Tag Archives: science-

‘Superintelligence’ enjoyable read | Community …

Posted: July 29, 2016 at 3:15 am

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. 390 pages, $29.95.

Machines matching humans in general intelligence that is, possessing common sense and an effective ability to learn, reason and plan to meet complex information-processing challenges across a wide range of natural and abstract domains have been expected since the invention of computers in the 1940s, Nick Bostrom explains near the beginning of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, his new treatise on the evolving capabilities of the digital-networked devices we have at our disposal. At that time, the advent of such machines was often placed some 20 years into the future. Since then, the expected arrival date has been receding at a rate of one year per year; so that today, futurists who concern themselves with the possibility of artificial general intelligence still often believe that intelligent machines are a couple of decades away. …

From the fact that some individuals have overpredicted artificial intelligence in the past, however, it does not follow that AI is impossible or will never be developed, he continues. The main reason why progress has been slower than expected is that the technical difficulties of constructing intelligent machines have proved greater than the pioneers foresaw. But this leaves open just how great those difficulties are and how far we now are from overcoming them. Sometimes a problem that initially looks hopelessly complicated turns out to have a surprisingly simple solution (though the reverse is probably more common.

As you may have surmised, this is definitely one of those books that challenges you to think at a deeper level one that most of us are capable of but seldom do as we spend most of our time caught up in the minutia of everyday life. In that sense, I found this volume oddly inspiring in an existential sort of way. Unlike Ray Kurzweil, however, an author who explores similar themes (I reviewed Kurzweils 2012 book, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, in the Daily News back on March 31, 2013), Bostrom does not have a similar gift for breaking down multifaceted concepts into prose accessible by those without at least a rudimentary background in neuroscience and the myriad of related fields germane to artificial intelligence.

Superintelligence is extensively researched, with 44 pages of source notes at the conclusion of the 15 chapters comprising the main narrative. Full disclosure: I struggled to get through many sections of the book. Whereas I am usually a pretty fast reader, this one took me considerably longer to digest than is typically the case. Again and again, I had to reread entire portions of the text, and I often had to Google the terminology Bostrom employs to get a better sense of what he was describing and how it all fits into his overarching thesis. But in the final analysis, it was worth the extra effort. For example, reflect on this excerpt from Paths to Superintelligence, the second chapter and one I found especially intriguing:Another conceivable path to superintelligence is through the gradual enhancement of networks and organizations that link individual human minds with one another and with various artifacts and bots. The idea here is not that this would enhance the intellectual capacity of individuals enough to make them superintelligence, but rather that some system composed of individuals thus networked and organized might attain a form of superintelligence. Humanity has gained enormously in collective intelligence over the course of history and prehistory. The gains come from many sources, including innovations in communications technology, such as writing and printing, and above all the introduction of language itself; increases in the size of the world population and the density of habitation; various improvements in organizational techniques and epistemic norms; and a gradual accumulation of institutional capital.

Bostrom is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Oxford University, where he is also the founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute, a multidisciplinary research center that enables a set of exceptional mathematicians, philosophers and scientists to think about global priorities and big questions for humanity. Moreover, he directs the Strategic Artificial Intelligence Research Center. After studying physics and neuroscience at Kings College, he earned his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. Previous books include Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy and Human Enhancement, which he co-edited with Julian Savulescu. Interestingly, when he was younger he did stand-up comedy on the London pub and theatre circuit.

More than anything, Superintelligence is extremely thought-provoking.

General machine intelligence could serve as a substitute for human intelligence, Bostrom asserts in Multipolar Scenarios, the 11th chapter. Not only could digital minds perform the intellectual work now done by humans, but, once equipped with good actuators or robotic bodies, machines could also substitute for human physical labor. Suppose that machine workers which can be quickly reproduced become both cheaper and more capable than human workers in virtually all jobs. What happens then?

Good question. In addition to the technological implications, this scenario could have drastic repercussions for our entire economic system and way of life. Freeing up humanity from the intrinsic demands of physical labor seems, on the surface, like a liberating and even desirable idea. Then again, anything thats too good to be true usually is; we should always be on the lookout for unintended consequences.

In the final analysis, I enjoyed Superintelligence immensely. It was a great diversion from what I usually read for either work or personal fulfillment and I found the whole premise fascinating. If you like science fiction shows like Limitless, but want a more realistic take on the subject matter, youd probably find the journey Bostrom takes his readers on to be an exciting adventure. On the other hand, if you are looking for something light and breezy, youll probably want to sit this one out.

Reviewed by Aaron W. Hughey, Department of Counseling and Student Affairs, Western Kentucky University.

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‘Superintelligence’ enjoyable read | Community …

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Evolution – The New York Times

Posted: July 25, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Latest Articles

A single-cell, bacterium-like organism clinging to volcanic sea vents may have been the forebear of every animal, plant and microbe on earth.

By NICHOLAS WADE

In the extremity of the urban environment, natural selection is transforming species in unexpected ways.

By MENNO SCHILTHUIZEN

Gualicho shinyae was found to have evolved its stubby arms independently, suggesting there was some evolutionary advantage to the small size.

By NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR

An ancient reptilian creature was found by researchers to be the source of the spikes, plumage and fur that cover reptiles, birds and mammals.

By NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR

Members of the mustelid family, including badgers, ferrets and otters, have evolved into remarkable predators.

By NATALIE ANGIER

A ripple effect of weather, insects and other food supplies, from the Arctic to the tropics, may be driving down the population of the red knot, a study finds.

By CARL ZIMMER

The bearded dragon shows stages of sleep similar to those in humans and other mammals, suggesting that the stages evolved earlier than scientists thought.

By ERICA GOODE

Most of the diversity outlined on the new tree has been hiding in plain sight.

By CARL ZIMMER

When everyone has a theory, actual scientific theories like evolution take a hit.

By CARL ZIMMER

Humans arent so special. Animals think much more deeply than we imagine.

By FRANS de WAAL

An exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History documents the recently established link between dinosaurs and modern birds.

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

In a cave in Thailand, scientists discovered a parallel to one of evolutions signature events: the transition from sea to land.

By CARL ZIMMER

The interbreeding may have given modern humans better immunity to pathogens, according to the authors of the analysis of global genomes.

By CARL ZIMMER

Male nursery web spiders tie up females with spider silk before mating to avoid being killed and eaten.

By SAMANTHA STARK and JAMES GORMAN

Scientists at Harvard concluded that stone tools that broke down food could have helped early human relatives conserve energy, aiding in their evolution.

By CARL ZIMMER

A report in the journal Science reveals how evolution harnessed viral DNA to rewire humans own genetic circuitry and strengthen the immune system.

By CARL ZIMMER

It may seem noble and selfless, but its also about improving your reputation.

By JILLIAN JORDAN, PAUL BLOOM, MOSHE HOFFMAN and DAVID RAND

1 . .

By JAMES GORMAN

A dig in Kenya has uncovered the remains of a slaughter from 10,000 years ago, suggesting that warfare may have existed even before humans began agriculture.

By JAMES GORMAN

Humans sleep more deeply but for shorter periods than other primates habits, a study finds. The pattern may have helped humans evolve more powerful brains.

By CARL ZIMMER

A single-cell, bacterium-like organism clinging to volcanic sea vents may have been the forebear of every animal, plant and microbe on earth.

By NICHOLAS WADE

In the extremity of the urban environment, natural selection is transforming species in unexpected ways.

By MENNO SCHILTHUIZEN

Gualicho shinyae was found to have evolved its stubby arms independently, suggesting there was some evolutionary advantage to the small size.

By NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR

An ancient reptilian creature was found by researchers to be the source of the spikes, plumage and fur that cover reptiles, birds and mammals.

By NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR

Members of the mustelid family, including badgers, ferrets and otters, have evolved into remarkable predators.

By NATALIE ANGIER

A ripple effect of weather, insects and other food supplies, from the Arctic to the tropics, may be driving down the population of the red knot, a study finds.

By CARL ZIMMER

The bearded dragon shows stages of sleep similar to those in humans and other mammals, suggesting that the stages evolved earlier than scientists thought.

By ERICA GOODE

Most of the diversity outlined on the new tree has been hiding in plain sight.

By CARL ZIMMER

When everyone has a theory, actual scientific theories like evolution take a hit.

By CARL ZIMMER

Humans arent so special. Animals think much more deeply than we imagine.

By FRANS de WAAL

An exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History documents the recently established link between dinosaurs and modern birds.

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

In a cave in Thailand, scientists discovered a parallel to one of evolutions signature events: the transition from sea to land.

By CARL ZIMMER

The interbreeding may have given modern humans better immunity to pathogens, according to the authors of the analysis of global genomes.

By CARL ZIMMER

Male nursery web spiders tie up females with spider silk before mating to avoid being killed and eaten.

By SAMANTHA STARK and JAMES GORMAN

Scientists at Harvard concluded that stone tools that broke down food could have helped early human relatives conserve energy, aiding in their evolution.

By CARL ZIMMER

A report in the journal Science reveals how evolution harnessed viral DNA to rewire humans own genetic circuitry and strengthen the immune system.

By CARL ZIMMER

It may seem noble and selfless, but its also about improving your reputation.

