Sunday, March 30, 2014

Personhood Beyond the Human: the Subjectivation Scale of Future Persons

Philosophical concepts are useful for considering a potentially diverse landscape of future persons.

One important question is subjectivation – how individuals form and what constitutes an individual. The less helpful approach is focusing on classification and definition which is discriminatory and doomed to death by detail. A more fruitful approach is Simondon’s theory of individuation.

For Simondon, the current and future world is an environment of dynamic processes like individuation. Individuals participate in but do not cause individuation. Most importantly, individuals exist on a spectrum of capacity for action with other living beings including animals, human persons, and possibly a variety of future persons.

‘Capacity for action’ (a Spinoza-inspired concept) is crucial because it focuses on degrees of capability (related to a particular quality or skill) as opposed to underlying nature. Capacity for action has all of the possibility and mobility of a future-looking frame, and none of the fixity and discrimination of classification.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Big Data becomes Personal: Knowledge into Meaning

One of the most significant shifts in the contemporary world is the trend towards obtaining and analyzing ‘big data’ in nearly every venue of life.

However, one of the biggest outstanding challenges is turning these large volumes of impersonal quantitative data into qualitative information that can impact the quality of life of the individual in a multiplicity of areas such as happiness, well-being, goal achievement, stress reduction, and overall life satisfaction.

For this reason, I have helped to organize the AAAI Spring Symposium this week (Big data becomes personal: knowledge into meaning) at Stanford March 24-26 to explore exactly this question of turning personal data into meaning as related in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Turning big data into personal meaning.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Post-Human Biocitizen

We find ourselves in a world with a frenetic pace of life sciences bio-innovation emanating from institutional science, startups, and community biolabs. New possibilities abound in a wide range of areas including  personal genomics, regenerative medicine, cellular therapies, anti-aging, microfluidic chips, quantified self tracking devices and apps, Google Glass, Google diabetes monitoring contacts, brain fitness training, wearable computing, IoT, and cognitive enhancement techniques.

At a higher level, two main themes emerging from this bio-innovation are:
1) what is happening with ourselves as human subjects
2) what is happening regarding data

The human subject is in the process of evolving into a biocitzen, being at the center of health optimization action-taking with a layer of quantified self-tracking gadgetry as a first line of defense, then a layer of preventive medicine health intermediaries (like genomic counselors) and peer collaborators in health social networks and community biolabs, and finally traditional public health services as final line of defense. 

Data's role is transforming even more quickly than the emerging biocitizen where the possibility of collecting, integrating, and sharing huge volumes of health data streams is now possible and required for the destigmatization of health issues and realization of preventive medicine. There are four main data streams to integrate: all of the omics (e.g.; genomics, metaboliomics, etc.), traditional health, quantified self-tracking gadgetry (wearables), and personal internet-of-things (e.g.; smart car, smart home). There is an important need to extend the concept of privacy and rethink the attendant rights and responsibilities of data regimes, quick likely with the advent of protective data intermediary services.

YouTube Video: The Post-Human Biocitizen

Presentation (en français): The Post-Human Biocitizen
Video (en français): Les personnes futures comme biocitoyens

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Correcting Cognitive Bias with Nanocognition, Machine Ethics Interfaces, and an Ethics of Reality

Along with the potential future possibility of changing our perceptual apparatus through nanocognition (nanorobot-aided cognition), comes an increased awareness of the many ways in which we are currently biased due to evolution and sociality.

There is the level of basic biology where nature’s evolutionary requirements filter, order, and hierarchialize the overwhelming amount of input data before it is routed to our cognitive circuits. Likewise, culture and society put a lens on our perception from an individual and group dynamics perspective in the form of attunement to power relations, social conditioning, status-garnering, mate selection, and gender-performing.

With the creation of machine ethics interfaces, we could have the ability to adjust for these built-in biases. It could be possible to choose different kinds of perceptual realities, and this then implies that there should be a philosophical consideration of an Ethics of Reality. An ethics of reality can address questions like: even if we can obtain access to some sort of objective external reality, is it more ethical to see raw reality the way we do now with evolutionary biases or is it more ethical to see a bias-corrected version? One imaginable result is the construction of a transhumanist viewpoint that it is unethical to experience raw reality because it is inhumane, unproductive, or perceptually harmful.

YouTube Video: Machine Ethics Interfaces

Nanocognition Series:

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Illiberty in Biohacking, Personal Data Rights, Neuro-diversity, and the Automation Economy

Illiberty is a new concept that describes the notion of a lack of liberty. In one way it is strange that a word for the opposite of liberty and freedom does not exist given how strongly these ideals feature in social, political, and cultural life. However, illiberty is quite subtle; it does not have the bluntness of the freedom-slavery opposition. Illiberty is the sense of a lack of liberty, particularly where there should be liberty. The justice-injustice pairing is similar to the liberty-illiberty relation.

As individuals, we continue to wake up to higher levels of consciousness in constituting ourselves as subjects, and now is the time to develop an awareness and response for new situations of illiberty.

Illiberty extends the familiar equity, social justice, privilege, and access struggles and covers a larger conceptual ground. Here are some new cases of illiberty, many of which we may be unaware: 
  • Labor Rights: Mind liberation from working in the corporation, working for others
  • Personal Data Rights: rights and responsibilities conferred upon personal data, especially big health science data streams: personal genome data, pacemaker data, biometric data, quantified self-tracking gadgetry data, neuro-data streams
  • Citizen Scientist Rights: Non-institutional conduct of scientific research, biorights, biohacking, the biocitizen, community labs
  • Neural Rights: Neurodiversity, ASD (autism spectrum disorder), introversion, mind emancipation 
  • Economic Rights: Basic income guarantee (JET Vol 24, Issue 1), automation economy, post-scarcity economy
  • Augmentation Rights: Rights and responsibilities of augmented persons
Illiberty Studies – Research Agenda 
  1. Develop the illiberty concept drawing on: Derrida (democracy to come – inherent illiberty in the conceptualization of liberty), Rancière (emancipation), de Soto (responsibility-taking maturation), Dussel (liberty recast as liberation), Foucault (self-imposed disciplinary power) and Deleuze (micro-fascisms in one’s own thinking). 
  2. Identify the conceptual shifts and argument structure in the historical development of equality philosophies (decolonialism, feminism, queer theory, transgender, marriage equality, neurodiversity, polyamory) 
Illiberty Working Group