November 1, 2003

November 2003

Thursday November 27, 2003
- On May 27, 2003, Mark Pesce, the developer of VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language), delivered a critique of transhumanism in a Stanford University course called "Quantum Theology and Future Mind" The talk was loosely based on the themes explored in Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism. In it, Pesce offers a critique of transhumanism, extropianism, and the technological singularity. Says Pesce, "The battle between 'liberal' and 'totalitarian' cultures is about to be recapitulated in another battle between 'humans' and 'transhumans.' The boundaries between the natural and the artificial are blurring, and with them, any sense of what constitutes our 'God-given' self. The ethical dilemmas bound up in any conception of transhumanism constitute the next wave of reaction; after the war against liberalism will come the war against human evolution." In his hour long talk, which is only available on MP3, he essentially characterizes transhumanism as a quasi-religious totalitarian threat, but really doesn't make a very compelling case. In actuality he seemed more concerned about the containment and management of superweapons and surveillance technologies -- something we democratic transhumanists are extremely concerned about. Interestingly, developmental singularitarian John Smart (who's on the TV04 organizing committee) and nanotechnologist K. Eric Drexler lectured to the same class in the preceding weeks.
- Michael Crichton's "quantum many worlds theory. The beauty of applying the many worlds hypothesis to a time-travel story is that you don't have to worry about paradoxes. You can kill your grandfather all you want because you're in a different time-line altogether.

- Starting this coming Monday, Dale Carrico will be joining the Betterhumans team as a columnist. His column will be called Progressive Futures, and his debut article will be called "Transformation Not Transcendence."
- I updated the Fermi Paradox article again, this time adding the 'Simulation' hypothesis.
Wednesday November 26, 2003
- A recent study claims that there are currently 1,000 times too many humans on Earth. In this study, human populations were compared with that of other species and where researchers used a statistical device known as "confidence limits" to measure what the sustainable norm should be for species populations. I have some problems with this conclusion, as does William Rees, professor of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia. Rees explained that humanity has been unusually successful, and unlike other species, humans can eat almost anything, adapt to any environment and develop technologies based on knowledge shared through written and spoken language. I believe Rees is on the right track, and I'm not sure we should be comparing our species to other mammals, or any other species for that matter. As a post-Darwinian, post-industrial, and information age society, it's hard to compare what we've accomplished and what we're doing as a species with other organisms that have had their populations regulated by natural selection and ecosystem equilibriums.
- Michael Musto wonders if Michael Jackson is guilty of more than just dysfunction.
- Tamar Lewin of the New York Times wonders about the future of marriage and its future.
- According to Evan Medeiros and M. Taylor Fravel, is starting to reflect a " more sophisticated, confident and, at times, constructive and proactive approach toward regional and global affairs."

- I created a new tribe today on
Tribe.net: The Fermi Paradox Tribe. Come join us. The Fermi Paradox refers to the realization that, given our particular time and place in the Universe, we should have evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial life, but we do not. What should we infer from this Great Silence? Why haven't we been visited by aliens? Are we alone? Are we among the very first intelligent creatures to branch out into space? Is this a bad omen for the future of intelligent life? Should we even bother to speculate about such matters? The Fermi Paradox Tribe is a place for inquisitive individuals to meet and to discuss these issues and to speculate about our place in the Universe and the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life. Tribe members are also encouraged to discuss the work at SETI, whether or not we should even be looking for extraterrestrial life, the Drake Equation, the Great Filter, and the future of intelligent life in the Universe. -- GD
- Consequently, I have updated my paper on the topic, "Reconciling the Fermi Paradox." It's nowhere near perfect, but it's a start.
- A very rough day for Betterhumans with the site being down all day. It was strictly a result of high volume, which is a nice reason for the site being down. We're now in the process of upgrading our servers, so hopefully this will never happen again.
Tuesday November 25, 2003
- James Hughes proclaims that it's high time that we reclaimed our utopian tendencies.
- The US led war on drugs has had a negative impact how the chronically ill are be treated with pain relief. The trick has always been managing the delicate balance between pain and addiction.

