible attributes of being human: it is an attainable state of existence or it is a mathematical state of approximation.20  If the notion of personhood an intangible concept, like infinity, personhood can be approximated to, but never reached physically. Whereas, if it is an

 

19.  Ida considers agriculture, which involves the cultivation of the land and the manipulation of the

natural order in the land ecosystem. His concerns begins with technology. I consider, in a later section, the definition of technology. Should any tool making be termed as technology, or is it just the modern improvements? In other words, how different is the building of a chisel to that of a computer?

20.  I use the terms being human and personhood interchangeably

 

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attainable state, there is a set of clauses, obtaining which, an individual can possess personhood. Moreover, if human nature is a mathematical approximation of propositions, individuals whom I consider transhumans in the contemporary society, may be defined as humans in a transhumanist society, for a change in the social paradigms would witness the growth of the set of beliefs. Here, I reason that enhancement cannot make us any more or any less human, using the view of an independent observer, a view which is against the oriental perspective as asserted by Ida.21

 

3.1.1 The Natural and the Artificial to the Independent Observer

 

The differentiation of the human and the natural underscores the separation of the two. It asserts the East Asian perspective upheld by Ida, who considers living amidst nature, but excludes the human when considering natural.22  However, the differentiation of the unnatural from the natural enhancement is a propensity that is historically evident in both the Eastern and the Western traditions, where philosophers have sought to distinguish between the natural and the human.

In an attempt to nullify this distinction, I consider Savulescu’s independent observer. Let us contemplate a hypothetical scenario where there exists an intelligent species on a different star system, who apparently, have developed warp drive and traveled to Earth to observe human activities. From the perspective of our visitor,

 

21.  Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings.  Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

22.  Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

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anthropocentric values are inconsistent; their superior intelligence affirms that our technological developments and the reworking of the Earth’s surface, to them, is synonymous to our view of say, the chimpanzee using tools and displaying empathy. Savulescu terms such an observer, an independent one, who is not only devoid of my anthropocentric biases, but is also able to comprehend human intelligence. Our premise examines if the independent observer would consider our creations natural. We often attribute the same characteristic of animals using tools to the chimpanzee who uses a tool and the hummingbird who builds its nest. I reason that the association of our building of a modern city and the building of the ant-hill by the army ants to the intelligent observer is coherent and logically consistent with the premise that the observer is more intelligent than both the species. To them, without the presence of the army ants on the planet, the ant colonies and the ant-hill would never have existed, as would a city of humans without the humans. The hypothesis is also a reminder to us that our creation of advanced tools and computer technology is but a better manipulation of the natural resources available to us. The army ant uses its own armor (its natural endowment) and twigs (utilization of natural resources) to dig the soil and create the ant-hill. Similarly, we use advanced iron ore, and bricks and cement (advanced utilization of natural resources) to create buildings in a city. Evidently, to the observer, the distinction between the ants and the humans is in the advancements of tool making. As such, when we invent physical enhancements to create a transhuman, the inherent nature of the device would be termed natural to such an observer. The argument bridges the gap between the human and the natural, which in the first place existed because of our human-centric approach to the problem. The transhuman, I can


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reason, is a natural product, owing to the advanced use of the natural resources available to us.

To return to the initial argument concerning the beliefs and the ideas of a natural and an artificial enhancement, I conclude that the enhancement as a natural process is an idea for Ida, which exists as a belief to the independent observer. So far, I have concluded that the enhancements required to create a transhuman are natural; let us now explore the personhood of a transhuman. Due to the scope of this paper, I limit myself to the attribution of personhood to the transhuman individual. I assume personhood as a natural characteristic of the human individual owing to its development in us without any unnatural process. The human tag is associated with an individual who possesses personhood, as I discussed in the introduction. To analyze the possibility of a transhuman to be perceived as a human, in the following section, I study the fictional character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

 

4. Data and Personhood

 

Data is an android character created by Gene Roddenberry for his popular science fiction series. The android is anthropomorphic in its appearance and functions. Data is programmed to evolve, and his goal is to become more and more human. According to Gene Roddenberry, the character was to be the closest one can be to a human without being a human.23  Nevertheless, the quintessential requirement to be a human, as mentioned above, is the possession of personhood. Data is a transhuman;

 

23.   Savulescu, Julian.  Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings.Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

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he has capabilities, which transcends the physical and mental capacities of the average human. He is stronger, can think faster, and though made of silicon, he is able to evolve. At the outset, I shall consider Data a life form, as urged by Roddenberry.24   Besides, according the prevalent NASA’s definition of life, Data is capable to reproducing and evolving in a Darwinian approach. However, is Data a person? To answer this question, I retreat to Hume’s ideas and beliefs  to differentiate between Data’s personhood considering our social paradigms.



