Monthly Archives: juni 2016

humanoids, posthumans

By | Algemeen | No Comments

Technology has developed to the point where a clear distinction between nature and culture seems to be dissolving. Against this background, a broad aspect of social research has emerged that considers an interdependence between the social and the material. So far, the contemporary innovative process is realistic and pragmatic by definition. Throughout history, the human body and mind have inspired artists, engineers, and scientists. The field of humanoid robotics focuses on the creation of robots that are directly inspired by human capabilities. These robots usually share similar kinematics to humans, as well as similar sensing and behavior. The motivations that have driven the development of humanoid robots vary widely.

For example, humanoid robots have been developed as general-purpose mechanical workers, as entertainers, and as test-beds for theories from neuroscience and experimental psychology. The emulation of human-level abilities in a humanlike robot serves as a grand challenge for robotics, with significant cultural ramifications. The motivations for humanoid robotics are as deep as they are diverse. From the earliest cave drawings, humanity has sought to represent itself. Robotics is one of the most recent mediums for this ongoing fascination. Besides this deep societal motivation, humanoid robots offer unique opportunities for human–robot interaction, and integration into human-centric settings.

Given the special properties of humanoid robots, they seem likely to at least fill a niche in the world of the future. Whether or not humanoids become a dominant form for robots may depend on the extent to which they can compete against specialized robots that are better suited to particular tasks, and human labor,which in someways already meets the ultimate goals of humanoid robotics.

What about human enhancement? The area of intelligent technologies seldom makes philosophical statements about changing the human nature and about a future golden age. Can we imagine posthumans as humans made superhumanly intelligent or resilient by future advances in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science. Many argue that these enhanced people might live better lives; others fear that tinkering with our nature will undermine our sense of our own humanity. Whoever is right, it is assumed that our technological successor will be an upgraded or degraded version of us: Human 2.0.

Priority seems to develop intelligent technologies that improve health, comfort, and security. More tailored to meet individuated demands and market requirements. In this perspective the premises and the main concepts of transhumanism can be easily identified: human nature is the subject of innovation and transformations. Promoting a certain pragmatism concerning exponential technologies linked to solving stringent human problems. On the other hand, it maintains the transhumanist view on innovation when it emphasizes human enhancement. This becomes visible in the idea of human enhancement and in the artificial intelligence research.

Technology is seen as a continuation of human evolution. By way of consequence, a deep symbiosis between human and machine up to the emergence of post-human entities will occur. The distinction between human enhancement and technological innovation will fade and lead to a modification of the paradigm of hybridization technological innovation.

In any case the proliferation of intelligent artifacts, systems, and devices that are context-aware and self-adjusting creates a paradigm change. A change in different directions like for example in our new imaginary about the world, a new consciousness, a new worldview.

Is it good, is it wrong? I do not know.

Poverty

By | Algemeen | No Comments

Global growth and progress in human development give us good reasons to believe that we can achieve the goal of eradicating poverty for good. However, the reality of what billions of people in the poorest socio-economic groups have experienced, and what they can expect if current trends continue, is less encouraging. The gap between rich and poor is reaching new extremes. Rising economic inequality also compounds existing inequalities. Countries with higher income inequality also tend to have larger gaps between women and men in terms of health, education, labor market participation, and representation in institutions like parliaments. One of the key trends underlying this huge concentration of wealth and incomes is the increasing return to capital versus labor. In almost all rich countries and in most developing countries, the share of national income going to workers has been falling. This means workers are capturing less and less of the gains from growth. In contrast, the owners of capital have seen their capital consistently grow (through interest payments, dividends, or retained profits) faster than the rate the economy has been growing. Tax avoidance by the owners of capital, and governments reducing taxes on capital gains have further added to these returns.

Across the global economy, in different sectors, firms and individuals often use their power and position to capture economic gain for themselves. Economic and policy changes over the past 30 years – including deregulation, privatization, financial secrecy and globalization, especially of finance – have supercharged the age-old ability of the rich and powerful to use their position to further concentrate their wealth. This policy agenda has been driven essentially by ‘market fundamentalism’. It is this that lies at the heart of much of today’s inequality crisis. As a result, the rewards enjoyed by the few are very often not representative of efficient or fair returns. The share of income going to labor compared with capital is in decline, the gap between wages and productivity is growing and income inequality is slowing overall growth, further hurting the poorest people most and preventing millions of people from escaping poverty.

What is needed is a multi-pronged strategy to rebalance power within global and national economies, empowering people who are currently excluded and keeping the influence of the rich and powerful in check. This is necessary for economies to work better in the interests of the majority and in particular in the interests of the poorest people, who have the most to gain from a fairer distribution of income and wealth.

A social innovation aligning finance with individual values and social purpose.