- It had to happen eventually, and I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner than it did: spam rage.

- Matrix: Devolutions: What began as promising and profound ended in disappointing and formulaic, highlighting Hollywood's reluctance to explore the cutting-edge in speculative fiction, by George Dvorsky
Monday November 24, 2003
- Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is on the rampage again, this time arguing that religion is not an adaptive evolutionary vestige, but in fact a cultural virus. Dawkins, who coined the term '- China is quickly losing control of Internet usage, says Guo Liang, deputy director of the Research Center for Social Development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government-supported think tank in Beijing. China established its own Internet a few years ago and was quickly dubbed the 'Great Firewall of China.' The Chinese government is trying to isolate its citizens from sites it deems offensive or politically incorrect, including sites that express dissenting political opinions, sexually suggestive material and gambling. In addition, the Chinese government has blocked users from accessing the Google search engine, and its version of Yahoo! excludes links to an array of content, including content relating to the spiritual movement Falun Gong. "You cannot control [the] Internet." said Guo, "People can receive all sorts of information. The filters cannot scan a graphic." If Guo Liang is right, and I suspect he is, it adds credence to my pet theory that totalitarianism is impossible in post-industrial and Information Age societies, and possibly even next stage societies.
- David Naiditch analyzes and scrutinizes David Wolfram's A New Kind of Science for Skeptic Magazine. According to Wolfram, the discovery that simple rules can generate complexity is "one of the more important single discoveries in the whole history of theoretical science." The reason, says Wolfram, is that it applies to everything in the universe. Computations are not just performed by the chips in our computers, but rather, every physical process, from exploding stars to water swirling down a drain, can be viewed as a series of computations or programs in which the process moves, moment by moment, from some initial state to some outcome. So instead of using equations to describe some of the regularities seen in nature’s programs, we need to examine the programs themselves. As an aside, I love the first illustration that appears with this article.
- Canadian transhumanist and friend Mark Walker has issued the first draft of his latest think-piece, "Genetic Virtue," in which he argues that we should strongly consider promoting genes that influence behavior in a manner that will encourage virtue. To boldly go where no ethicist has gone before, but to where Dr. Walker believes they should be going.
Saturday November 22, 2003
- Wired has a report about how autistic savants can offer scientists a glimpse into the remarkable potential for the human brain, including numerical and calendar calculation, artistic and musical proficiency, mechanical aptitude, and feats of memorization.
- NASA has recently outlined some of its long term plans, which includes a new orbital space plane and missions to both the moon and mars.
- MoJo on how conservatives' arguments against same-sex marriage don't cut it.
- The Village Voice has posted an absurd article by Nat Hentoff who uses a slippery slope argument to suggest that the Terri Schiavo euthanasia case sets a dangerous precedent for disabled peoples. The disabled community should be worried about the return of negative eugenics, says Hentoff, because the Schiavo incident has helped to erode the barriers to killing. "So this isn't only about Terri Schiavo," he concludes, "It could be about you."
- CSCIOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, believes that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is exercising pseudoscience and illegitimately drawing millions of dollars, while ethics and the public interest are being compromised. Among some questionable medical practices, NCCAM has convinced some that "Naessens Serum" can cure prostate cancer, that cow colostrum can cure his Lyme disease, and that bee pollen can cure hay fever.