4.1 Beliefs and Ideas concerning transhumanism


According to Ida, Data does not possess the characteristics about the ideals of personhood, owing to his artificial birth. I shall analyze Data’s status quo as a human, despite his physical differences. Ida’s foremost appeal towards a human person is arguably an attempt to nullify the idea of unnatural improvements. In the previous two sections, we have concluded that from the view of an unbiased, independent observer, the improvements are natural, even if they include an enhancement using technology.

According to the Star Trek canon, given the right circumstances, Data acts like a human.25  Alan Turing pioneered the idea of a machine imitating a human in his famous experiment where the machine is able to fool the human into making him think that the machine was a human. He delved into the idea of a thinking machine. Data’s nature is similar to the dichotomy I analyzed in the first section. Firstly, he is an android. He is made of silicon chips rather than flesh and blood. He lacks the accepted definition of a human, but Roddenberry came up with the idea of an emotion chip, a device when

 

24.  Roddenberry, Gene. “Datalore”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount, 1987. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

25.  Roddenberry, Gene.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.

 

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placed in Data’s circuits makes him “experience” human emotions.26   Often, Data is incapable of handling the emotions that he is subjected to due to their mathematical complexity, but the fact that he can experience a new emotion that is not controlled by the machine acts for the argument of assigning personhood with Data. He is able to think, to sacrifice, to love, to feel pain and even get confused with the emotion chip. As such, with the device implanted in Data’s body transforms the android into an individual having personhood. But should such an individual be called a human being? It can be argued that Data acts as a nonhuman with the subtraction of a certain chemical in their brain, but I reason that the lack of certain chemicals in the human brain can render a naturally born human, a non-person. As such, the criteria I discussed about Data’s personhood is consistent with humans as well; the fact that it’s an emotion chip that prevents Data from being a human is compatible logically.

 

4.2 Personhood as an approximation

 

As such, I can reason that the concept of transhuman is just an idea of an extended human. It’s a trans-person, someone more capable in some respect and less capable in other aspects of an individual socially accepted as a human. This is especially true for those who claim that being human cannot be reduced to a set of specific clauses; it is an intangible property.

 At the beginning of the paper, I limited myself to the empirical association of personhood to being human. Every individual who is a human possesses personhood. This condition does not necessarily imply that every possessor of personhood is a human. Rather, anyone not having personhood devoid themselves off the idea of being

 

26.  Roddenberry, Gene. “Generations”. Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount, 1987. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

 

PAGE 14:

a human. Data, on the other hand, as I concluded, has personhood. He shows every characteristic that would tag him the notion of being a human. As such, being human has a necessary condition in personhood. Since, I have concluded that personhood is limited mostly by my acceptance of ideas into beliefs, I reason, there are no set of reducible clauses that would define the personhood of an individual.

 

5.  Conclusion

 

The essay began with an inspiration in popular science fiction, and how the ideas relating to personhood apply to Data, the anthropomorphized android from Star Trek.27

 

 I borrow the idea of mathematical infinity to reflect upon his goal. Infinity, for all its uses in

calculus, has never been defined. It is the abstract notion of a number which is larger than every other number imagined by the human mind. From Hume’s empirical point of view, infinity is not in the domain of a belief, for it’s incoherent with human experience. The only way I can define infinity is by limiting myself to the idea.  As an instance a statement in symbolic mathematics,

 

limn  --> infinity 1/ n = 0

implies that the value of 1/ n is 0, when n tends to infinity. Here, n is an integer; it never actually reaches infinity for an integer is presumed to be in the domain of a belief, it has an empirical existence in the human mind. As such, despite the immensity of its value, n always represents a number, which excludes the possibility of being infinite. The above expression, thus is concerned about the value that 1/n obtains, as n becomes larger,

 

27.  The choice to include Data ahead of C3PO or other androids is based on Data’s goal throughout the Star Trek series:  to become as close to being a human without becoming a human.

