Equally Smart, part II: Egalitarian Approaches for Embracing Enhanced Intelligence

This is the second part of a two-part piece on Rawls, Cohen and enhanced intelligence. In the first post, I outlined how enhanced intelligence and socioeconomical stratification are linked, and applied Rawls’ difference principle, and Cohen’s critique of it, on the issue at hand. This post introduces five enhancement distribution schemes that are compatible with the difference principle. Some of these schemes are even acceptable by Cohen’s egalitarian standards.

Egalitarian Approaches for Embracing Enhanced Intelligence

In the previous post, I discussed the question of whether enhancements only available to the elite can constitute an improvement in light of the difference principle. Perhaps intelligence enhancements, even if restricted to the wealthy, would benefit the whole society, for example if the enhanced would find ways to act in order to remove world hunger. On the other hand, could intelligence further alienate the elite from the masses, diminishing the empathy they feel for the underprivileged? I find both equally unlikely: there is no reason to assume that increased intelligence would increase empathy or sense of social duty, but neither is there any reason to assume it would diminish them.

In this post, I will offer five sketches for strategies of accepting intelligence enhancements while staying mindful of social inequalities. Some of them are stronger or more feasible than others, some require very specific circumstances; all of them are compatible with Rawls’ difference principle, and some even respond to Cohen’s concerns. I will start with schemes of adopting enhancements for a limited group of people for a number of reasons: first, any medical enhancement technique should be initially applied only to a limited number of subjects for obvious safety reasons. Secondly, should the enhancement be too costly to reach the whole population, or should it, for example, require a difficult surgery, its availability thereby being limited by the number of competent surgeons, widespread adoption of the enhancement could be beyond our means.

Meanwhile, should the enhancement be easy to administer, eventual universal availability is only a question of distribution. I will discuss widespread enhancement towards the end of this post.

Continue reading Equally Smart, part II: Egalitarian Approaches for Embracing Enhanced Intelligence

Equally Smart: Intelligence Enhancement, the Difference Principle and Egalitarianism, Part I

This is the first part of a two-part piece on Rawls, Cohen and enhanced intelligence. In this post, I will introduce the issue at hand: how are enhanced intelligence and socioeconomical stratification linked? What light do Rawls’ difference principle, and Cohen’s critique of it, shed on the issue? The second post will concern five enhancement distribution schemes, compatible with the difference principle.

Part 1: Smart Technology

Less traffic accidents. Increased GNP. Get rid of cognitive biases. Enjoy better art more profoundly. The alleged benefits of enhancing intelligence have allure, both in the lives of individuals and at a population level. But will intelligence enhancements remain a luxury, too costly for the masses to use? Would enhancement technologies inevitably inevitably lead to further stratification, or could their use improve the welfare of the worst off?

Continue reading Equally Smart: Intelligence Enhancement, the Difference Principle and Egalitarianism, Part I

What do we talk about when we talk about enhanced punishments?

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.)

Continue reading What do we talk about when we talk about enhanced punishments?

A Thought of One’s Own: Creative Thinking in the Age of Media Consumerism

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.

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Hacking the Self: Are Life Hacking and QS Perfectionist Self-Sabotage or Superhuman Self-Realization?

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?

Continue reading Hacking the Self: Are Life Hacking and QS Perfectionist Self-Sabotage or Superhuman Self-Realization?