- Reason Online's section logged the Cyborg Democracy blog today.
Thursday November 20, 2003
- A wonderful debate/discussion has been going on over at wta-talk between the WTA's James Hughes and the Extropy Institute's Max More on the politics of transhumanism, and related to Max's article on democracy and transhumanism.
- A great moment at TransVision 2003 came during the Q&A period when quantum consciousness theorist Stuart Hameroff slowly leaned into the microphone and quietly stated four simple words: "Intelligence is not consciousness." Indeed, the two concepts are often equated, and incorrectly so. To right these misconceptions Hameroff and company are organizing a conference, Toward a Science of Consciousness 2004. Check out the impressive list of speakers which includes Pinker, Dennett, and Alexander Shulgin, the developer of Ecstasy.
- Most people have heard of the precautionary principle, but how about the technological imperative? Andrew Apel spells out the various virtues of innovation in this Butterflies and Wheels article.
- Bill Joy is still worried about reckless scientists and runaway technology.
- Face transplants are just around the corner. I can already visualize the commercials: Who do you want to be today? Orlan will be jealous, but I hear that she's given up on the practice and now exclusively using CG to alter her appearance. Boring.
Wednesday November 19, 2003
- A tip of the hat to brave new Massachusetts today for legalizing same-sex marriage. Josh Levin wonders just how radical the ruling is. Excellent, our Canadian memes are infecting the Americans right on schedule.
- The GRACE Factory Farm Project has released a very cool piece of agitprop animation called "The Meatrix." Using a Matrix motif, the GRACE Flash presentation showcases the poor living conditions that factory farm livestock have to endure, while revealing questionable practices of the industry. Those involved with the GRACE project are working to eliminate factory farms in favour of "a sustainable food production system which is healthful and humane, economically viable and environmentally sound."
- The Edge has a new talk with virtual reality pioneer and transhumanist critic Jaron Lanier, "Why Gordian Software Has Convinced Me To Believe In The Reality Of Cats And Apples."
- Amartya Sen believes that democratization is not the same as westernization.
Tuesday November 18, 2003
- Wow, Gary Kasparov dominated a match against X3D Fritz on Sunday, bringing the series to one win, one loss, and a tie. My brother recently told me that grand masters are employing a new kind of strategy against The Machines: alternating meaningful moves with inexplicable ones. Apparently it throws the supercomputers off a bit. This is something computers don't have quite yet: human cunning and ingenuity. Essentially, the chess-playing computers are nothing more than number crunching behemoths who overpower their human opponents. It's like trying to have a math skills contest with a calculator. We're just not wired that way, but we do have other intelligence skills, namely self-conception and the ability to project ourselves over time which helps us to adapt to unpredictable situations. That being said, in consideration of accelerating advances in computing power, I look at each human chess victory at the championship level as possibly being the last. We live in a remarkable time in history.
- Can science go open source? Harold Varmus thinks so in a New Scientist interview.
- The Raelians are claiming that they're actively using stem cells to reverse the effects of aging. My disdain for this group grows with each passing day -- they feed off people who suffer from scientific illiteracy and those who are desperate for some hope. Speaking of dangerous cults, Simon Smith has a new column on Betterhumans about Keith Henson, a transhumanist who was driven to leave California for fear of the Scientologists. He claims that he would most likely be killed by a Scientologist bounty hunter should he dare return to the United States.
- Beware of the cyber-bullies. Come on guys, play nice.

