Monday, 30 May 2011

The Ethics of Transhumanism

The popular TV series Heroes depicts a group of people who have evolved to have special abilities, like the ability to fly and telepathy.  In the show, characters with superpowers are ostracised by society when people think they would use their superpowers to hurt people.  This is in line with other stories in popular culture, where people with special abilities have often been portrayed crudely as either superheroes or villains.

But many ordinary people out there have “superpowers” already thanks to mechanical or technological enhancements.  They are real-life cyborgs, defined as a being with both biological and artificial (e.g. electronic, mechanical or robotic) parts.  And what’s more, with our growing reliance on technology, we all seem to be well on our way to becoming cyborgs.  What kind of ethical dilemmas might this bring to our society? 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Life in the Cloud

Ever fancied having a hot girlfriend who simply adores you? She’d write loving messages on your Facebook wall for all to see and tweet sweet nothings to you all day long. She’d never nag and you’d never have to deal with her issues. You’d also never actually meet her, because, er, she would live in the cloud!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Can suicides ever be ethically acceptable?

Fans of the TV show Futurama may remember the Suicide Booth, which, for 25 cents, will let you kill yourself, with the choice of “quick and painless” or “slow and horrible.” Of course, the concept is ridiculous and disconcerting and has been created for comic effect. Or has it?

Check out the “Deliverance Machine,” which asks the patient a series of questions and automatically administers a lethal injection if the correct answers are made. The system and questions are so constructed that the supplier of the machine cannot be held responsible for ending the life of the patient, who takes responsibility by operating it. Four people killed themselves in Australia using the Deliverance Machine before the law allowing this was repealed. (The machine is now on display in the British Science Museum.)

So do people have a right to end their own lives?

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Future of Love

Would you trust your genes to tell you whom you should fall in love with?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

A Tale of Gamification

“John! John! John! John!”

100,000 people were chanting his name. The sound shook the whole stadium and swallowed John. This is what God must feel like, he thought as he stepped into the spotlight amidst wild cheering.

“Wow, thanks, guys,” He began his prepared speech with a smirk. “Player Of The Year, again. Is it really that hard to beat me?”

The crowd chuckled and clapped. John had them eating out of his hands. As he joked and bantered his way through his speech and stepped down from the podium to thunderous applause, he felt dirty and tired, like a lung after a pack of chain-smoked cigarettes.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Gamification of Life

'Gamification' – defined as the building of game mechanics into a website or service as a way to increase user engagement – is a trendy topic. But many companies and services have been using it for years, intentionally or not, and no wonder - building game mechanics into a service can make it more fun, compelling and addictive.

Check-in services like Foursquare and GoMiso allow users to earn badges and points for doing things they would normally do anyway, like being at work and watching TV shows, and makes the experience social. However, so-called ‘serious games’ are now being designed “for purposes beyond pure entertainment – for example to promote social change, as a teaching tool, to encourage healthier living, for technical training, or to market a product.”

This means game mechanics can be used for good, but it could also be used for social engineering and to manipulate people into certain behaviours at work, in schools, supermarkets… basically, everywhere. Such application of game mechanics to our day-to-day life and experiences have fundamental ethical implications.

Monday, 15 November 2010

4 Ethically Questionable Advertising Practices You Should Think About

Disclaimer: this post isn’t strictly about future ethics, but it’s a subject that I feel passionate about so I’ve written a post. Hope you still enjoy it :)
Can you imagine a world without adverts? Personally, I find it quite hard to do so as advertising is omnipresent in our lives: on billboards, on websites we visit, on TV, radio, email, magazines, music-streaming services, in films, in texts we receive on our phones…  What's more, advertisers are constantly finding new ways of advertising to us using new technologies and platforms. This video of a dystopian ad-filled future may seem unlikely, but all the more scary because it's not so implausible:

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

Ads are ubiquitous because they fund a lot of our day-to-day activities, such as search, email and social networking. They also pay for commercial TV, radio and web content. But that doesn’t mean we’re getting these things for free. Every time an advertiser pays for something in cash on our behalf, we pay them back with our data and attention. And often, consumers are not given any choice in whether to pay in cash or data/attention. Fair enough, you might say. The content providers decide on the terms of payment. But what if you don’t want to pay with your data or attention? What alternatives are there? Not much.