 

PAGE 15:

which is 0.  In other words, the statement doesn’t prove the equivalence of the value of

n to infinity but of the equivalence of the value of 1/n to 0.

 

The analysis of Data’s personhood has synonymity in the definition of his goal: to become human.

 

Ideas/ Personhood of Data

Beliefs/ Accepted notion of personhood

 

The figure points out two constraints:

•to be a member of the set of beliefs, a concept has to be a set of ideas (Hume’s definition).

•the set of beliefs and the set of ideas are not necessarily equal. In other words, there are ideas which may not be beliefs.

Data’s personhood would be recognized by the social constraints as I learn that from an independent observer’s position, it’s our limitations that would not confer personhood on Data in the present society. I have drawn the set of beliefs in dotted lines to represent an ever changing set of the societal paradigms and our acceptance of who is a human; a notion that, in time, will broaden enough to include the personhood of Data. Personhood, as such, is alike infinity which is abstract, on its own, but tends to function when applied to a physical object to which I am acquainted. As I, from an unbiased approach define the relationship of Data and the notion of being human, I

 

PAGE 16:

observe an equivalence between Data and a human, as he evolves towards his personhood.28

 

Mathematically,

 

limData --> Personhood Data = Human”


28.  Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings.  Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

PAGE 17:  REFERENCES

Hume, D. Sec. vii

Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief. A Treatise of Human Nature.

 

Hume, D. Sec. vii

Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief. A Treatise of Human Nature.

 

Hume, D., An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

 

Hume, D. Sec. vii

Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief. A Treatise of Human Nature

 

.•Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

Manzo, Silvia. "Francis Bacon: Freedom, Authority and Science."  British Journal for the History of Philosophy  14.2 (2006): 245-73. ProQuest.Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

 

Morris, John. "Pattern Recognition in Descartes' Automata."  Isis  60 (1969): 451-60. ProQuest.

Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Rozemond, Marleen. "Descartes's Case for Dualism."  Journal of the History of Philosophy

 33.1 (1995): 29-63.  ProQuest. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Roddenberry, Gene.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings. Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

PAGE 18:

Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings. Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings.  Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

Roddenberry, Gene. “Datalore”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Paramount, 1987. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

Roddenberry, Gene. “Generations”. Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount, 1987. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

Taub, Liba. Ptolemy's Universe: The Natural Philosophical and Ethical Foundations of Ptolemy's Astronomy., 1993. ProQuest. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

Xenophanes, Clement of Alexandria, Book V. 110.


FOOTNOTES:

1.  I generalize the notion of a transhuman, where an  individual with any form of enhancement that enables them to better their functioning, physically or mentally, is called a transhuman.

Also, considering that our understanding is materialized by perception, I consider bias to be an a-priori tautology. We perceive matter, as it were, through the senses. In other words, spatial and temporal occurrences in nature trigger the stimulus that engender into (engender into?) the perceptions we undergo. What we perceive as physical objects are the result of the reactions due to events that cause the materialization of the physical objects.

2.  “Personhood” is often taken to have a very special and specific meaning in philosophy —those things with personhood have moral latency; that is, they are objects of moral concern, are worthy of being cared about, have rights, have responsibilities, etc. Persons often are thought to be those things that can make decisions, or, at the very least, are things that we make decisions about legally and morally, because they are important and worthy of moral judgment.

3.  Personhood => Human

               not (Human) => not(Personhood)





[Note:  Amazing -- another plunge into philosophy -- this time by a transhumanist using a modern philosopher (Hume-the-empiricist and utilitarian) and a special mathematical formula to justify Posthuman “Personhood” -- specifically, the “personhood” of Data, the Star Trek android!  If ever there was an example of someone using the subject matter and method of one field (math) while trying to analyze the subject matter of a different field (philosophical anthropology, or how to define “a human being”) it is this article -- and apparently he doesn’t even know that he is violating the division and methods of the “sciences”!  (Same weird phenomenon with engineers, physicists and mathematicians doing human genetics in biology!).  E.g., you can’t study math with a microscope, and you don’t have a bus driver perform brain surgery!  Another sizzling failure of NanoBioInfoCogno.  (Whoever thought that up?!).