- Jeff Patterson caught this exciting bit of news: According to a new map on prominent display at the new CBC building, Alaska is now a Canadian province. Who knew? I think this is how Canada should go about global domination: just redraw all the maps showing the world as Canada. After a few years no one will be the wiser ;-)
Monday November 17, 2003
- Max More of the Extropy Institute has written a critique of Democratic Transhumanism, which I read to be a mild and short critique of both James Hughes and the World Transhumanist Association, both of which advocate democratic and pluralistic visions of transhumanism. Hughes is the moderator of the Cyborg Democracy blog, the author of the essay, "Democratic Transhumanism," and a vocal critic of the libertarian streak that often characterizes the Extropians. After reading More's piece, I was struck with how myopic and constrained his interpretation and vision was of both democracy and transhumanism. He has completely failed to recognize the normative, self-regulating, and self-correcting aspects of functional and institutional liberal democracy, while fixating on the problem of voting and the limitations of representative democracies. For example, here in Canada, a slight majority of Canadians are opposed to same-sex marriage. Despite this, the supreme court has ruled that same-sex marriages must be honoured. Why? Because to do otherwise would be a violation of the spirit and word of the Canadian constitution. Moreover, More underestimates how democracy evolves and how its scope will continue to change as we move into posthuman form. I'm sure there will be lots more said on this particular matter in the days and weeks to come.
- Earlier this month the CIA released an unclassified document, The Darker Bioweapons Future, warning about the potential for the nefarious development of unprecedented viruses in the coming decades. A panel of outside experts told the CIA that advances in technology due to genomic research could produce the worst known diseases and the "most frightening" biological weapons. "The effects of some of these engineered biological agents could be worse than any disease known to man," the panel told the CIA. An interesting unreferenced quote from the article claimed that, "In the life sciences, we now are where information technology was in the 1960s; more than any other science, it will revolutionize the 21st century."

- A few months ago I started the agnostics tribe on Tribe.net. We've currently got 48 members with a number of active and lively discussions at any given time.
Friday November 14, 2003
- According to a new report by the Hastings Center, called "Reprogenetics and Public Policy," the United States should begin a public process leading to broader regulation of “reprogenetics,” which involves the creation, use, manipulation, or storage of gametes or embryos. The authors of the report, in addition to putting forth legitimate health concerns, are apprehensive about having the realm of human reproduction driven by market forces and influences. Reading further, however, it becomes obvious that the authors are just plain apprehensive about pending reproductive technologies in general. The report makes three recommendations: 1) that embryo research be brought out into the open by lifting the ban on federal funding, 2) that a federal commission begin a public process leading to legislative recommendations to Congress, and 3) that Congress consider creating a permanent regulatory board to oversee reprogenetic technology. As an interesting aside, Lee M. Silver, who coined the term "reprogenetics" and is a professor of molecular biology and public affairs at Princeton University, commented that the authors of the report confused issues of safety and morality. “It looks like they are chasing a problem that doesn't exist,” he said. “We can all agree on the safety issue, and we can treat it like we treat any other experimental medical technology, but once you get beyond that, they are talking about something very, very different.”
- Eugenic China has passed a law banning single women from getting pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
- Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh is teaching mindfulness meditation to police officers in Madison, Wisconsin to help them cope with their work. However, members of Americans United for the Separation Between Church and State are taking issue with the retreats, claiming that the practice of mindfulness is 'Buddhist religion' and noting that the retreat was led by a Buddhist monk.
- Controversial personhood ethicist and animal rights activist, Peter Singer, recently addressed students at Princeton and told them that they should re-evaluate their ethical stances, including eating meat. Singer asked the Princeton students, "What is it that entitles us to treat nonhuman animals as badly as we do?" He also acknowledged that, while we all know that we have to eat something, "there are organically produced alternatives available to us."
- Transsexual Deirdre McCloskey beautifully rips apart J. Michael Bailey and his stunningly irresponsible and misguided book on transsexuals, The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism. You go, girl. While McCloskey combats the myopic Christian sex ethic on Reason, the Village Voice discusses Catholic gays who are acting up.
- The U.S. National Research Council report recommends that scientists self-censor. This type of self-policing is intended to prevent terrorists from learning cutting-edge biotech information, putting life scientists face-to-face with the prospect that the broad freedoms they've traditionally enjoyed could be constricted. The report: "Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism: Confronting the "Dual Use" Dilemma, Committee on Research Standards and Practices to Prevent the Destructive Application of Biotechnology," the National Research Council, Washington DC: National Academies Press, Oct. 8, 2003.
- Nature is reporting a new survey that revises down the likelihood of a massive asteroid hitting the Earth by 20 to 30%. We're only due to collide with rocks larger than one kilometer across roughly once every 600,000 years. This is interesting from a developmental singularitarian perspective, some of whose proponents contend that a characteristic of a mature universe, or one that's close to the singularity point, has settled down to the point where celestial collisions happen with great infrequency, allowing intelligence to evolve across the universe in a uniform fashion and at a similar phase in the universe's history.
- Kenneth Silber of Tech Central Station has an article about our lonely planet and echo's David Grinspoon, who delves into some funky and problematic Gaia thinking and conveniently chooses to ignore some of the more profound issues brought up by the Fermi Paradox. Also over at TCS, Glen Harlan Reynolds ponders the age of robotic automation and the burgeoning unemployment issue. Relax, says Reynolds, we have nothing to fear; in fact, he says we should -- to paraphrase Kent Brockman of The Simpsons -- welcome our new robotic employees.
- Richard Carrigan, Jr., a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois contends that we should think about decontaminating potential SETI signals for risk of computer-like viruses. This "SETI Hacker" hypothesis is "an issue of interstellar discourse that should be taken seriously. We should exercise caution when handling SETI downloads."
- Professor David Christian's History 100 course starts at the very beginning. No, not the beginning of recorded human history, but at the Big Bang itself. David Vakoch of SETI discusses Christian's course in his article, "Our Place in the Cosmos: Big History and the Stories of Science."
- It's possible that global warming could actually trigger an ice age.
- Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian declares that Michael Moore is the opiate of the (left-wing) masses, who really says nothing on behalf of the progressives. Hear, hear. Says Freedland: "First, it may come naturally to the right wing to have guru figures such as American shock-jock Rush Limbaugh, with his legions of "dittohead" followers. But the bow-down homage to Moore that precedes each audience question, coupled with Moore's own bragging about his phenomenal book sales and website traffic, feels incongruous for a gathering of the left. Second, what Moore serves up is political comfort food. There's no shame in that: he's trying to reach the masses turned off by politics. But the audience, lapping up a black-and-white view of the world in which lefties like them are goodies and everyone else is stupid, cannot let themselves off so easily."
- David Wesel wonders about the paradox of progress and why the U.S. is such a "Sad Little Rich Country" in Washington Monthly.
- A RAND study finds that entertainment TV can help teach teens responsible sex messages.

