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ks. prof. Micha³ Heller

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The world is everything that is the case.     Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922 /15-01-29

posthumanism signals the end of a certain way of .. orienting—selfhood ... Marvin Minsky argues that robots will be the next evolutionary phase ... machines gaining consciousness and then guiding themselves (and, presumably, us) ... in Lyotard’s words, “what is proper to humankind is its absence of defining property, its nothingness, ... whether there is a humanism that posthumanism can come after. ... “the end of the human,” brought on by neuromedicine, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence, ... medieval saints’ relics that defy the life/death binary if not proto-cyborgs? ... “there is no side for nonlife” ... return of either old or new forms of domination. ... techno-apocalypse and/or -utopia /15-01-29

Sean Carroll: Death and Physics /15-01-27

‘unconscious-thought advantage’ (UTA) has been controversial. ... how clever our unconscious is /15-01-27

The Hard Problem of Consciousness ... why on earth should all those complicated brain processes feel like anything from the inside? ... something as mysterious as the experience of being ... the problem marks the boundary not just of what we currently know, but of what science could ever explain. ... to accept the profoundly unsettling conclusion that computers or the internet might soon become conscious, too. ... OK, here, God has intervened. God created souls, and put them into people. ... he thought it wasn’t impossible that his iPhone might have feelings. ... that evolution could have produced zombies instead of conscious creatures – and it didn’t! ... what if we’re just constitutionally incapable of ever solving the Hard Problem? ... where neuroscience meets philosophy /15-01-26

new scientism ... Are scientists recruited from a section of humankind that is already better than the norm? ... Is there something scientists know that, ... would make the rest of us better? ... the scientific method ... whom to trust and what to believe ... [Weber] And if there is such a thing as the meaning of the world, there is no scientific way to discover it. ... the fact-value distinction ... [1940s] there is no “satisfactory evidence” that scientists are “recruited from the ranks of those who exhibit an unusual degree of moral integrity.” ... 1960s, Thomas Kuhn’s picture of “normal science” ... [Post–World War II ] Science’s goals were increasingly identified as their goals; its ways of doing things, their ways. ... Morality cannot be outsourced. ... So-called evolutionary ethics bid to give a scientific solution to such questions as “What ought we to do?” and “What is moral?” ... In the modern American academy and in intellectual publishing, scientism, and specifically the redefinition of moral problems as scientific problems, is resurgent. ... traditional moral authorities are naked ... Science, it is now claimed, will show us what is good ... Morality, neuroscientist Sam Harris writes, “should be considered an undeveloped branch of science,” ... The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker ... The worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. ... religion is a “God delusion,” licensing prejudice, servility, and slaughter, all of which are morally wrong. ... So the cost of modern skepticism about scientific virtue is paid not just by scientists but by all of us. ... if the global climate is indeed warming ... We need to trust scientists, but we need scientists to be trustworthy. /15-01-25

Random Chance’s Role in Cancer ... Unlike Ebola, flu or polio, cancer is a disease that arises from within — a consequence of the mutations that inevitably occur when one of our 50 trillion cells divides and copies its DNA. ... purely by chance — random, spontaneous ... our revulsion to randomness ... It takes several mutations, in specific combinations, for a cell to erupt into a malignant tumor. The idea that random copying errors are prominent among them is thoroughly mainstream. ... bad luck and see how it compares with the two other corners of the cancer triangle: environment and heredity ... 40 percent of cancers are preventable /15-01-20

Ian Bostridge on singing Schubert’s Winterreise - an indispensable work of art /15-01-20

Roz Chast: Can't we talk about something more pleasant? ... the technology to keep us alive a lot longer after we are stricken ... prolong life without considering sufficiently whether what is being prolonged is really worth living from the perspective of the person who has to live it. ... Dignitas, the Swiss organization that helps terminally ill people to die in circumstances of their own choosing. ... they avoid a short period of pointless pain and humiliation, /15-01-19

Children have come to be seen as more valuable than adults not despite but because of their psychological immaturity ... the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. ... We are the victims of a collective confusion. ... Maybe it has to do with religious concepts of sin ... In any case the result is eminently absurd. ... The death of an adult person is a tragedy because a sophisticated unique consciousness has been lost; ... Adults live fuller, deeper, and more real lives than those who have yet to grow up. /15-01-19

What to do with my dead body ... I don't really care. I'll be done with it, ... I could donate my body to medical science, ... few who will ever remember that I once lived. ... Put the ashes on the sill, open the window, and turn on the fan! ... scientistic metaphysics with which most of us content ourselves tells us only that dead bodies are biomedical waste. ... a reductio ad absurdum of our metaphysics. But what is the alternative? A richer worldview? And from what quarter shall we expect that? /15-01-19