Not to mention that all “modern” philosophies (including utilitarian bioethics) are riddled with problems that real philosophers are fully aware of, and Hume is no exception -- especially the theoretically devastating “mind/body split”.   Additionally, David Hume (1711-1776):

“ ... questioned common notions of personal identity, and argued that there is no permanent “self” that continues over time. He dismissed standard accounts of causality and argued that our conceptions of cause-effect relations are grounded in habits of thinking, rather than in the perception of causal forces in the external world itself.  ...  In the philosophy of religion, he argued that it is unreasonable to believe testimonies of alleged miraculous events, and he hints, accordingly, that we should reject religions that are founded on miracle testimonies. ...  In moral theory, against the common view that God plays an important role in the creation and reinforcement of moral values, he offered one of the first purely secular moral theories, which grounded morality in the pleasing and useful consequences that result from our actions. He introduced the term “utility” into our moral vocabulary, and his theory is the immediate forerunner to the classic utilitarian views of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.”  Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at:  http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume/

But this writer is apparently clueless as to the “cons” of Humean philosophy or of utilitarian bioethics which render irrelevant this writer’s wished-for conclusion below --including the “cons” of transhumanist/bioethicist student of Peter Singer, Savulescu.  In a real philosophical analysis it is required to acknowledge both the “pros” and the “cons” of any particular philosophical position and respond to those “cons” before adopting that philosophical position as your own -- otherwise your opponent will gladly hurl them at you.  You can’t just pick and choose bits and pieces of a particular philosophical tradition that please you and gets you where you want to go, and ignore the bits and pieces that you don’t want.

And while some “personhood” standards and definitions of "a human being" are simply matters of "evolving" social constructions (such as that proposed in the following article), not all “personhood” standards are.  Indeed, some are inherently empirically grounded in our objective knowledge of human beings -- whole human beings, that is.  [See Irving, “Philosophical and scientific expertise:  An evaluation of the arguments on ‘personhood’”, Linacre Quarterly February 1993, 60:1:18-46, at:  http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_04person1.html;   also "What is 'bioethics'?" (June 3, 2000), at:  http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_36whatisbioethics01.html].

I do wonder what kind of “academic” organization would even want to post the following hypothetical space-alien perspective of the "independent observer" using symbolic mathematical/utilitarian philosophical/bioethical  “analysis” to argue for the possible social-constructed “personhood” for posthumans based on infinity.   But I’m sure NBIC and WTEC -- and Roddenberry -- will love it.  PS -- if you can’t follow the “logic” of the following article, or get dizzy, it’s not you.  The article first appeared here. --  DNI]

 







A fuel-economy change that protect freedom and saves lives

by H. Sterling Burnett


If finalized the proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to freeze fuel-economy targets at 2020 levels through 2026 is good news for anyone concerned about consumer choice, vehicle affordability, and highway safety.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s determination freezing fuel-economy standards would benefit the American people should surprise no one, because in April EPA announced it would revoke the Obama-era standards requiring cars and light trucks sold in the United States to achieve an average of more than 50 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025.

President Obama signed off on the 50 mpg standards just before leaving office in December 2016, two years before the previous standards were scheduled to be reviewed. Studies show the 50 mpg standard would substantially increase the price of cars, change the composition of the nation’s automobile and light truck fleet, and put lives at risk.

The “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks” is a culmination of EPA’s consultation with NHTSA to determine how fuel-economy standards can best balance consumers’ concerns about automobile affordability, vehicle safety, and fuel economy. 

“Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less,” Wheeler said. 

“There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026. More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to U.S. roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public,” stated Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

EPA calculates freezing fuel-economy standards at 2020 levels through 2026 will save more than 500 billion dollars in societal costs over the next 50 years and reduce highway fatalities by 12,700 lives. 

Fuel standard mandates began in 1975, when Congress established Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to reduce dependence on foreign oil following the 1973–74 Arab oil embargo. The law required car manufacturers to meet mandated fuel-economy targets or else pay a hefty tax on gas-guzzling sedans. What happened? Some people bought smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Others, however, started driving trucks, and new categories of vehicles were born: SUVs and minivans.

Over the years, compact cars have become less popular because of low fuel prices, underpowered engines, and lack of passenger and storage space. Most full-sized cars and trucks can seat five adults, and minivans and many SUVs can seat between seven and nine people. Numerous SUVs, trucks, and minivans offer ample cargo space and are capable of hauling a trailer or boat, which no subcompact can do safely. 