- Hysterically funny Onion article: "Mom Finds Out About Blog." As usual, the Onion hits the nail on the head. What's funny is that my mom reads my blog. Hi mom! Sorry, no personal information on this site ;-)
Wednesday November 12, 2003
- The UK is poised to ban parents from choosing the gender of their children for social reasons in consideration of a report from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) which advises the government. A spokeswoman for the HFEA said, "We are not persuaded that the likely benefits of permitting sex selection for social reasons are strong enough to outweigh the possible harm that might be done."
- As part of that New York Times anniversary special, Gina Kolata wonders if we can live forever.
- Richard Smith, a Democrat from Buffalo, is pushing for legislation to be passed in the state of New York that could define certain animal rights and environmental groups as terrorist organizations. New York is one of several states considering similar legislation.
- A Canadian after protesting near the home of his three children in Burlington, Ontario. The man is a member of a group called Ex-Fathers that advocates for changes to custody and child support laws and feel that current regulations unfairly benefit mothers in custody issues where the parents are separated or divorced.
- Should we be worried about microbial invaders from space? NASA seems to think so.
Tuesday November 11, 2003
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States has launched a program called Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health, or REACH, as part of a plan to help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in six key areas of health by the year 2010. The first phase of the REACH plan involves community coalitions throughout the country that have been awarded one-year planning grants " to support the development of science-based community interventions." Organizers are hoping to prevent and treat six primary conditions: infant mortality, breast and cervical cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes, HIV disease, and immunizations. The social hardships and inequities that contribute to variances in the overall health of different racial and ethnic groups is interesting in light of a recent Scientific American article that asks if race even exists.
- In a New York Times anniversary special, George Johnson wonders if science will ever prove the existence of God, Carol Kaesuk Yoon wonders if evolution is truly random, and Nicholas Wade wonders if we should improve upon our genome. My answers: maybe, no -- only mutations are random, and yes.
- The United Nations voted 80-79 to defer for two years a US-led campaign for a comprehensive ban on human cloning, including therapeutic cloning. Interestingly, the deferment motion was introduced by Iran on behalf of 57 Islamic nations, who do not recognize that personhood begins at conception and therefore are willing to permit the use of embryos for research.
- About 100 Harvard administrators gathered on November 4 to discuss cloning, genetic engineering, and sex selection of children. In answer to the question of should we or shouldn't we, they answered with a resounding "maybe."
- Jesse Walker of Reason Online compares Matrix: Revolutions to "an over-the-hill pop star recycling someone else's material—the sort of music you'd hear on a Michelob commercial, circa 1987." I guess he didn't like it. Well, did anybody? At least his review is interesting. And over at TCS, James Pinkerton believes that technology is ruining movies.
- Rabies has killed 312 people in the Guangxi region of south China since January, according to the regional department of health. My father once told me a story about how in the old days in what is now Slovakia it was not uncommon to hear of a rabid man going berserk in his village, sometimes with an axe. I can only imagine the terrible scenes that might have taken place in China with people suffering from something as horrible as rabies.

