The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
The political economy of a universal basic income: "your view of what is feasible should not be backwards looking. The normalization of gay marriage and legalization of marijuana seemed utopian and politically impossible until very recently. Yet in fact those developments are happening, and their expansion is almost inevitable given the demographics of ideology... UBI — defined precisely as periodic transfers of identical fixed dollar amounts to all citizens of the polity — is by far the most probable and politically achievable among policies that might effectively address problems of inequality, socioeconomic fragmentation, and economic stagnation." [more inside]
- Welfare economics: an introduction
- The perils of Potential Pareto
- Inequality, production, and technology
- Welfare theorems, distribution priority, and market clearing
- Normative is performative, not positive
The VR Chicken Matrix: "a virtual chicken world in which caged animals think they're wandering happily around in the open... got me thinking again about Facebook's recent purchase of Oculus VR."
Digital and genetic techniques increasingly influence life. Our belief in progress through technology stands in the way of a moral debate on this development. ~ by Rinie van Est
"Premature babies born at the edge of viability force us to debate the most difficult questions in medicine and in life. After just 23 weeks of pregnancy, Kelley Benham found herself in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with a daughter born so early neonatologist doctors would call her a "micro preemie." New technologies can sometimes keep micro preemies alive, but many end up disabled, some catastrophically so. Whether to provide care to these infants is one of the fundamental controversies in neonatology. This is the story of how Benham and her husband, Tom French, made the difficult choice: Fight for the life of their micro preemie baby or let her go?" [more inside]
In Praise of Leisure - "Imagine a world in which most people worked only 15 hours a week. They would be paid as much as, or even more than, they now are, because the fruits of their labor would be distributed more evenly across society. Leisure would occupy far more of their waking hours than work. It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called 'Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.' Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all... He thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years — that is, by 2030." (via) [more inside]
Dead Ringers: the Science Museum asks us the question "should we upgrade our mobile phone?" "No" and "no" say the Times and the Observer, but we still do: on average every 18 months. What's the problem? Well it isn't just the lead, arsenic, beryllium and brominated fire-retardant cases (pollutants all) disappearing into our land fills (which are not covered by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive [WEEE] in Europe). Coltan also goes into our phones. It occurs mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as such our demand for upgrades has been contributing to a war (despite mobile phone companies' claims to the contrary, coltan is not regulated like timber). If we must upgrade, we can at least recycle or hack our old phones.
Bill Joy thinks the world will end unless we stop doing certain kinds of research right now. I think Bill Joy is full of crap, but he has valid points. (More inside)
Now here's a doozy of an ethical dilemma. Sometimes technology creates ethical problems, or un-solves ones we had previously solved. I'd be interested in how people answer the question posed in the title. Hmm?