Ironically, the high popularity of trucks, SUVs, and minivans is at least partially a result of environmentalists’ efforts to reduce the appeal of large, powerful cars. EPA’s stringent fuel-economy standards didn’t apply to trucks, SUVs, or minivans, which didn’t then exist. So, to keep the features they liked, millions of people replaced the family sedan or station wagon with an SUV or truck. As fuel efficiency increased and driving became cheaper, people drove more miles — thereby negating the marginal gains of owning more-fuel-efficient vehicles.

CAFE standards did not reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil — it would take the fracking revolution to do that — but they did have deadly unintended consequences. To meet federal fuel-economy guidelines, carmakers reduced vehicle size, weight, and power. By doing so, manufacturers compromised cars’ safety, resulting in tens of thousands of unnecessary injuries and deaths in vehicle crashes. For every 100 pounds shaved off new cars to meet CAFE standards, between 440 and 780 additional people are killed in auto accidents, amounting to 2,200 to 3,900 lives lost per year, according to researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution. As a result, CAFE has resulted in more deaths than all U.S. soldiers lost in the Vietnam War and every U.S. military engagement since then.

The laws of physics will never change. In a vehicle crash, larger and heavier is safer than lighter and smaller. EPA’s fuel-economy freeze will prevent unnecessary deaths while protecting consumer choice.

If fuel economy is the driving force behind your purchasing decisions, nothing changes under EPA’s decision to freeze current fuel-economy standards. You are free to continue buying the electric, hybrid, or clean diesel vehicle of your choice. If, however, comfort, power, vehicle safety, and the ability to haul a boat or ferry a little league team are your goals, EPA’s CAFE freeze ensures you can continue to make that choice as well. 

Ain’t freedom grand!



EPA’s Non-Politicized Science Benefits Americans

by H. Sterling Burnett


A direct challenge to the hardcore enviros who heretofore controlled and corrupted the agency.

President Donald Trump committed to fundamentally transforming the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from an agency producing politicized science to one instilling sound scientific standards for research. By doing so, Americans should expect improved environmental and health outcomes.

Currently, regulatory costs top $1.9 trillion annually, which amounts to $14,842 per U.S. household. That’s nearly $15,000 less for Americans to pay for health insurance, medical bills, education expenses, groceries, gasoline, or entertainment. Because the economic and social implications of regulations are profound, the science they are built upon must be impeccable.

Over the last few decades — under Republican and Democratic administrations — EPA formed a cozy relationship with radical environmental activists and liberal academic researchers. With the support of environmental lobbyists who despise capitalism (expressed by consumers’ free choices in the marketplace) EPA bureaucrats, in pursuit of more power and expanded budgets for the agency, funded researchers who, because they were largely dependent on government grants for the majority of their funding, were only too happy to produce results claiming industry was destroying the earth.

Of course, the only way to prevent environmental collapse was more government control of the economy. However, these reports were produced despite the fact poverty and hunger have steadily declined and people are living longer and more productive lives than ever before.

As Jay Lehr, a colleague and science director at the Heartland Institute told me once, “For decades, EPA has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the environmental left. Together, radical environmentalists and EPA bureaucrats, including the members of all their advisory panels, have used their considerable power to thwart American business at every turn.

Under Trump, EPA changed how it pursues science to pay greater fealty to the scientific method and remove temptations for scientific self-aggrandizement and corruption.

Not surprisingly, researchers, environmentalists, and bureaucrats, seeing their power curtailed and their gravy train ending, are crying foul saying the Trump administration is undermining science. However, in reality this is simply not true.

EPA’s scientific advisory panels are tasked with ensuring the research the agency uses to develop and justify regulations is rigorous, has integrity, and is based on the best available science.

To better ensure this, EPA ceased automatically renewing the terms of board members on various panels. EPA is now filling its scientific panels and boards on a competitive basis as each board member’s term expires.

This should improve the science EPA uses to inform its decisions, by expanding diversity — diversity of interests, diversity of scientific disciplines, and diversity of backgrounds — thus bringing in a wider array of viewpoints to EPA decision-making.