- New Sentient Developments article: Better Living Through Transhumanism: More than just a philosophy and social movement, transhumanism is for many a way of life, by George Dvorsky
- Betterhumans' columns and features are now being indexed by Google News.
- The lunar eclipse on Saturday night was unbelievably cool.
Monday November 10, 2003
My apologies for the brief hiatus. I've been extremely busy these days and a little under the weather.
- It's becoming increasingly obvious that people want more control over their reproductive processes. More and more people are taking advantage of what new fertility technologies have to offer. The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the use of fertility treatment to help parents select the sex of their child is on the increase. Their statistics reveal that couples are prepared to pay up to $14,000 for the chance of having pre-selected babies. In Sydney, one clinic noted that the number of parents being offered IVF to screen the sex of their unborn child increased four-fold in three years, while last year alone 120 couples used Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) at Sydney IVF to select the gender of their child for what are being called purely social reasons.
- Howard Lovy of NanoBot caught this new book, Nanotechnology and Homeland Security: New Weapons for New Wars. This book, says R. Stanley Williams, HP Senior Fellow, Hewlett-Packard Labs "is as much a blow against ignorance and hype as it is a primer for how real nanotechnology should contribute to our future society."
- Brain signals from paralyzed or injured people can be captured by a computer and the resultant gains in communication and movement may soon become a reality for these patients in their daily lives.
- Ronald Bailey wonders if eating cloned beef is good for you.
- You can now do Google searches without opening a Web browser. Check out the new Google Deskbar.
- I picked up a great CD last weekend, Deloused In The Comatorium by The Mars Volta.
- I saw Matrix: Revolutions on opening night, and yes, it disappointed. It was visually spectacular, however.
Wednesday November 05, 2003
- James Hughes posted a rather disturbing item on the Cyborg Democracy blog today: Lev Navarov, a Russian futurist interested in military affairs, in an interview from late September predicted that a future totalitarian China will seek world domination through nanowarfare, which he categorizes as post-nuclear superweapons. I'm not sure China can maintain its authoritarian/totalitarian grip as it heads deeper into the Information Age, so I'm a little skeptical. However, I am quite sure that a race to develop these weapons will transpire. I also predict a race to develop to the first artificial superintelligence. Unless, of course, we put an end to this nonsense of nation-states and work on creating a democratic global governance. End of history, my butt.
- Nigerians are suspicious of getting their polio shots. Apparently, there's an insidious meme going around about how the polio shots are actually a way for the United States government to sterilize a significant portion of the country's citizens to prevent overpopulation. The article goes into some detail about this, and while I'm largely skeptical, it's a bizarre thought.
- A recent study has revealed that 40% of Canadian women with breast implants want them out because of complications. Obviously, that's pretty high, a figure that surprised even the researchers. The study also found that women who had breast implants were also more likely to visit doctors and specialists and were four times more likely to be hospitalized than women without the devices. It's estimated that over 200,000 women in Canada have breast implants, of which about 80% are performed for cosmetic augmentation, the remainder for reconstruction following breast-cancer surgery. As an enhancement technology, these procedures are not covered by Canadian healthcare. However, resultant complications can be covered by the health plan; as enhancement and cosmetic technologies increase in popularity over the next few years and decades, look for this to become a major issue in Canada.
- Marek Rejman-Greene, a senior consultant at BTexact's security technologies group, warns that companies and organizations that are keen to implement biometric systems may face opposition from some users who are afraid that they could be a health risk.
- Nutrigenomics is a way to help people tailor their diets to emphasize certain nutrients and food combinations in a more personalized way than the standard food pyramid.
- Individuals who have a high income are less likely of getting mentally sick than individuals who have a low income. In a study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the numbers indicate that among people who have low income, 17% of the men and 16% of the women have psychological health problems, while the corresponding numbers for people who have a high income are six and ten percent.
- Skeptic Michael Sherman is interviewed about his upcoming book on conceptions of good and evil.

