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The Spawn of Frankenstein: Fear of the Unknown

It’s not the strange­ness of new tech­nolo­gies that fright­ens us but the way tech­nol­o­gy threat­ens to make us strangers to our­selves. In a semi-Freudian spir­it, then, I’d like to pro­pose that where Frankenstein and its spawn are con­cerned, our fear of the unknown may real­ly be about our dis­com­fort with know­ing.

The Spawn of Frankenstein: It’s Alive

Mary Shelley’s nov­el has been an incred­i­bly suc­cess­ful mod­ern myth. And so this con­ver­sa­tion today is not just about what hap­pened 200 years ago, but the remark­able ways in which that moment and that set of ideas has con­tin­ued to per­co­late and evolve and reform in cul­ture, in tech­no­log­i­cal research, in ethics, since then.

Mythophysics of the New Normal

The future is on the whole a won­der­ful thing because it will bring us new things that we haven’t seen before. And that’s why we stick around.

The Conversation #42 — Gary L. Francione

The best jus­ti­fi­ca­tion we have for killing fifty-six, fifty-seven, what­ev­er bil­lion land ani­mals and a tril­lion sea ani­mals every year is that they taste good. And so, in a sense how is this any dif­fer­ent from Michael Vick, who likes to sit around a pit watch­ing dogs fight, or at least he used to?

Forbidden Research: Messing with Nature Part II: Climate

Solar geo­engi­neer­ing rests on a sim­ple idea that it is tech­ni­cal­ly pos­si­ble to make the Earth a lit­tle more reflec­tive so that it absorbs a lit­tle less sun­light, which would part­ly coun­ter­act some of the risks that come from accu­mu­lat­ing car­bon diox­ide in the atmos­phere. When I say tech­ni­cal­ly pos­si­ble, it appears that at least doing this in a crude way is actu­al­ly easy, in the sense that it could be done with com­mer­cial off-the-shelf tech­nolo­gies now, and it could be done at a cost that is real­ly triv­ial, sort of a part in a thou­sand or a part in ten thou­sand of glob­al GDP.

The Conversation #31 — Claire Evans

I think if there are peo­ple who are able to take a step back­wards, take that prover­bial zoom out, and real­ize that everybody’s kind of doing the same thing in dif­fer­ent ways, and be able to step from one per­spec­tive to the oth­er and ask dif­fer­ent kinds of ques­tions based on where they are at any giv­en moment time, then it just becomes a game. I think it becomes joy­ful and engag­ing. I mean, I’m not inter­est­ed in find­ing the answer to any­thing. I don’t think there is the answer to any­thing.

The Conversation #25 — Frances Whitehead

Some of my artist friends think what I’m doing isn’t art, and I’ve giv­en up on art. It’ll take care of itself. You know. I mean it’s always been there, it will always be there, and we always know that new art nev­er looks like art at first, ever. So why should this be any dif­fer­ent? We just have to trust the process. And I would say that must be true for every oth­er dis­ci­pline.

The Conversation #23 — Carolyn Raffensperger

When the pub­lic can­not prove that the oil com­pa­ny is going to cause dam­age, then we’re not allowed to say, Nevertheless, the risk is not accept­able.” So we have turned it over, the deci­sion, to the expert. We have tak­en it out of the hands of the com­mu­ni­ty. And then when we say we want com­mu­ni­ty input, we hold a pub­lic hear­ing, and the experts sit up at a table. And then the grand­moth­er who does not have a grad­u­ate degree, she’s not allowed to say, Here’s what I’ve seen. Here is what’s hap­pened in my com­mu­ni­ty. And that’s not accept­able.” Her view is not tak­en because she’s not an expert. And so we’ve tak­en away the right for self deter­mi­na­tion and for com­mu­ni­ty deter­mi­na­tion.

The Conversation #8 — Chris McKay

Everything we know about bio­log­i­cal sci­ences, med­i­cine, agri­cul­ture, dis­ease, what­ev­er, is based on study­ing one exam­ple of life. Life on Earth. Life as we know it. If we find anoth­er exam­ple that’s dif­fer­ent, a sec­ond gen­e­sis, and inde­pen­dent ori­gin of life, com­par­ing those two might enable us to answer ques­tions that we would nev­er be able to answer if we only had one exam­ple to study. That could pro­vide prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits for humans as well as bet­ter under­stand­ing of how to man­age ecosys­tems, etc.

Hacking Space Exploration and Science

Hacking sci­ence and space explo­ration isn’t just about get­ting excit­ed and mak­ing things. But it’s about get­ting excit­ed and mak­ing dis­rup­tive­ly acces­si­ble things. Things that real­ly dis­rupt the cur­rent state of sci­ence and a lot of the elit­ism around it, and tru­ly make it acces­si­ble for every­one.

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