In addition, to reduce opportunities for corruption, EPA ceased allowing members of its federal advisory committees to apply for EPA research grants and instituted policies to ensure advisory panel members and grant recipients have no other conflicts of interest. It was always a foolish practice to allow those recommending, often determining, who gets EPA grants to also be in the running for those grants. However, this was business as usual at EPA, where grant makers awarded themselves, research teams they were members of, or their friends billions of taxpayer dollars over the years.

In April, then EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared “The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end.” Pruitt proposed requiring the data underlying scientific studies used by EPA to craft regulations be available for public inspection, criticism, and independent verification.

For years, EPA bureaucrats have used the results of studies by researchers who would not disclose the data underlying their results to be examined and retested for confirmation or falsification. Fortunately, EPA is finally ending this unjustifiable practice.

Many scientists have objected to EPA’s new secret science policy because they claim the studies EPA uses have undergone “peer review.” However, the peer review process is often nothing more than other researchers, often hand-picked by the scientists whose research is being reviewed, sitting around in their ivory towers reading the reports and saying, “this looks okay or reasonable to me.”


Unless the reviewers are able examine the underlying data and assumptions, and attempt to replicate the results, peer review is unable to ensure the validity of studies used to underpin regulations. Absent transparency and replicability, peer review is hollow.

Another long overdue EPA regulatory reform was the decision to end exclusive use of the “Linearity No Threshold” (LNT) model when assessing the dangers of radiation, carcinogens, and other toxic substances in the environment. Going forward, EPA will incorporate uncertainty into its risk assessments using a variety of other, more realistic models.

The LNT model assumes there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation or exposure to various other chemicals or toxins. Relying on flawed studies from the effect of ionizing radiation on fruit flies from the 1950s, EPA and other regulatory agencies have used LNT as a basis for regulation of environmental clean-ups, setting safety standards for nuclear plants, and limiting low dose radiation treatments for medical patients, a policy that has cost lives and billions of taxpayer dollars.

Although science has progressed phenomenally since the 1950s, with copious amounts of research showing the LNT model is seriously flawed, EPA and other agencies never questioned the LNT standard. That is, until now.

In fact, adverse effects from low dose exposures to radiation and most other chemicals and potential toxins are often non-existent. Indeed, substances that may be harmful in large quantities can be beneficial in small amounts, a process known as hormesis.

In the commonly paraphrased words of Swiss physician and astronomer Paracelsus, “the dose makes the poison.” Vitamins, which are valuable in small quantities, and even water, which is literally necessary for life, can become deadly if too much of either is taken over a short period of time. Or consider sun exposure. While exposure to too much sunlight can contribute to skin cancer, sunlight is required to catalyze the final synthesis of Vitamin D, which strengthens the bones, helping prevent osteoporosis and rickets. There is also ample evidence sunlight can help fight depression and several skin and inflammatory ailments.

Replacing reliance on the untenable LNT model with other models of exposure and response will result in better safety and health protocols, potentially saving billions of dollars and thousands of lives each year.

In service of the American people and the pursuit of continued American greatness, science practices at EPA are improving under President Trump. One can only hope equivalent changes are adopted at other executive agencies so the regulations they produce are grounded in the best available science, free of political corruption and bureaucratic incentives for agency mission creep and growth.




The article first appeared here.

IEET’s George Dvorsky offers course on Introduction to Transhumanism

{An interesting 2014 article demonstrating an artificially stimulated interest in transhumanism - ED].


by Institute for “Ethics” and Emerging Technologies (IEET)
(Co-founded by transhumanists James Hughes and Oxford don Nick Bostrom)

IEET’s George Dvorsky offers course on Introduction to Transhumanism

George Dvorsky, prominent futurist, writer on ethics and technology and Chairman of the IEET Board of Directors, is offering his:  Introduction to Transhumanism course during May, from May 1st to May 31st, 2014.

This course introduces the philosophy and socio-cultural movement that is transhumanism. We will survey its core ideas, history, technological requirements, potential manifestations, and ethical implications. Topics to be discussed will include the various ways humans have tried to enhance themselves throughout history, the political and social aspects of transhumanism, the technologies required to enhance humans (including cybernetics, pharmaceuticals, genetics, and nanotechnology), and the various ways humans may choose to use these technologies to modify and augment their capacities (including radical life extension, intelligence augmentation, and mind uploading). Along the way we will discuss social and ethical problems that might be posed by human enhancement.