By JILLIAN JORDAN, PAUL BLOOM, MOSHE HOFFMAN and DAVID RAND

1 . .

By JAMES GORMAN

A dig in Kenya has uncovered the remains of a slaughter from 10,000 years ago, suggesting that warfare may have existed even before humans began agriculture.

By JAMES GORMAN

Humans sleep more deeply but for shorter periods than other primates habits, a study finds. The pattern may have helped humans evolve more powerful brains.

By CARL ZIMMER

Excerpt from:

Evolution – The New York Times

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Wirehead hedonism versus paradise-engineering

Posted: at 3:47 pm

“The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heaven” Satan, in Milton’s Paradise Lost

Far-fetched? Right now, the abolitionist project sounds fanciful. The task of redesigning our legacy-wetware still seems daunting. Rewriting the vertebrate genome, and re-engineering the global ecosystem, certainly pose immense scientific challenges even to a technologically advanced civilisation.

The ideological obstacles to a happy world, however, are more formidable still. For we’ve learned how to rationalise the need for mental pain – even though its nastier varieties blight innumerable lives, and even though its very existence will soon become optional.

Today, any scientific blueprint for getting rid of suffering via biotechnology is likely to be reduced to one of two negative stereotypes. Both stereotypes are disturbing, pervasive, and profoundly ill-conceived. Together, they impoverish our notion of what a Post-Darwinian regime of life-long happiness might be like; and delay its prospect.

Rats, of course, have a very poor image in our culture. Our mammalian cousins are still widely perceived as “vermin”. Thus the sight of a blissed-out, manically self-stimulating rat does not inspire a sense of vicarious happiness in the rest of us. On the contrary, if achieving invincible well-being entails launching a program of world-wide wireheading – or its pharmacological and/or genetic counterparts – then most of us will recoil in distaste.

Yet the Olds’ rat, and the image of electronically-triggered bliss, embody a morally catastrophic misconception of the landscape of options for paradise-engineering in the aeons ahead. For the varieties of genetically-coded well-being on offer to our successors needn’t be squalid or self-centred. Nor need they be insipid, empty and amoral la Huxley’s Brave New World. Our future modes of well-being can be sublime, cerebral and empathetic – or take forms hitherto unknown.

Instead of being toxic, such exotically enriched states of consciousness can be transformed into the everyday norm of mental health. When it’s precision-engineered, hedonic enrichment needn’t lead to unbridled orgasmic frenzy. Nor need hedonic enrichment entail getting stuck in a wirehead rut. This is partly because in a naturalistic setting, even the crudest dopaminergic drugs tend to increase exploratory behaviour, will-power and the range of stimuli an organism finds rewarding. Novelty-seeking is normally heightened. Dopaminergics aren’t just euphoriants: they also enhance “incentive-motivation”. On this basis, our future is likely to be more diverse, not less.

Perhaps surprisingly too, controlled euphoria needn’t be inherently “selfish” – i.e. hedonistic in the baser, egoistic sense. Non-neurotoxic and sustainable analogues of empathogen hug-drugs like MDMA (“Ecstasy”) – which releases a lot of extra serotonin, dopamine and pro-social oxytocin – may potentially induce extraordinary serenity, empathy and love for others. An arsenal of cognitive enhancers will allow us be smarter too. For feeling blissful isn’t the same as being “blissed-out”.

Ultimately, however, using drugs or electrodes for psychological superhealth is arguably no better than taking medicines to promote physical superhealth. Such interventions can serve only as dirty and inelegant stopgaps. In an ideal world, our emotional, intellectual and physical well-being would be genetically predestined. A capacity for sustained bliss may be a design-feature of any Post-Darwinian mind. Indeed some futurists predict we will one day live in a paradise where suffering is physiologically inconceivable – a world where we can no more imagine what it is like to suffer than we can presently imagine what it is like to be a bat.

Technofantasy? Quite possibly. Today it is sublime bliss that is effectively inconceivable to most of us.

Olds mapped the whole brain. Stimulation of some areas – the periaqueductal grey matter, for instance – proved aversive: an animal will work hard to avoid it. “Aversive” is probably a euphemism: electrical pulses to certain neural pathways may be terrifying or excruciating. Euphemisms aside, our victims are being tortured.

Happily, more regions in the brain are rewarding to stimulate than are unpleasant. Yet electrical stimulation of most areas, including the great bulk of the neocortex, is motivationally neutral.

One brain region in particular does seem especially enjoyable to stimulate: the medial forebrain bundle. The key neurons in this bundle originate in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the basal ganglia. VTA neurons manufacture the catecholamine neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is transported down the length of the neuron, packaged in synaptic vesicles, and released into the synapse. Crucially, VTA neuronal pathways project to the nucleus accumbens. VTA dopaminergic neurons are under continuous inhibition by the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system.

In recent years, a convergence of neuropharmacological evidence, clinical research, and electrical stimulation experiments has led many researchers to endorse some version of the “final common pathway” hypothesis of reward. There are anomalies and complications which the final-common-pathway hypothesis still has to account for. Any story which omits the role and complex interplay of, say, “the love hormone”, oxytocin; the “chocolate amphetamine”, phenylethylamine; the glutamate system; the multiple receptor sub-types of serotonin, noradrenaline and the opioid families; and most crucially of all, the intra-cellular post-synaptic cascade within individual neurons, is going to be simplistic. Yet there is accumulating evidence that recreational euphoriants, clinically useful mood-brighteners, and perhaps all rewarding experiences critically depend on the mesolimbic dopamine pathway.

One complication is that pleasure and desire circuitry have intimately connected but distinguishable neural substrates. Some investigators believe that the role of the mesolimbic dopamine system is not primarily to encode pleasure, but “wanting” i.e. incentive-motivation. On this analysis, endomorphins and enkephalins – which activate mu and delta opioid receptors most especially in the ventral pallidum – are most directly implicated in pleasure itself. Mesolimbic dopamine, signalling to the ventral pallidum, mediates desire. Thus “dopamine overdrive”, whether natural or drug-induced, promotes a sense of urgency and a motivation to engage with the world, whereas direct activation of mu opioid receptors in the ventral pallidum induces emotionally self-sufficient bliss.

Certainly, the dopamine neurotransmitter is not itself the brain’s magic pleasure chemical. Only the intra-cellular cascades triggered by neurotransmitter binding to the post-synaptic receptor presumably hold the elusive, tantalising key to everlasting happiness; and they are not yet fully understood. But it’s notable that dopamine D2 receptor-blocking phenothiazines, for example, and other aversive drugs such as kappa opioid agonists, tend to inhibit activity, or increase the threshold of stimulation, in the mesolimbic dopamine system. Conversely, heroin and cocaine both mimic the effects of direct electrical stimulation of the reward-pathways.

Comparing the respective behavioural effects of heroin and cocaine is instructive.If rats or monkeys are hooked up to an intravenous source of heroin (or other potent mu opioid agonist such as fentanyl), the animals will happily self-administer the drug indefinitely; but they still find time to sleep and eat. If rats or monkeys have the opportunity to self-administer cocaine without limit, however, they will do virtually nothing else. They continue to push a drug-delivery lever for as long as they are physically capable of doing so. Within weeks, if not days, they will lose a substantial portion of their body weight – up to 40%. Within a month, they will be dead.

Humans don’t have this problem. So what keeps our mesolimbic dopamine and opioidergic systems so indolent? Why does a “hedonic treadmill” stop us escaping from a genetically-predisposed “set-point” of emotional ill-being? Why can’t social engineering, politico-economic reform or psychotherapy – as distinct from germ-line genetic re-writes – make us durably happy?

Evolutionary biology provides some plausible answers. A capacity to experience many different flavours of unhappiness – and short-lived joys too – was adaptive in the ancestral environment. Anger, fear, disgust, sadness, anxiety and other core emotions each played a distinctive information-theoretic role, enhancing the reproductive success of our forebears. Thus at least a partial explanation of endemic human misery today lies in ancient selection pressure and the state of the unreconstructed vertebrate genome. Selfish DNA makes its throwaway survival-machines feel discontented a lot of the time. A restless discontent is typically good for promoting its “inclusive fitness”, even if it’s bad news for us. Nature simply doesn’t care; and God has gone missing, presumed dead.

On the African savannah, naturally happy and un-anxious creatures typically got outbred or eaten or both. Rank theory suggests that the far greater incidence of the internalised correlate of the yielding sub-routine, depression, reflects how low spirits were frequently more adaptive among group-living organisms than manic self-assertion. Group living can be genetically adaptive for the individual members of the tribe in a predator-infested environment, but we’ve paid a very high psychological price.

Whatever the origins of malaise, a web of negative feedback mechanisms in the CNS conspires to prevent well-being – and (usually) extreme ill-being – from persisting for very long.

Life-enriching emotional superhealth will depend on subverting these homeostatic mechanisms. The hedonic set-point around which our lives fluctuate can be genetically switched to a far higher altitude plateau of well-being.

