What if science would provide us with new ways to handle convicted criminals? Philosopher Rebecca Roache, along with a team of scholars at the Oxford Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics, has explored ways to create sentences worthy of sadistic criminals such as Hitler: Dr. Roache’s post on the Practical Ethics blog outlines how lifespan extension could enable life sentences spanning hundreds of years, while the technology of mind uploading could be used to create a simulated sentence of 1000 years of punishment, followed by few hundred years of rehabilitation – all in the matter of a few real-time hours. Psychoactive drugs could be adminstered to slow down the inmate’s perception of time and maximize experience of monotony. Also, robot prison officers could be employed to make the prison experience as unpleasant as possible, given that employing human prison guards necessitates keeping the prison humane enough for the personnel’s well-being. (Sic.)
In the beginning of the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind, John Nash has just started postgraduate studies. Unlike his classmates, he shuns classes and coursework, preferring instead to exercise his academic freedom to spend quality time with pen and paper, trying to come up with an original idea.
We’re not all wired to become Nobel laureates like Nash, but I do suppose no sapient being can content herself with rethinking along paths already walked. Thought karaoke may be prevalent and even necessary for the development of our own ideas, much like the art school student is tasked with copying the great masters in order to learn how their paintings work. However, I believe that coming up with original ideas (even small, sympathetic ones, not necessarily Nobel-worthy ones), the task that was the hardest in the first place, has become increasingly difficult in the past decades.
When joining a gym, I measured myself up. I stepped on an InBody body composition analyzer; it looked pretty much like a scale except that it also had a handle that I was supposed to hold in the front of me for a moment while staying perfectly still. A small current of electricity was sent through my body, and bioimpedance levels revealed the amount of fat – which conducts electricity poorly – in my body. In a minute, I was shown my fat and muscle percentages with what appeared to be an astounding accuracy.
I was hooked. Soon, I was spending a great deal of my time online, researching everything from supplementation to optimal excercise regimes. I was determined to see a difference each time I stepped on the machine. Still, a part of me was wondering: whatever happened to the tape measure? Why did I get such a thrill out of knowing exactly how many calories my body consumes in rest? How come we desire such detailed information about ourselves, and why do we want to optimize results when, in the olden days, amateur sports were about having fun? Why does the whole western world seem to have an OCD, and why am I loving it?