Schedule and readings: Specific reading and discussion goals are set for each week, and students can proceed at their own pace. There are no live events planned. An assortment of resources will be used, including academic papers, online presentations, instructional videos, and popular articles. Everything about the course and all readings are provided within the PSA Moodle website. Course lectures, links to websites, and forums for discussions with the instructor and students are included in the Moodle website classroom. Visit the class anytime to contribute your posts and receive George Dvorsky’s replies in discussion forums. There is nothing “live” you can miss – log in and participate anytime day or night, 24/7, throughout May.

Ask George about this course by tweeting to him at twitter.com/dvorskyor posting on his facebook wall at www.facebook.com/gdvorsky

Canadian futurist, science writer, and ethicist George Dvorsky has written and spoken extensively about the impacts of cutting-edge science and technology—particularly as they pertain to the improvement of human performance and experience. George is a contributing editor at io9 where he writes about science, culture, and futurism. A founding member of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, he is its Chair of the Board and the founder and program director for its Rights of Non-Human Persons program. In addition, George is the co-founder and president of the Toronto Transhumanist Association and has served on the Board of Directors for Humanity+ for two terms. His work has been featured in such publications as The Guardian, the BBC, CBC, Forbes, the New York Times, Slate, Radio Free Europe, and al-Jazeera. He is also an avid CrossFitter, an ancestral health enthusiast, and an accomplished music performer, composer, and recording engineer.




[Note:  Couldn’t be more “in their own words” and “in your face”.  Let’s remember that bioethics founder Art Caplan is on the IEET board of trustees, so we already know which “ethics” they use, including utilitarian’s “for the greater good” and the libertine bioethics principle of absolute “autonomy”:  http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/bio/caplan/;  also,

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/category/C46.   And of course, see a good upfront description of transhumanism/futurism/posthumanism in the recent articles by transhumanists, at:  http://wavism.net/principles/what-is-social-futurism/, and at  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-transhumanistphilosopher/201404/transhumanist-explores-new-type-community (Bitcoin and all). The article first appeared here.

‘Unhackable’ Apple Embarrassed by Teen Who Dumped Secure Data in Folder Named ‘Hacky Hack Hack’

by Jack Davis


A 16-year-old boy was so fascinated with his favorite technology company that he hacked his way into Apple’s servers, stealing 90 gigabytes worth of files and accessing customer accounts as well.

The Children’s Court in Melbourne, Austrailia, heard the case Thursday, in which the teen pleaded guilty. The teen’s name is being withheld by the court.

His defense lawyer said the teen was so well known in the hacking community that sharing details of the case could put him at risk.

The teen said he “dreamed of” working for Apple, and decided to hack his way into their servers, something he did for about a year.

The boy’s hacking exploits came to an end last year when the Australian Federal Police executed a search warrant on his home, The Age reported.

While the attacker tried to hide his identity, Apple was able to identify the serial numbers of the laptops used to perform the attacks, and that’s how the investigation led to Australia, according to the New York Post.

Police also found a trove of hacking files and instructions in a folder titled “hacky hack hack.”

Apple trumpeted its role in eventually finding the hacker.

“At Apple, we vigilantly protect our networks and have dedicated teams of information security professionals that work to detect and respond to threats,” the company said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

“In this case, our teams discovered the unauthorized access, contained it, and reported the incident to law enforcement,” the statement said.

However, the teen also helped get himself caught by bragging about what he had done on WhatsApp, police said.

Apple insisted that despite what was said in court, no personal accounts were compromised

“We … want to assure our customers that at no point during this incident was their personal data compromised,” its statement said. .[Yeah, right! - ED]

Suelette Dreyfus, a privacy expert from the University of Melbourne, is urging that the teen be treated with leniency, saying kids push limits online just as they do everywhere else.

“I have researched a number of teen hacker cases internationally,” Dreyfus said.

“Almost all these teens grew out of the technology boundary-pushing of their youth, and then went on to live useful lives and contributing to society. Putting them in prison is often a waste of that potential,” she said.

“Young people often make mistakes when they are exploring and rule-breaking especially online — including boasting about their exploits. It’s not right, but for tech teens, it can be a part of growing up … there’s usually a really worried teen and family at the end of this sort of court case,” Dreyfus concluded.