At the most immediate level, firing in the neurons of the ventral tegmental area is held in check mainly by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate central nervous system. Opioids act to diminish the braking action of GABA on the dopaminergic neurons of the VTA. In consequence, VTA neurons release more dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The reuptake of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens is performed by the dopamine transporter. The transporter is blocked by cocaine. Dopamine reuptake inhibition induces euphoria, augmented by activation of the sigma1 receptors. [Why? We don’t know. Science has no understanding of why sentience – or insentience for that matter – exists at all.] Amphetamines block the dopamine transporter too; but they also act directly on the dopaminergic neurons and promote neurotransmitter release.

The mesolimbic dopamine pathway passes from the VTA to the nucleus accumbens and ascends to the frontal cortex where it innervates the higher brain. This architecture is explicable in the light of evolution. Raw limbic emotional highs and lows – in the absence of represented objects, events or properties to be (dis)satisfied about – would be genetically useless to the organism. To help self-replicating DNA differentially leave more copies of itself, the textures of subjective niceness and nastiness must infuse our representations of the world, and – by our lights – the world itself. Hedonic tone must be functionally coupled to motor-responses initiated on the basis of the perceived significance of the stimulus to the organism, and of the anticipated consequences – adaptively nice or nasty – of simulations of alternative courses of action that the agent can perform. Natural selection has engineered the “encephalisation of emotion”. We often get happy, sad or worried “about” the most obscure notions. One form this encephalisation takes is our revulsion at the prospect of turning ourselves into undignified wirehead rats – or soma-pacified dupes of a ruling elite. Both scenarios strike us as too distasteful to contemplate.

In any case, wouldn’t we get bored of life-long bliss?

Apparently not. That’s what’s so revealing about wireheading. Unlike food, drink or sex, the experience of pleasure itself exhibits no tolerance, even though our innumerable objects of desire certainly do so. Thus we can eventually get bored of anything – with a single exception. Stimulation of the pleasure-centres of the brain never palls. Fire them in the right way, and boredom is neurochemically impossible. Its substrates are missing. Electrical stimulation of the mesolimbic dopamine system is more intensely rewarding than eating, drinking, and love-making; and it never gets in the slightest a bit tedious. It stays exhilarating. The unlimited raw pleasure conjured up by wirehead bliss certainly inspires images of monotony in the electrode-na&iumlve outsider; but that’s a different story altogether.

Yet are wireheading or supersoma really the only ways to ubiquitous ecstasy? Or does posing the very question reflect our stunted conception of the diverse family of paradise-engineering options in prospect?

This question isn’t an exercise in idle philosophising. As molecular neuroscience advances, not just boredom, but pain, terror, disgust, jealousy, anxiety, depression, malaise and any form of unpleasantness are destined to become truly optional. Their shifting gradients played a distinct information-theoretic role in the lives of our ancestors in the ancestral environment of adaptation. But their individual textures (i.e. “what it feels like”, “qualia”) can shortly be either abolished or genetically shifted to a more exalted plane of well-being instead. Our complicity in their awful persistence, and ultimately our responsibility for sustaining and creating them in the living world, is destined to increase as the new reproductive technologies mature and the revolution in post-genomic medicine unfolds. The biggest obstacles to a cruelty-free world – a world cured of any obligate suffering – are ideological, not technical. Yet whatever the exact time-scale of its replacement, in evolutionary terms we are on the brink of a Post-Darwinian Transition.

Natural selection has previously been “blind”. Complications aside, genetic mutations and meiotic shufflings are quasi-random i.e. random with respect to what is favoured by natural selection. Nature has no capacity for foresight or contingency-planning. During the primordial Darwinian Era of life on Earth, selfishness in the technical genetic sense has closely overlapped with selfishness in the popular sense: they are easily confused, and indeed selfishness in the technical sense is unavoidable. But in the new reproductive era – where (suites of) alleles will be societally chosen and actively designed by quasi-rational agents in anticipation of their likely behavioural effects – the character of fitness-enhancing traits will be radically different.

For a start, the elimination of such evolutionary relics as the ageing process will make any form of (post-)human reproduction on earth – whether sexual or clonal – a relatively rare and momentous event. It’s likely that designer post-human babies will be meticulously pre-planned. The notion that all reproductive decisions will be socially regulated in a post-ageing world is abhorrent to one’s libertarian instincts; but if they weren’t regulated, then the Earth would soon simply exceed its carrying capacity – whether it is 15 billion people or even 150 billion. If reproduction on earth does cease to be a personal affair and becomes a (democratically accountable?) state-sanctioned choice, then a major shift in the character of typically adaptive behavioural traits will inevitably occur. Taking a crude genes’ eye-view, a variant allele coding for, say, enhanced oxytocin expression, or a sub-type of serotonin receptor predisposing to unselfishness in the popular sense, will actually carry a higher payoff in the technical selfish sense – hugely increasing the likelihood that such alleles and their customised successors will be differentially pre-selected in preference to alleles promoting, say, anti-social behaviour.

Told like this, of course, the neurochemical story is a simplistic parody. It barely even hints at the complex biological, socio-economic and political issues at stake. Just who will take the decisions, and how? What will be the role in shaping post-human value systems, not just of exotic new technologies, but of alien forms of emotion whose metabolic pathways and substrates haven’t yet been disclosed to us? What kinds, if any, of inorganic organisms or non-DNA-driven states of consciousness will we want to design and implement? What will be the nature of the transitional era – when our genetic mastery of emotional mind-making is still incomplete? How can we be sure that unknown unknowns won’t make things go wrong? True, Darwinian life may often be dreadful, but couldn’t botched paradise-engineering make it even worse? And even if it couldn’t, might not there be some metaphysical sense in which life in a blissful biosphere could still be morally “wrong” – even if it strikes its inhabitants as self-evidently right?

Unfortunately, we will only begin to glimpse the implications of Post-Darwinism when paradise-engineering becomes a mature scientific discipline and mainstream research tradition. Yet as the vertebrate genome is rewritten, the two senses of “selfish” will foreseeably diverge. Today they are easily conflated. A tendency to quasi-psychopathic callousness to other sentient beings did indeed enhance the inclusive fitness of our DNA in the evolutionary past. In the new reproductive era, such traits are potentially maladaptive. They may even disappear as the Reproductive Revolution matures.

The possibility that we will become not just exceedingly happier, but nicer, may sound too good to be true. Perhaps we’ll just become happier egotists – in every sense. But if a genetic predisposition to niceness becomes systematically fitness-enhancing, then genetic selfishness – in the technical sense of “selfish” – ensures that benevolence will not just triumph; it will also be evolutionarily stable, in the games-theory sense, against “defectors”.

Needless to say, subtleties and technical complexities abound here. The very meaning of being “nice” to anyone or anything, for instance, is changed if well-being becomes a generic property of mental life. Either way, once suffering becomes biologically optional, then only sustained and systematic malice towards others could allow us to perpetuate it for ever. And although today we may sometimes be spiteful, there is no evidence that institutionalised malevolence will prevail.

From an ethical perspective, the task of hastening the Post-Darwinian Transition has a desperate moral urgency – brought home by studying just how nasty “natural” pain can be. Those who would resist the demise of unpleasantness may be asked: is it really permissible to compel others to suffer when any form of distress becomes purely optional? Should the metabolic pathways of our evolutionary past be forced on anyone who prefers an odyssey of life-long happiness instead? If so, what means of coercion should be employed, and by whom?

Or is paradise-engineering the only morally serious option? And much more fun.

Refs and further reading

Roborats James Olds Homeostasis Robert Heath Orgasmatrons Future Opioids BLTC Research Hypermotivation Superhappiness? Empathogens.com The Orgasmic Brain Social Media (2016) The Good Drug Guide The Abolitionist Project Utilitarianism On The Net The Hedonistic Imperative The Reproductive Revolution Critique of Brave New World MDMA: Utopian Pharmacology? When Is It Best To Take Crack Cocaine? Wireheads and Wireheading in Science Fiction Pleasure Evoked by Electrical Stimulation of the Brain Wireheads and wireheading: Definitions from Science Fiction

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Wirehead hedonism versus paradise-engineering

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Articles about Space Exploration – latimes

Posted: July 21, 2016 at 2:17 am

SCIENCE

July 18, 2013 | By Louis Sahagun

More than a hundred explorers, scientists and government officials will gather at Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific on Friday to draft a blueprint to solve a deep blue problem: About 95% of the world’s oceans remains unexplored. The invitation-only forum , hosted by the aquarium and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, aims to identify priorities, technologies and collaborative strategies that could advance understanding of the uncharted mega-wilderness that humans rely on for oxygen, food, medicines, commerce and recreation.

SCIENCE

June 12, 2013 | By Brad Balukjian

Dancer , rapper , and, oh yeah, Man on the Moon Buzz Aldrin is talking, but are the right people listening? One of the original moonwalkers (Michael Jackson always did it backwards! Aldrin complained) challenged the United States to pick up the space slack Tuesday evening, mere hours after China sent three astronauts into orbit. Speaking in front of a friendly crowd of 880 at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Aldrin criticized the U.S. for not adequately leading the international community in space exploration, and suggested that we bump up our federal investment in space while still encouraging the private sector’s efforts.