We have a duty to focus the world’s attention on the rapidly growing numbers of people in dire need. They are among the people who face the greatest risk of being left behind. While some of those in extreme distress might make themselves heard and receive media attention for periods of time, the vast majority remains voiceless and invisible, struggling to survive from one day to the next. A sound understanding of poverty traps—defined as poverty that is self-reinforcing due to the poor’s equilibrium behaviors—and their underlying mechanisms is fundamentally important to the development of policies and interventions targeted to assist the poor and/or eradicate poverty. This understanding on poverty traps focuses on understanding why some people, communities, and even entire nations remain mired in grinding poverty while others have enjoyed rapid improvements in standards of living. An improved understanding of such heterogeneous well-being dynamics can help inform the design of interventions that might put individuals, households, and nations on a more favorable trajectory out of poverty and towards sustainably higher standards of living. Aspects of poverty traps include financial and social exclusion linked to human capital accumulation and natural capital feedbacks

Initiatives that could move people out of a poverty traps such as interventions to induce investment in or protection of productive assets, adoption of improved production technologies, participation in more remunerative markets, entrepreneurial risk-taking, and so on attract particular interest because they are seen as opportunities for short-term interventions to precipitate permanent changes in well-being trajectories.

We have to keep in mind that existing and rising inequalities pose fundamental challenges to European societies and economies as well. The increasing gulf between rich and poor, exacerbated by the financial and economic crises, is a key concern. The sources of inequalities in contemporary societies are complex and highly intertwined and they and their consequences can only be understood through comprehensive and innovative research activities. Given our relatively mature understanding of life course inequalities, it is time to focus on the dynamics of inequalities – across different life stages, across different dimensions of inequality, and across different dimensions of identity – and to identify opportunities to reduce them.

Of importance at the current time in Europe is the increasing destandardisation of the life course, strongly related to the current economic context, which has led to increasing risks of employment insecurity. This is reflected in delayed transitions into employment, increasing risk of job loss, prolonged unemployment, non-standard employment, earnings instability, more complex, varied and risky transitions into retirement, and pension reform. Alongside this are changes in the social, cultural and technological spheres of work, reflected in demands for workers to possess a broad set of skills, rather than a narrow trade, making them more productive and more easily adjustable to the changing conditions and demands of work. And coupled with this is an urgent need to understand how reforms to European welfare systems impact on the life course and the dynConsequently, it is, as mentioned, necessary to focus on understanding the dynamics of inequalities as they unfold over the life course, causal processes and drivers in relation to these inequalities, the impact of these inequalities on social cohesion, and the identification of opportunities for policy intervention to increase possibilities for social mobility and to reduce inequalities.amics of inequalities across the life course.

Consequently, it is, as mentioned, necessary to focus on understanding the dynamics of inequalities as they unfold over the life course, causal processes and drivers in relation to these inequalities, the impact of these inequalities on social cohesion, and the identification of opportunities for policy intervention to increase possibilities for social mobility and to reduce inequalities.

Life

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We live amid a global wave of anthropogenically driven biodiversity loss: species and population extirpations and, critically, declines in local species abundance. Particularly, human impacts on animal biodiversity are an under-recognized form of global environmental change.

Call of Life is to investigate the threat to Earth’s life support systems from this unprecedented loss of biodiversity. Through interviews with leading biologists, ecologists, social scientists, indigenous leaders, and others, the causes, the scope, and the potential effects of the mass extinction have been explored. The research also looks beyond the immediate causes of the crisis to consider how our cultural and economic systems, along with deep-seated psychological and behavioral patterns, have allowed this situation to develop, continue to reinforce it, and even determine our response to it.

The research  tells the story of a crisis not only in nature, but also in human nature and considers the collective and individual responses that will be needed to mitigate the impacts of the mass extinction, and makes clear the critical choices we have before us. We face the potential of the natural world devastated beyond recognition, with the loss of human life in the billions. Yet we still have time to avert the worst of the losses and save much of the biosphere if we act decisively. The first step is to create broad public awareness of the magnitude and implications of the crisis. Only then can our whole society begin to consider the systemic changes that will be required.

In order to save our planet and secure a future for our own species and all species, we need a new worldview. We must recognize that technology alone cannot save us, and business-as-usual is no longer an option. Instead, we need to create fundamental change in our culture, our minds, and our hearts. Unique among all human generations, those of us alive today have been given a great opportunity: one last chance to preserve the vitality and magnificence of the living planet that sustains us, and is our only home.

Both denial and dissociation are faulty and ineffective methods of dealing with a very real crisis. It is actually through allowing ourselves to experience our feelings and our grief that we can work through it and bring forth the energy to move into action.

Humans have evolved over thousands of generations to live in a relatively stable world. We have been equipped by evolution for survival in that world—where, for instance, sudden events were important for us to notice but slower, gradual ones were not. Such patterns of filtering and interpreting our perceptions once enhanced our survival, but these are obsolete in today’s world of complexity and global change. This  evolutionary flaw in our thinking may make it difficult for us to distinguish relevant information from the trivial, and yet the ability to make such distinctions is becoming increasingly crucial. The mass extinction is a good example. It’s proceeding quietly in the background of our daily lives, so even though it’s a formidable threat, it’s easy to ignore while we give precedence to more immediate concerns. In order to overcome this flaw, we must use our natural reasoning ability, and educate ourselves to think and perceive in a new manner—one that facilitates our survival in today’s complex environment.

We’re already on a downhill slide, but it’s not too late to mitigate the impacts of the mass extinction if we begin now. We don’t have to accept the destructiveness of our culture; other ways are possible. We should envision the kind of world we want to have when we emerge from this crisis.

The challenges may seem overwhelming, but we know that societies can change rapidly when enough people become aware of the problems and begin looking for solutions.