Jack Davis is a free-lance writer. Writing as "Rusty" Davis, he is a Spur Award-nominated writer whose first two novels, “Wyoming Showdown” and “Black Wind Pass” were published by Five Star Publishing.

What You Need to Know About EPA’s New Boss Andrew Wheeler

by H Sterling Burnett


Former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marked the end of a productive but tumultuous period for the agency. The good news? Pruitt’s replacement, Andrew Wheeler, will likely continue the needed reforms Pruitt began. In the immortal words of The Who, “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.”

However history judges Pruitt’s tenure at EPA, critics and supporters can agree he initiated a series of efforts to fundamentally transform the antiquated agency. He ended sue-and-settle agreements; reshaped its science advisory committees; reduced graft; and rolled back myriad regulatory actions, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the massive increase in the Corporate Fuel Economy Standard (CAFE), and various energy efficiency mandates for appliances. Thanks to Pruitt, EPA is finally changing how it conducts business.

You might be concerned that Pruitt’s absence could result in a complete change in course, but fear not! President Donald Trump’s energy and environment agenda will not substantively change with Wheeler’s ascension to the agency’s top post.

Sadly, and not surprisingly, environmental zealots treated Wheeler’s appointment as though it is the end of the world. A Huffington Post headline stated, “Scott Pruitt’s Replacement Is Even Worse.” In the article, Frank O’Donnell, president of the left-wing group Clean Air Watch, stated, “This is like rearranging deck chairs on the environmental Titanic.”

The Left’s histrionic response to Wheeler mirrors its response to Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Regardless of an appointee’s qualifications, anyone Trump nominates to lead the EPA will inevitably be tarred and feathered by the Left and braded a climate-change-denying polluter. 

Environmentalists dread Wheeler for the same reason small-government advocates applaud him: Wheeler could be even more effective than Pruitt at rolling back onerous regulations. EPA’s new chief has significant experience working within and outside of the agency. In fact, Wheeler won awards for his work at the agency between 1991 through 1995. Subsequently, Wheeler worked as majority staff director and chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, with EPA oversight. Wheeler will be more than capable to rein in EPA overreach.

The regulatory rollback at EPA started under Pruitt is expected to increase with Wheeler at the helm. EPA is currently working on overhauling CPP, WOTUS, and CAFE to improve transparency and ease compliance with commonsense guidelines.

In his short time as the agency’s acting administrator, there has been no shortage of statements supporting Wheeler as a more disciplined, less scandal prone replacement for Pruitt.

“We have full confidence in Andrew both from his past experience and the job he has done at EPA,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. “We think he will carry on the Trump reform agenda in a really competent way.”

“For the top people at the EPA, the various Pruitt accusations have been a real challenge and a distraction,” Ebell continued. “Once Pruitt is gone, and Andrew is in charge, people will get back to doing their jobs everyday rather than accusations.”

“With Andy Wheeler stepping in to replace Pruitt, I think we’ll see a change in style but not in substance,” Jeff Holmstead, a former deputy administrator of the EPA in the George W. Bush administration, told the Washington Examiner. “Andy probably is the ideal person to lead EPA at this point.

“Pruitt got a lot of regulatory reforms started, but he’s never worked a regulatory agency and didn’t fully understand the administrative process and what it would take to get them finalized. Andy certainly does,” Holmstead said. “He’s worked on these issues for years and may actually be more effective than Pruitt when it comes to carrying out the reforms that Pruitt started.”

No one knows exactly what Wheeler’s tenure might mean for EPA climate policy. Driven by the endangerment finding, EPA has begun the process of drafting a replacement of CPP. However, if Wheeler’s past statements are any indication of EPA’s future actions, it seems like sound science will replace climate alarmism.

The Huffington Post notes in 2010, while working for the Senate, Wheeler “accused the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of blurring ‘the lines between science and advocacy’ and functioning ‘more as a political body than a scientific body,’ suggesting EPA could ‘reconsider its endangerment finding without almost exclusively relying upon the IPCC.’”

All Trump administration officials operate under an intense (and biased) media spotlight. It is difficult, if not impossible, for any Trump appointee to stay below the radar, but if anyone can remain effective and ethical, Andrew Wheeler certainly can. With his knowledge of the inner-workings of EPA’s regulatory processes and his low-key, non-confrontational style, Wheeler can complete the job Pruitt started and restore the EPA back to its mission:protect human health and the environment.