ENTERTAINMENT

February 2, 2013 | By Holly Myers

It will come as news to many, no doubt, that there is a Warhol on the moon. And a Rauschenberg and an Oldenburg – a whole “Moon Museum,” in fact, containing the work of six artists in all, in the form of drawings inscribed on the surface of a ceramic chip roughly the size of a thumbprint. Conceived by the artist Forrest Myers in 1969, the chip was fabricated in collaboration with scientists at Bell Laboratories and illicitly slipped by a willing engineer between some sheets of insulation on the Apollo 12 lander module.

WORLD

January 29, 2013 | By Patrick J. McDonnell and Ramin Mostaghim, This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

BEIRUT – U.S. officials are not exactly welcoming Iran’s revelation this week that the Islamic Republic has sent a monkey into space and brought the creature back to Earth safely. The report by Iranian media recalled for many the early days of space flight, when both the United States and the Soviet Union launched animal-bearing spacecraft as a prelude to human space travel. But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington on Monday that the reported mission raises concerns about possible Iranian violations of a United Nations ban on development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

CALIFORNIA | LOCAL

December 22, 2012 | By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times

WATERTON CANYON, Colo. – The concrete-floored room looks, at first glance, like little more than a garage. There is a red tool chest, its drawers labeled: “Hacksaws. ” “Allen wrenches. ” There are stepladders and vise grips. There is also, at one end of the room, a half-built spaceship, and everyone is wearing toe-to-fingertip protective suits. “Don’t. Touch. Anything. ” Bruce Jakosky says the words politely but tautly, like a protective father – which, effectively, he is. Jakosky is the principal investigator behind NASA’s next mission to Mars, putting him in the vanguard of an arcane niche of science: planetary protection – the science of exploring space without messing it up. PHOTOS: Stunning images of Earth at night As NASA pursues the search for life in the solar system, the cleanliness of robotic explorers is crucial to avoid contaminating other worlds.

SCIENCE

December 6, 2012 | By Amina Khan and Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times

Years of trying to do too many things with too little money have put NASA at risk of ceding leadership in space exploration to other nations, according to a new report that calls on the space agency to make wrenching decisions about its long-term strategy and future scope. As other countries – including some potential adversaries – are investing heavily in space, federal funding for NASA is essentially flat and under constant threat of being cut. Without a clear vision, that fiscal uncertainty makes it all the more difficult for the agency to make progress on ambitious goals like sending astronauts to an asteroid or Mars while executing big-ticket science missions, such as the $8.8-billion James Webb Space Telescope, says the analysis released Wednesday by the National Research Council.

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Articles about Space Exploration – latimes

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Singularity – RationalWiki

Posted: July 18, 2016 at 3:37 pm

There is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity. The fact that you can visualize a future in your imagination is not evidence that it is likely or even possible. Look at domed cities, jet-pack commuting, underwater cities, mile-high buildings, and nuclear-powered automobiles–all staples of futuristic fantasies when I was a child that have never arrived. Sheer processing power is not a pixie dust that magically solves all your problems.

A singularity is a sign that your model doesn’t apply past a certain point, not infinity arriving in real life

A singularity, as most commonly used, is a point at which expected rules break down. The term comes from mathematics, where a point on a curve that has a sudden break in slope is considered to have a slope of undefined or infinite value; such a point is known as a singularity.

The term has extended into other fields; the most notable use is in astrophysics, where a singularity is a point (usually, but perhaps not exclusively, at the center a of black hole) where curvature of spacetime approaches infinity.

This article, however, is not about the mathematical or physics uses of the term, but rather the borrowing of it by various futurists. They define a technological singularity as the point beyond which we can know nothing about the world. So, of course, they then write at length on the world after that time.

It’s intelligent design for the IQ 140 people. This proposition that we’re heading to this point at which everything is going to be just unimaginably different – it’s fundamentally, in my view, driven by a religious impulse. And all of the frantic arm-waving can’t obscure that fact for me, no matter what numbers he marshals in favor of it. He’s very good at having a lot of curves that point up to the right.

In transhumanist belief, the “technological singularity” refers to a hypothetical point beyond which human technology and civilization is no longer comprehensible to the current human mind. The theory of technological singularity states that at some point in time humans will invent a machine that through the use of artificial intelligence will be smarter than any human could ever be. This machine in turn will be capable of inventing new technologies that are even smarter. This event will trigger an exponential explosion of technological advances of which the outcome and effect on humankind is heavily debated by transhumanists and singularists.

Many proponents of the theory believe that the machines eventually will see no use for humans on Earth and simply wipe us out their intelligence being far superior to humans, there would be probably nothing we could do about it. They also fear that the use of extremely intelligent machines to solve complex mathematical problems may lead to our extinction. The machine may theoretically respond to our question by turning all matter in our solar system or our galaxy into a giant calculator, thus destroying all of humankind.

Critics, however, believe that humans will never be able to invent a machine that will match human intelligence, let alone exceed it. They also attack the methodology that is used to “prove” the theory by suggesting that Moore’s Law may be subject to the law of diminishing returns, or that other metrics used by proponents to measure progress are totally subjective and meaningless. Theorists like Theodore Modis argue that progress measured in metrics such as CPU clock speeds is decreasing, refuting Moore’s Law[3]. (As of 2015, not only Moore’s Law is beginning to stall, Dennard scaling is also long dead, returns in raw compute power from transistors is subjected to diminishing returns as we use more and more of them, there is also Amdahl’s Law and Wirth’s law to take into account, and also that raw computing power simply doesn’t scale up linearly at providing real marginal utility. Then even after all those things, we still haven’t taken into account of the fundamental limitations of conventional computing architecture. Moore’s law suddenly doesn’t look to be the panacea to our problems now, does it?)

Transhumanist thinkers see a chance of the technological singularity arriving on Earth within the twenty first century, a concept that most[Who?]rationalists either consider a little too messianic in nature or ignore outright. Some of the wishful thinking may simply be the expression of a desire to avoid death, since the singularity is supposed to bring the technology to reverse human aging, or to upload human minds into computers. However, recent research, supported by singularitarian organizations including MIRI and the Future of Humanity Institute, does not support the hypothesis that near-term predictions of the singularity are motivated by a desire to avoid death, but instead provides some evidence that many optimistic predications about the timing of a singularity are motivated by a desire to “gain credit for working on something that will be of relevance, but without any possibility that their prediction could be shown to be false within their current career”.[4][5]

Don’t bother quoting Ray Kurzweil to anyone who knows a damn thing about human cognition or, indeed, biology. He’s a computer science genius who has difficulty in perceiving when he’s well out of his area of expertise.[6]

Eliezer Yudkowsky identifies three major schools of thinking when it comes to the singularity.[7] While all share common ground in advancing intelligence and rapidly developing technology, they differ in how the singularity will occur and the evidence to support the position.

Under this school of thought, it is assumed that change and development of technology and human (or AI assisted) intelligence will accelerate at an exponential rate. So change a decade ago was much faster than change a century ago, which was faster than a millennium ago. While thinking in exponential terms can lead to predictions about the future and the developments that will occur, it does mean that past events are an unreliable source of evidence for making these predictions.

The “event horizon” school posits that the post-singularity world would be unpredictable. Here, the creation of a super-human artificial intelligence will change the world so dramatically that it would bear no resemblance to the current world, or even the wildest science fiction. This school of thought sees the singularity most like a single point event rather than a process indeed, it is this thesis that spawned the term “singularity.” However, this view of the singularity does treat transhuman intelligence as some kind of magic.

This posits that the singularity is driven by a feedback cycle between intelligence enhancing technology and intelligence itself. As Yudkowsky (who endorses this view) “What would humans with brain-computer interfaces do with their augmented intelligence? One good bet is that theyd design the next generation of brain-computer interfaces.” When this feedback loop of technology and intelligence begins to increase rapidly, the singularity is upon us.

There is also a fourth singularity school which is much more popular than the other three: It’s all a load of baloney![8] This position is not popular with high-tech billionaires.[9]

This is largely dependent on your definition of “singularity”.

The intelligence explosion singularity is by far the most unlikely. According to present calculations, a hypothetical future supercomputer may well not be able to replicate a human brain in real time. We presently don’t even understand how intelligence works, and there is no evidence that intelligence is self-iterative in this manner – indeed, it is not unlikely that improvements on intelligence are actually more difficult the smarter you become, meaning that each improvement on intelligence is increasingly difficult to execute. Indeed, how much smarter it is possible for something to even be than a human being is an open question. Energy requirements are another issue; humans can run off of Doritos and Mountain Dew Dr. Pepper, while supercomputers require vast amounts of energy to function. Unless such an intelligence can solve problems better than groups of humans, its greater intelligence may well not matter, as it may not be as efficient as groups of humans working together to solve problems.

Another major issue arises from the nature of intellectual development; if an artificial intelligence needs to be raised and trained, it may well take twenty years or more between generations of artificial intelligences to get further improvements. More intelligent animals seem to generally require longer to mature, which may put another limitation on any such “explosion”.