- New Sentient Developments article: a book review of Robert Pepperell's the Posthuman Condition: Consciousness Beyond the Brain, reviewed by George Dvorsky
Tuesday November 04, 2003
- A Stascan study released today revealed that teens who have at least one obese parent are at a greater risk of obesity themselves. In a study of more than 9,700 Canadian youths, it was discovered that children mirror the actions of their parents and that "aside from weight, other parental habits were associated with that of their children," including "physical activity, smoking and eating habits." Among girls ages 12 to 19 who lived with an obese parent, 18% were overweight, and 10% were obese. In boys of the same age group, 22% were overweight and 12% were obese. It also found that youths ages 12 to 19 whose parents reported that they were inactive, were often inactive themselves. In another Stascan release today, it was revealed that cigarette sales were down 10% from last year. That's a significant decrease, and partly due to stricter laws regulating where people can and cannot smoke.
- A study conducted by RAND and UCLA discovered that Americans aged 65 and older with health problems that make them vulnerable to losing their independence and ability to carry out daily activities fail to receive recommended medical care for age-related conditions about two-thirds of the time.
- Theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman is interviewed by the Edge this month. Kauffman has some interesting ideas about life, how it should be defined, and how it came about in the first place. One of his big things is that life, by his standards, as an "autonomous agent" must both reproduce itself and do at least one thermodynamic work cycle. "It turns out," says Kauffman, "that this is true of all free-living cells, excepting weird special cases. They all do work cycles, just like the bacterium spinning its flagellum as it swims up the glucose gradient. The cells in your body are busy doing work cycles all the time."
- Nick Sagan, son of Carl Sagan, has released a cyberpunk Sci-Fi novel called Idlewild.
- Leading experts in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence at the SETI Institute recently completed the most systematic calculations ever performed on when the human race is likely to contact intelligent alien life. They concluded that the discovery of alien life may be possible within the next 22 years, and it is likely to end up being a form of artificial superintelligence rather than anything biological.
- The Longevity Meme newsletter for November has been posted.
- Denis Dutton has released a new book, Darwin and Political Theory.

- I bought the Rush: Live in Rio DVD on the weekend. Sweet. I got to see them on this particular tour when they kicked it all off in Toronto. Funny, I'm watching the DVD as I'm writing this, and they're currently playing Natural Science.
- Jeff Patterson of Gravity Lens caught this hilarious article by Grant Stoddard who participated in a threesome -- all in the name of science.