René Descartes ... Charlie Hebdo /15-01-14

Inevitability of Evolution ... In particular, there’s a fair chance of hitting on sequences that can replicate ... These ideas suggest that evolvability and openness to innovation are features not just of life but of information itself. ... do not necessarily reflect any adaptive fine-tuning. The apparent creativity and artistry of such forms has astonished biologists and inspired artists. Now it seems we can understand where this diversity and inventiveness comes from. ... The more complex they are, the more rewiring they tolerate, ... creativity or innovability, is a fundamental feature of complex networks ... evolvability and openness to innovation are features not just of life but of information itself. ... appearance of life was not a fantastic fluke but almost a mathematical inevitability. /15-01-14

poker ... An 'essentially unbeatable' algorithm for the popular card game ... incapable of losing against any opponent in a fair game ... This is a step beyond a computer program that can beat top human players, ... There are 3.16 × 1017 states ... the computer learned to inject a certain dose of bluffing into its plays. /15-01-12

a world without work ... jobs are boring, low-paid, humiliating and increasingly scarce. ... there was a religious element, in the sense that work gives you something that nothing else does, which is that you became part of something bigger than yourself. ... becoming a worker in a sense is repaid by society, with the fact that you are in. ... to associate themselves with the community that produces things. ... for Christian religion work is one of the first punishments that God inflicts on people. ... A big problem at the moment is income inequality. ... So you are not taught to become a worker, you are taught to become a person. /15-01-08

Stanis³aw Barañczak’s “This Is Not a Conversation for the Telephone” /15-01-08

Modern biology challenges conventional understandings of autonomy, surveillance and privacy. In short, advances in DNA science have surely placed us in some kind of brave new world ... 23andMe ... your genes are your essential, true identity. ... winning the timeless war against illness, senescence and death. ... hereditary improvement he called “eugenics,” meaning “well-born.” ... our genome isn’t ours alone: studies of the “microbiome” ... “genetic” no longer necessarily means “innate.” ... The evidence from the labs, strongly refutes genetic essentialism. ... genetic identity becomes a social construct rather than a scientific fact. ... a legion of highly profitable nonprofit universities and medical schools ... 23andMe offered both a genealogical and a health profile ... while demographic information such as age, gender and location was worth only $0.00005 per person, health information, such as specific diseases or drug prescriptions a person was taking was worth $0.26 ... Computing and genomics are rapidly merging into a single family ... Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s CEO, married Google cofounder Sergey Brin ... “biological citizenship”—communities based on health status, rather than on traditional qualities such as labor or nationality. ... iPhone and Android phones can monitor and aggregate your vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure. ... Maybe on iPhone 11 Siri will know your genome. “Given your tendency toward congestive heart failure, I’ve canceled your cable subscription, signed you up for a six-week aerobics class on Thursday nights, and switched your pizza order to a salad.” /15-01-07

God has been through a very rough patch over the last 500 years. Once the Creator and Ruler of the universe, He fell into a long and precipitous decline with the advent of modernity. ... Diderot ... Voltaire ... Marx and Bakunin ... Nietzsche ... “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. ... He thrives in the sanctuaries of private belief, religious communities, ... in theology and religious studies departments. ... He flourishes in suburban evangelical churches everywhere in North America; offers dignity and hope to the planet of slums in Kinshasa ... Pope Francis enlists Him to scourge the demons of neoliberal capitalism. ... atheism itself has proven to be “not as easy as it looks.” ... all the replacements for God have proved abortive, ... (God and the universe, he notes astutely, do not add up to two.) God is neither the metaphysical industrialist imagined by creationists, nor a claimant to ownership of the universe. ... In the coming age of political and ecological crisis, we may have no other choice but to embrace the vulnerability that comes with the eschewal of possession and domination. We may discover, contrary to the fraudulent realists, that the meek will inherit the earth. /15-01-03

artificial intelligence systems relieve us of the need to think ... making life easier for ourselves at the cost of replacing our experience of the world with something inferior. /15-01-03

2014 in science This year may be best remembered for how quickly scientific triumph morphed into disappointment, and even tragedy: breakthroughs in stem-cell research and cosmology were quickly discredited; commercial spaceflight faced major setbacks. Yet landing a probe on a comet, tracing humanity’s origins and a concerted push to understand the brain provided reasons to celebrate. ... Martian surface: Curiosity finally reached the mountain that it has been heading towards since landing in 2012 ... The search for planets beyond the Solar System also got a huge boost. ... 715 extrasolar planets ... ‘Earth twin’ ... Neanderthals ... DNA survives in non-African human genomes, thanks to ancient interbreeding, and two teams this year catalogued humans’ Neanderthal heritage. ... men who lived in southwest Siberia 45,000 years ago ... humans and Neanderthals coexisted there for much longer ... Graphene ... — the world’s thinnest and strongest — allows protons to pass through it. This suggests new applications in hydrogen fuel cells, or perhaps a membrane that can collect hydrogen from air. ... advances in nanotechnology and computing have helped to drive the emergence of ambitious projects to understand the brain. ... 2014 is likely to rank as the hottest since modern records began about 140 years ago ... Birth of first genetically engineered monkeys ... World's first commercial coal-fired power plant that capture its carbon-dioxide emission /15-01-01

Freelance workers available at a moment’s notice will reshape the nature of companies and the structure of careers ... “the Uber of X” ... The idea that having a good job means being an employee of a particular company is a legacy of a period that stretched from about 1880 to 1980. ... Everyone a corporation ... At the same time, governments will have to rethink institutions that were designed in an era when contract employers were a rarity. /14-12-30

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