Accelerating change is questionable; in real life, the rate of patents per capita actually peaked in the 20th century, with a minor decline since then, despite the fact that human beings have gotten more intelligent and gotten superior tools. As noted above, Moore’s Law has been in decline, and outside of the realm of computers, the rate of increase in other things has not been exponential – airplanes and cars continue to improve, but they do not improve at the ridiculous rate of computers. It is likely that once computers hit physical limits of transistor density, their rate of improvement will fall off dramatically, and already even today, computers which are “good enough” continue to operate for many years, something which was unheard of in the 1990s, where old computers were rapidly and obviously obsoleted by new ones.

According to this point of view, the Singularity is a past event, and we live in a post-Singularity world.

The rate of advancement has actually been in decline in recent times, as patents per-capita has gone down, and the rate of increase of technology has declined rather than risen, though the basal rate is higher than it was in centuries past. According to this point of view, the intelligence explosion and increasing rate of change already happened with computers, and now that everyone has handheld computing devices, the rate of increase is going to decline as we hit natural barriers in how much additional benefit we gain out of additional computing power. The densification of transistors on microchips has slowed by about a third, and the absolute limit to transistors is approaching – a true, physical barrier which cannot be bypassed or broken, and which would require an entirely different means of computing to create a denser still microchip.

From the point of view of travel, humans have gone from walking to sailing to railroads to highways to airplanes, but communication has now reached the point where a lot of travel is obsolete – the Internet is omnipresent and allows us to effectively communicate with people on any corner of the planet without travelling at all. From this point of view, there is no further point of advancement, because we’re already at the point where we can be anywhere on the planet instantly for many purposes, and with improvements in automation, the amount of physical travel necessary for the average human being has declined over recent years. Instant global communication and the ability to communicate and do calculations from anywhere are a natural physical barrier, beyond which further advancement is less meaningful, as it is mostly just making things more convenient – the cost is already extremely low.

The prevalence of computers and communications devices has completely changed the world, as has the presence of cheap, high-speed transportation technology. The world of the 21st century is almost unrecognizable to people from the founding of the United States in the latter half of the 18th century, or even to people from the height of the industrial era at the turn of the 20th century.

Extraterrestrial technological singularities might become evident from acts of stellar/cosmic engineering. One such possibility for example would be the construction of Dyson Spheres that would result in the altering of a star’s electromagnetic spectrum in a way detectable from Earth. Both SETI and Fermilab have incorporated that possibility into their searches for alien life. [10][11]

A different view of the concept of singularity is explored in the science fiction book Dragon’s Egg by Robert Lull Forward, in which an alien civilization on the surface of a neutron star, being observed by human space explorers, goes from Stone Age to technological singularity in the space of about an hour in human time, leaving behind a large quantity of encrypted data for the human explorers that are expected to take over a million years (for humanity) to even develop the technology to decrypt.

No signs of extraterrestrial civilizations have been found as of 2016.

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Singularity – RationalWiki

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Transtopianism Designer Children Latest News

Posted: at 3:32 pm

Split long article

Might this longish entry be better presented as a series of pages? JasonS 03:34 Jan 13, 2003 (UTC)

Dnagod 20:56, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

In the interest of ensuring transhuman is NPOV: Who decides what the definition of transhumanism is?

This element of humanism, is that from huxley or someone else?

Does the man who invented the word, Julian Huxley decide the definition of Transhumanism, does one in modern times who publically states the definition decide or does the World Transhumanism Association decide?

I would like clarity as to who ultimately determines what transhumanism means because the definition used by the WTA and other groups differs. More importantly, what gives one authority or the command to be able to define in an undisputed what transhumanism is, so that other POVs can be excluded?

For instance I have reviewed the entire transtopia.org, prometheism.net and cosmotheism.net site, and I cant seem to figure out how you could label it as disputed in the links section?

What is to say the world transhumanism association isnt disputed?

I can see how one might label cosmotheism as white racial separatist, but prometheism.net and transtopia.org I would like more discussion as to why it is disputed as a transhumanism group. And why is Cosmotheism a disputed offshoot? Cosmotheism was developed in the 1960s and 1970s which came before extropy and WTA, so why is it an offshoot? I thought offshoot meant, that something existed and a branch or seed came off that plant. Can you please define offshoot and explain who decides what is or is not transhumanism?

More on this humanism element of Transhumanism, is that from huxley or someone else? Thanks.

Why does the link to cosmotheism keep getting deleted? Just because that article had a banned user associated w it doesnt make it any less relevent. Sam [Spade] 20:56, 4 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Id like to incorporate a mention of the Human Cognome Project into this article, as it is relevent to human brain augmentation and AI research. Any suggestions? Dave User:Sydhart

Why is transtopia.org, prometheism.net and cosmotheism.net labelled pseudotranshuman organizations? To me that represents bias as to why those web sites would be labelled pseudo, what makes a web site pseudo?

On the front page of prometheism.net it states the following

(Prometheism is) The First Sovereign Transtopian & Neo-Eugenic Libertarian Religious-State.

In the principles sections of prometheism it states

Our Promethean Species embraces Conscious Evolution

Our immediate aim is to create a neo-eugenically enhanced race that will eventually become a new, superior species with whatever scientific means are available at the present time. In the short-term, this will be achieved via neo-eugenics, ie. voluntary positive eugenics, human cloning, germ-line engineering, gene therapy and genetic engineering.

In the long-term, when the science becomes available we intend to utilize transhuman technologies: nanotechnology, mind uploading, A/I and other variations of ultra exo-tech.

Our goal is to enable total and unlimited self-transformation, consciousness and expansion across the universe of our species.

It also states note the key words Transhuman Technologies and the embracing of transhumanism and extropy.

We Define neo-eugenics as conscious evolution (these words are interchangeable). Purposefully directed evolution via voluntary positive neo-eugenics (including voluntary selective breeding), cloning, genetic engineering and ultimately any and all transhuman technologies. Neo-Eugenics means harnessing all science, technology and knowledge available now or in the future, guiding it with spirituality, ethical considerations and higher consciousness, ultimately towards achieving total and unlimited self transformation. The term Neo-Eugenics embodies the sciences and philosophies involved in Biotechnology, Extropy and Transhumanism all merged in a philosophy of spiritual Conscious Evolution.

http://prometheism.net/principles.htm

I believe removing prometheism from this page, will be cause to bring this issue to arbitration to confirm that the individual who keeps removing it obviously is biased and lacks an understanding of what transhumanism. NPOV. thats your problem brian NPOV and blatant bias.

Dnagod 22:22, 7 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Extropy and a lot of the other sites listed under manifestos are linked else where in the article, so I felt it important to also include these manifestos

Please do not revert to childish insults, and a biased personal agenda removing these links, they belong their and represent Principles which I dare say are some of the most interesting, fascinating and creative principles.

Dont abuse your privileges here and force your agenda on this topic of transhumanism, all perspectives are welcome here whether you like it or not.

Dnagod 17:26, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)

What makes you think transtopianism (transtopia.org) is not secular?

STOP removing these links, you are biased, emotional, unfair, unbalanced and lacking in neutrality.

These links are to stay, and you have no right to remove them. They are valid and legit links, Do not abuse your privileges on this project or you will be revoked.

Dnagod 02:55, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The man who invented the word Transhumanism (Huxley), was an open, avid and published advocate of state sponsored coercive eugenics, selective breeding, and elitist eugenic communities. Therefore you are wrong, and thus the specific issue of VOLUNTARY eugenics does NOT violate in anyway, shape or form, being part of transhumanism. You are wrong, biased, unfair, unbalanced, and lacking in neutrality. Transtopia.org and prometheism.net DO NOT SUPPORT COERCIVE EUGENICS in their PRINCIPLES, THEY SUPPORT VOLUNTARY EUGENICS READ VOLUNTARY. Forgive the capitalization, but I do that for emphasis, not to scream.

please stop removing these links, you are biased, emotional, unfair, unbalanced and lacking in neutrality. These are not personal attacks, these are stated facts that you have not read the prometheism.net web site.

These links are to stay, and you have no right to remove them. They are valid and legit links, Do not abuse your privileges on this project.

I ask you to bring arbitration and discussion on this fact. Your censorship, bias and personal agenda will not win. Go to prometheism.net right now and find one place on this site that says prometheism supports COERCIVE EUGENICS. you will not find it anywhere. Prometheism.net clearly states that it only supports voluntary eugenics. Read the sworn oath on prometheism.net

The Sworn Oath of Prometheism (front page of prometheism.net)

We Prometheans are voluntarily coming together to purposefully direct the creation of a new post-human species. A species with higher intellect, creativity, consciousness and love of ones people. A communion of intellect and beauty, for the simple reason that it can be done. This creation is what gives us purpose and meaning. No other justification is required for this program to advance our Promethean species.

Next I want you to read the Principles of prometheism http://www.prometheism.net/principles.htm

2. Our Promethean Species embraces Conscious Evolution

Our immediate aim is to create a neo-eugenically enhanced race that will eventually become a new, superior species with whatever scientific means are available at the present time. In the short-term, this will be achieved via neo-eugenics, ie. voluntary positive eugenics, human cloning, germ-line engineering, gene therapy and genetic engineering.

5. Total Freedom, Liberty and Self-Determination

Our Libertarian religious nation is founded on the principles of total freedom of speech (including offensive language and language which hurts peoples feelings), freedom of thought, the right to bear arms, liberty, progress, productivity and the pursuit of individual happiness.

nation is VOLUNTARY ONLY. We REJECT all totalitarianism and believe COERCIVE neo-eugenics is counter to the ideal of individual freedom. The promethean governments sole purpose is to protect the rights of the individual. We DO NOT wish to STERILIZE anyone or FORCE anyone to practice neo-eugenics.

DNA or genetic capital is the most valuable commodity in the universe. Our primary goal is to promote positive and voluntary neo-eugenics by channeling national resources to the best, brightest and most creative.

We Define neo-eugenics as conscious evolution (these words are interchangeable). Purposefully directed evolution via voluntary positive neo-eugenics (including voluntary selective breeding), cloning, genetic engineering and ultimately any and all transhuman technologies. Neo-Eugenics means harnessing all science, technology and knowledge available now or in the future, guiding it with spirituality, ethical considerations and higher consciousness, ultimately towards achieving total and unlimited self transformation. The term Neo-Eugenics embodies the sciences and philosophies involved in Biotechnology, Extropy and Transhumanism all merged in a philosophy of spiritual Conscious Evolution.

This is from the principles of prometheism.net Last Updated: 3/13/03 this means that prometheism is NOT FRINGE, it does not support the fringe philosophy of FORCED COERCIVE EUGENICS. Again the capitalization is not screaming, its meant to provide emphasis. Also my comments about you not being very knowledgeable about prometheism.net and transtopia.org are not meant as personal insults or personal attacks, but as an observation.

Dnagod 20:06, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

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Talk:Transhumanism/Archive 2 Wikipedia, the free

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Eugenics – definition of eugenics by The Free Dictionary

Posted: July 14, 2016 at 4:27 pm

.

The study or practice of attempting to improve the human gene pool by encouraging the reproduction of people considered to have desirable traits and discouraging or preventing the reproduction of people considered to have undesirable traits.

eugenic adj.

eugenically adv.

(Genetics) (functioning as singular) the study of methods of improving the quality of the human race, esp by selective breeding

[C19: from Greek eugens well-born, from eu- + -gens born; see -gen]

eugenic, eugenical adj

eugenically adv

eugenicist, eugenecist n

eugenist n, adj

n. (used with a sing. v.)

a science concerned with improving a species, esp. the human species, by such means as influencing or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have desirable genetic traits.

[188085]

eugenicist (- sst) n.

the science of improving a breed or species through the careful selection of parents. eugenicist, n. eugenic, adj.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:

Translations

n. eugenesia, ciencia que estudia el mejoramiento de la especie humana de acuerdo con las leyes biolgicas de la herencia.

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Social Darwinism – definition of social Darwinism by The Free

Posted: at 4:27 pm

18, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Biology of the 2nd Reich, a new 14-minute documentary, tells the little-known story of the influence of Social Darwinism on German militarism leading up to World War I, including an exploration of the German military’s genocidal policies in Southwest Africa. In point of fact, the same constellation of ideas undergirded the Social Darwinism of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Social Darwinism stressed the improvement of human hereditary by natural selection, while eugenics typically emphasises artificial selection, a distinction made more complicated as some eugenicists are devoted to Social Darwinism. Although Hitler’s racial ideology is often associated with social Darwinism, “most scholars of Hitler’s reign” Richards finds, “don’t argue for a strong link between Darwin’s biology and Hitler’s racism, but they often deploy the vague concept of social Darwinism when characterizing Hitler’s racial ideology. The rest of the fascist ideology paints a near-perfect portrait of modern conservatism: enforced ideological purity; belligerent nationalism based on fantasies of exceptionalism; suspicion, denigration and suppression of “others” who look different, think different, act different and would vote different; violence and militarism as the answer to all problems; celebrated imperialism, for which the world exists only to be exploited and subjugated; and a belief in social Darwinism – that the politically and financially strong are entitled to use that strength to further maximize their wealth and power at the expense of everyone else. In ten essays, contributors re-charge and pay tribute to Griggs’s nearly forgotten memory with such topics as Griggs and the borderlands of empire, imperium in imperia and Griggs, Hales and Griggs (men without a country), black class mobility, death and narrative in Griggs, social Darwinism and American imperialism, the origin of the science of efficiency in Griggs’s Unfettered, “vile misrepresentations” in The Hindered Hand and The Leopard’s Spots, Chestnutt’s and Griggs’s last novels, Jim Crow and the practice of fiction, and perfecting the political romance. The most important of these was social Darwinism with its attendant atheism. He was very quick to realize that anti-Semitism lay at the very basis of Nazi social Darwinism. Inferno is the use of panopticon strategies and social darwinism principles as means of governmentality to contain the dangerous class. Supreme Court justices overturned basic worker protections, citing the harsh principles of social Darwinism. org/wiki/Social_darwinism) Social Darwinism — a cruel, harsh, and savage environment only slightly removed from the brutality of the Roman Empire. Yale University historian David Blight, meanwhile, has criticized Douglass for preaching “a laissez-faire individualism that echoed the reigning Social Darwinism of the day”

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Social Darwinism – definition of social Darwinism by The Free

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Social Darwinism – University of Colorado Boulder

Posted: at 4:27 pm

Social Darwinism

I. Introduction

Social Darwinism, term coined in the late 19th century to describe the idea that humans, like animals and plants, compete in a struggle for existence in which natural selection results in “survival of the fittest.” Social Darwinists base their beliefs on theories of evolution developed by British naturalist Charles Darwin. Some social Darwinists argue that governments should not interfere with human competition by attempting to regulate the economy or cure social ills such as poverty. Instead, they advocate a laissez-faire political and economic system that favors competition and self-interest in social and business affairs. Social Darwinists typically deny that they advocate a “law of the jungle.” But most propose arguments that justify imbalances of power between individuals, races, and nations because they consider some people more fit to survive than others.

The term social Darwinist is applied loosely to anyone who interprets human society primarily in terms of biology, struggle, competition, or natural law (a philosophy based on what are considered the permanent characteristics of human nature). Social Darwinism characterizes a variety of past and present social policies and theories, from attempts to reduce the power of government to theories exploring the biological causes of human behavior. Many people believe that the concept of social Darwinism explains the philosophical rationalization behind racism, imperialism, and capitalism. The term has negative implications for most people because they consider it a rejection of compassion and social responsibility.

II. Origins

Social Darwinism originated in Britain during the second half of the 19th century. Darwin did not address human evolution in his most famous study, On the Origin of Species (1859), which focused on the evolution of plants and animals. He applied his theories of natural selection specifically to people in The Descent of Man (1871), a work that critics interpreted as justifying cruel social policies at home and imperialism abroad. The Englishman most associated with early social Darwinism, however, was sociologist Herbert Spencer. Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” to describe the outcome of competition between social groups. In Social Statics (1850) and other works, Spencer argued that through competition social evolution would automatically produce prosperity and personal liberty unparalleled in human history.

In the United States, Spencer gained considerable support among intellectuals and some businessmen, including steel manufacturer Andrew Carnegie, who served as Spencer’s host during his visit to the United States in 1883. The most prominent American social Darwinist of the 1880s was William Graham Sumner, who on several occasions told audiences that there was no alternative to the “survival of the fittest” theory. Critics of social Darwinism seized on these comments to argue that Sumner advocated a “dog-eat-dog” philosophy of human behavior that justified oppressive social policies. Some later historians have argued that Sumner’s critics took his statements out of context and misrepresented his views.

III. Hereditarianism

Studies of heredity contributed another variety of social Darwinism in the late 19th century. In Hereditary Genius (1869), Sir Francis Galton, a British scientist and Darwin’s cousin, argued that biological inheritance is far more important than environment in determining character and intelligence. This theory, known as hereditarianism, met considerable resistance, especially in the United States. Sociologists and biologists who criticized hereditarianism believed that changes in the environment could produce physical changes in the individual that would be passed on to future generations, a theory proposed by French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in the early 19th century. After 1890, hereditarianism gained increasing support, due in part to the work of German biologist August Weismann. Weismann reemphasized the role of natural selection by arguing that a person’s characteristics are determined genetically at conception.

IV. The Struggle School

Toward the end of the 19th century, another strain of social Darwinism was developed by supporters of the struggle school of sociology. English journalist Walter Bagehot expressed the fundamental ideas of the struggle school in Physics and Politics (1872), a book that describes the historical evolution of social groups into nations. Bagehot argued that these nations evolved principally by succeeding in conflicts with other groups. For many political scientists, sociologists, and military strategists, this strain of social Darwinism justified overseas expansion by nations (imperialism) during the 1890s. In the United States, historian John Fiske and naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan drew from the principles of social Darwinism to advocate foreign expansion and the creation of a strong military.

V. Reform Darwinism

After 1890, social reformers used Darwinism to advocate a stronger role for government and the introduction of various social policies. This movement became known as reform Darwinism. Reform Darwinists argued that human beings need new ideas and institutions as they adapt to changing conditions. For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. reasoned that the Constitution of the United States should be reinterpreted in light of changing circumstances in American society.

Some reformers used the principles of evolution to justify sexist and racist ideas that undercut their professed belief in equality. For example, the most extreme type of reform Darwinism was eugenics, a term coined by Sir Francis Galton in 1883 from the Greek word egenv, meaning well-born. Eugenists claimed that particular racial or social groupsusually wealthy Anglo-Saxonswere “naturally” superior to other groups. They proposed to control human heredity by passing laws that forbid marriage between races or that restrict breeding for various social “misfits” such as criminals or the mentally ill.

VI. Social Darwinism in the 20th Century

Although social Darwinism was highly influential at the beginning of the 20th century, it rapidly lost popularity and support after World War I (1914-1918). During the 1920s and 1930s many political observers blamed it for contributing to German militarism and the rise of Nazism (see National Socialism). During this same period, advances in anthropology also discredited social Darwinism. German American anthropologist Franz Boas and American anthropologists Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict showed that human culture sets people apart from animals. By shifting the emphasis away from biology and onto culture, these anthropologists undermined social Darwinism’s biological foundations. Eugenics was discredited by a better understanding of genetics and eventually disgraced by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s use of eugenic arguments to create a “master race.” During World War II (1939-1945), the Nazis killed several million Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and members of other groups, believing them inferior to an idealized Aryan race.

Social theories based on biology gained renewed support after 1953, when American biologist James Watson and British biologist Francis Crick successfully described the structure of the DNA molecule, the building block of all life. During the 1960s anthropologists interested in the influence of DNA on human behavior produced studies of the biological basis of aggression, territoriality, mate selection, and other behavior common to people and animals. Books on this theme, such as Desmond Morris’s Naked Ape (1967) and Lionel Tiger’s Men in Groups (1969), became best-sellers. In the early 1970s American psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein revived the social Darwinist argument that intelligence is mostly determined by biology rather than by environmental influences.

During the 1960s, British biologist W. D. Hamilton and American biologist Robert L. Trivers produced separate studies showing that the self-sacrificing behavior of some members of a group serves the genetic well-being of the group as a whole. American biologist Edward O. Wilson drew on these theories in Sociobiology: the New Synthesis (1975), where he argued that genetics exerts a greater influence on human behavior than scientists had previously believed. Wilson claimed that human behavior cannot be understood without taking both biology and culture into account. Wilson’s views became the foundations of a new sciencesociobiologyand were later popularized in such studies as Richard Dawkins’The Selfish Gene (1976). Wilson’s critics have alleged that sociobiology is simply another version of social Darwinism. They claim that it downplays the role of culture in human societies and justifies poverty and warfare in the name of natural selection. Such criticism has led to a decline in the influence of sociobiology and other forms of social Darwinism.

Contributed By:

Robert C. Bannister, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

Professor of History, Swarthmore College. Author of Social Darwinism: Science and Myth and On Liberty, Society, and Politics: The Essential Essays of William Graham Sumner.

HOW TO CITE THIS ARTICLE

“Social Darwinism,” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000

http://encarta.msn.com 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

1993-2000 Microsoft Corporation.

All rights reserved.

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Social Darwinism – University of Colorado Boulder

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Herbalism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Herbalism (also herbology or herbal medicine) is use of plants for medicinal purposes, and the study of botany for such use. Plants have been the basis for medical treatments through much of human history, and such traditional medicine is still widely practiced today. Modern medicine recognizes herbalism as a form of alternative medicine, as the practice of herbalism is not strictly based on evidence gathered using the scientific method. Modern medicine, does, however, make use of many plant-derived compounds as the basis for evidence-tested pharmaceutical drugs, phytotherapy, and phytochemistry works to apply modern standards of effectiveness testing to herbs and medicines that are derived from natural sources. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the use of medicinal plants dates at least to the Paleolithic, approximately 60,000 years ago. Written evidence of herbal remedies dates back over 5,000 years, to the Sumerians, who created lists of plants. A number of ancient cultures wrote about plants and their medical uses in books called herbals. In ancient Egypt, herbs are mentioned in Egyptian medical papyri, depicted in tomb illustrations, or on rare occasions found in medical jars containing trace amounts of herbs.[1] Among the oldest, lengthiest, and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt is the Ebers Papyrus dating from about 1550 BC, and covering more than 700 drugs, mainly of plant origin.[2] The earliest known Greek herbals were those of Theophrastus of Eresos who in the 4th c. B.C. wrote in Greek Historia Plantarum, of Diocles of Carystus who wrote during the 3rd century B.C, and of Krateuas who wrote in the 1st century B.C. Only a few fragments of these works have survived intact, but from what remains scholars have noted that there is a large amount of overlap with the Egyptian herbals.[3] Seeds likely used for herbalism have been found in the archaeological sites of Bronze Age China dating from the Shang Dynasty.[4] Over a hundred of the 224 drugs mentioned in the Huangdi Neijing, an early Chinese medical text, are herbs.[5] Herbs were also common in the medicine of ancient India, where the principal treatment for diseases was diet.[6]De Materia Medica, originally written in Greek, by Pedanius Dioscorides ( ; c. 40 90 AD) of Anazarbus, Cilicia, a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist, is a particularly important example of such writings.[7] The documentation of herbs and their uses was a central part of both Western and Eastern medical scholarship through to the 1600s, and these works played an important role in the development of the science of botany.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the population of some Asian and African countries presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.[8] Pharmaceuticals are prohibitively expensive for most of the world’s population, half of whom lived on less than $2 U.S. per day in 2002.[9] In comparison, herbal medicines can be grown from seed or gathered from nature for little or no cost.

Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 25% of modern drugs used in the United States have been derived from plants.[10] At least 7,000 medical compounds in the modern pharmacopoeia are derived from plants.[11] Among the 120 active compounds currently isolated from the higher plants and widely used in modern medicine today, 80% show a positive correlation between their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they are derived.[12]

In 2015 the Australian Government’s Department of Health published the results of a review of alternative therapies that sought to determine if any were suitable for being covered by health insurance; Herbalism was one of 17 topics evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.[13]

In a 2010 survey of the most common 1000 plant-derived compounds, only 156 had clinical trials published. Preclinical studies (tissue-culture and animal studies) were reported for about one-half of the plant products, while 12% of the plants, although available in the Western market, had “no substantial studies” of their properties. Strong evidence was found that 5 were toxic or allergenic, so that their use ought to be discouraged or forbidden. Nine plants had considerable evidence of therapeutic effect.[14]

According to Cancer Research UK, “there is currently no strong evidence from studies in people that herbal remedies can treat, prevent or cure cancer”.[15]

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health funds clinical trials of the effectiveness of herbal medicines and provides fact sheets summarizing the effectiveness and side effects of many plant-derived preparations.[16]

The use of herbal remedies is more prevalent in patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, asthma and end-stage renal disease.[17][18][19] Multiple factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, education and social class are also shown to have association with prevalence of herbal remedies use.[20]

A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health focused on who used complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), what was used, and why it was used. The survey was limited to adults, aged 18 years and over during 2002, living in the United States. According to this survey, herbal therapy, or use of natural products other than vitamins and minerals, was the most commonly used CAM therapy (18.9%) when all use of prayer was excluded.[21][22]

Herbal remedies are very common in Europe. In Germany, herbal medications are dispensed by apothecaries (e.g., Apotheke). Prescription drugs are sold alongside essential oils, herbal extracts, or herbal teas. Herbal remedies are seen by some as a treatment to be preferred to pure medical compounds that have been industrially produced.[23]

In India the herbal remedy is so popular that the government of India has created a separate departmentAYUSHunder the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. The National Medicinal Plants Board was also established in 2000 by the Indian government in order to deal with the herbal medical system.[24]

There are many forms in which herbs can be administered, the most common of which is in the form of a liquid that is drunk by the patienteither an herbal tea or a (possibly diluted) plant extract.[25] Whole herb consumption is also practiced either fresh, in dried form or as fresh juice.[citation needed]

Several methods of standardization may be determining the amount of herbs used. One is the ratio of raw materials to solvent. However different specimens of even the same plant species may vary in chemical content. For this reason, thin layer chromatography is sometimes used by growers to assess the content of their products before use. Another method is standardization on a signal chemical.[26]

Herbal teas, or tisanes, are the resultant liquid of extracting herbs into water, though they are made in a few different ways. Infusions are hot water extracts of herbs, such as chamomile or mint, through steeping. Decoctions are the long-term boiled extracts, usually of harder substances like roots or bark. Maceration is the old infusion of plants with
high mucilage-content, such as sage, thyme, etc. To make macerates, plants are chopped and added to cold water. They are then left to stand for 7 to 12 hours (depending on herb used). For most macerates 10 hours is used.[27]

Tinctures are alcoholic extracts of herbs, which are generally stronger than herbal teas.[28] Tinctures are usually obtained by combining 100% pure ethanol (or a mixture of 100% ethanol with water) with the herb. A completed tincture has an ethanol percentage of at least 25% (sometimes up to 90%).[27] Herbal wine and elixirs are alcoholic extract of herbs, usually with an ethanol percentage of 12-38%.[27] Herbal wine is a maceration of herbs in wine, while an elixir is a maceration of herbs in spirits (e.g., vodka, grappa, etc.).[29]Extracts include liquid extracts, dry extracts, and nebulisates. Liquid extracts are liquids with a lower ethanol percentage than tinctures. They are usually made by vacuum distilling tinctures. Dry extracts are extracts of plant material that are evaporated into a dry mass. They can then be further refined to a capsule or tablet.[27] A nebulisate is a dry extract created by freeze-drying.[citation needed]Vinegars are prepared in the same way as tinctures, except using a solution of acetic acid as the solvent.[citation needed]Syrups are extracts of herbs made with syrup or honey. Sixty-five parts of sugar are mixed with thirty-five parts of water and herb. The whole is then boiled and macerated for three weeks.[27]

The exact composition of an herbal product is influenced by the method of extraction. A tea will be rich in polar components because water is a polar solvent. Oil on the other hand is a non-polar solvent and it will absorb non-polar compounds. Alcohol lies somewhere in between.[25]

Many herbs are applied topically to the skin in a variety of forms. Essential oil extracts can be applied to the skin, usually diluted in a carrier oil. Many essential oils can burn the skin or are simply too high dose used straight; diluting them in olive oil or another food grade oil such as almond oil can allow these to be used safely as a topical.[30][unreliable source?] Salves, oils, balms, creams and lotions are other forms of topical delivery mechanisms. Most topical applications are oil extractions of herbs. Taking a food grade oil and soaking herbs in it for anywhere from weeks to months allows certain phytochemicals to be extracted into the oil. This oil can then be made into salves, creams, lotions, or simply used as an oil for topical application. Many massage oils, antibacterial salves, and wound healing compounds are made this way. One can also make a poultice or compress using the whole herb or the appropriate part of the plant, which is usually crushed or dried and re-hydrated with a small amount of water and then applied directly in a bandage, cloth, or just as is.[citation needed]

Inhalation, as in aromatherapy, can be used as a mood changing treatment[31][32] to fight a sinus infection or cough [33][citation needed], or to cleanse the skin on a deeper level (steam rather than direct inhalation here)[citation needed]

A number of herbs are thought to be likely to cause adverse effects.[34] Furthermore, “adulteration, inappropriate formulation, or lack of understanding of plant and drug interactions have led to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening or lethal.[35]” Proper double-blind clinical trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of each plant before they can be recommended for medical use.[36] Although many consumers believe that herbal medicines are safe because they are “natural”, herbal medicines and synthetic drugs may interact, causing toxicity to the patient. Herbal remedies can also be dangerously contaminated, and herbal medicines without established efficacy, may unknowingly be used to replace medicines that do have corroborated efficacy.[37]

Standardization of purity and dosage is not mandated in the United States, but even products made to the same specification may differ as a result of biochemical variations within a species of plant.[38] Plants have chemical defense mechanisms against predators that can have adverse or lethal effects on humans. Examples of highly toxic herbs include poison hemlock and nightshade.[39] They are not marketed to the public as herbs, because the risks are well known, partly due to a long and colorful history in Europe, associated with “sorcery”, “magic” and intrigue.[40] Although not frequent, adverse reactions have been reported for herbs in widespread use.[41] On occasion serious untoward outcomes have been linked to herb consumption. A case of major potassium depletion has been attributed to chronic licorice ingestion.,[42] and consequently professional herbalists avoid the use of licorice where they recognize that this may be a risk. Black cohosh has been implicated in a case of liver failure.[43] Few studies are available on the safety of herbs for pregnant women,[44] and one study found that use of complementary and alternative medicines are associated with a 30% lower ongoing pregnancy and live birth rate during fertility treatment.[45] Examples of herbal treatments with likely cause-effect relationships with adverse events include aconite, which is often a legally restricted herb, ayurvedic remedies, broom, chaparral, Chinese herb mixtures, comfrey, herbs containing certain flavonoids, germander, guar gum, liquorice root, and pennyroyal.[46] Examples of herbs where a high degree of confidence of a risk long term adverse effects can be asserted include ginseng, which is unpopular among herbalists for this reason, the endangered herb goldenseal, milk thistle, senna, against which herbalists generally advise and rarely use, aloe vera juice, buckthorn bark and berry, cascara sagrada bark, saw palmetto, valerian, kava, which is banned in the European Union, St. John’s wort, Khat, Betel nut, the restricted herb Ephedra, and Guarana.[35]

There is also concern with respect to the numerous well-established interactions of herbs and drugs.[35] In consultation with a physician, usage of herbal remedies should be clarified, as some herbal remedies have the potential to cause adverse drug interactions when used in combination with various prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, just as a patient should inform a herbalist of their consumption of orthodox prescription and other medication.

For example, dangerously low blood pressure may result from the combination of an herbal remedy that lowers blood pressure together with prescription medicine that has the same effect. Some herbs may amplify the effects of anticoagulants.[47] Certain herbs as well as common fruit interfere with cytochrome P450, an enzyme critical to much drug metabolism.[48]

A 2013 study published in the journal BMC Medicine found that one-third of herbal supplements sampled contained no trace of the herb listed on the label. The study found products adulterated with filler including allergens such as soy, wheat, and black walnut. One bottle labeled as St. John’s Wort was found to actually contain Alexandrian senna, a laxative.[49]

Researchers at the University of Adelaide found in 2014 that almost 20 per cent of herbal remedies surveyed were not registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, despite this being a condition for their sale. They also found that nearly 60 per cent of products surveyed had ingredients that did not match what was on the label. Out of 121 products, only 15 had ingredients that matched their TGA listing and packaging.[50]

In 2015 the New York Attorney General issued cease and desist
letters to four major U.S. retailers (GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart) who are accused of selling herbal supplements that were mislabeled and potentially dangerous. 24 products were tested by DNA barcoding as part of the investigation, all but five contained DNA that did not match the products’ labels. The investigation was prompted by the 2013 BMC study.[51][52]

A herbalist is:[53][54][55]

Herbalists must learn many skills, including the wildcrafting or cultivation of herbs, diagnosis and treatment of conditions or dispensing herbal medication, and preparations of herbal medications. Education of herbalists varies considerably in different areas of the world. Lay herbalists and traditional indigenous medicine people generally rely upon apprenticeship and recognition from their communities in lieu of formal schooling.

In some countries formalized training and minimum education standards exist, although these are not necessarily uniform within or between countries. For example, in Australia the currently self-regulated status of the profession (as of April 2008) results in different associations setting different educational standards, and subsequently recognising an educational institution or course of training. The National Herbalists Association of Australia is generally recognised as having the most rigorous professional standard within Australia.[56] In the United Kingdom, the training of medical herbalists is done by state funded Universities. For example, Bachelor of Science degrees in herbal medicine are offered at Universities such as University of East London, Middlesex University, University of Central Lancashire, University of Westminster, University of Lincoln and Napier University in Edinburgh at the present.[citation needed]

The World Health Organization (WHO), the specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is concerned with international public health, published Quality control methods for medicinal plant materials in 1998 in order to support WHO Member States in establishing quality standards and specifications for herbal materials, within the overall context of quality assurance and control of herbal medicines.[57]

In the European Union (EU), herbal medicines are now regulated under the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products.

In the United States, herbal remedies are regulated dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration under current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) policy for dietary supplements.[citation needed] Manufacturers of products falling into this category are not required to prove the safety or efficacy of their product so long as they don’t make ‘medical’ claims or imply being other than for ‘dietary supplement’ use, though the FDA may withdraw a product from sale should it prove harmful.[58][59]

The National Nutritional Foods Association, the industry’s largest trade association, has run a program since 2002, examining the products and factory conditions of member companies, giving them the right to display the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) seal of approval on their products.[citation needed]

Some herbs, such as cannabis and coca, are outright banned in most countries though coca is legal in most of the South American countries where it is grown. The Cannabis plant is used as an herbal medicine, and as such is legal in some parts of the world. Since 2004, the sales of ephedra as a dietary supplement is prohibited in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.,[60] and subject to Schedule III restrictions in the United Kingdom.

Native Americans medicinally used about 2,500 of the approximately 20,000 plant species that are native to North America.[61]

Some researchers trained in both western and traditional Chinese medicine have attempted to deconstruct ancient medical texts in the light of modern science. One idea is that the yin-yang balance, at least with regard to herbs, corresponds to the pro-oxidant and anti-oxidant balance. This interpretation is supported by several investigations of the ORAC ratings of various yin and yang herbs.[62][63]

In India, Ayurvedic medicine has quite complex formulas with 30 or more ingredients, including a sizable number of ingredients that have undergone “alchemical processing”, chosen to balance “Vata”, “Pitta” or “Kapha”.[64][65]

In Ladakh, Lahul-Spiti and Tibet, the Tibetan Medical System is prevalent, also called the ‘Amichi Medical System’. Over 337 species of medicinal plants have been documented by C.P. Kala. Those are used by Amchis, the practitioners of this medical system.[66][67]

In Tamil Nadu, Tamils have their own medicinal system now popularly called Siddha medicine. The Siddha system is entirely in the Tamil language. It contains roughly 300,000 verses covering diverse aspects of medicine. This work includes herbal, mineral and metallic compositions used as medicine. Ayurveda is in Sanskrit, but Sanskrit was not generally used as a mother tongue and hence its medicines are mostly taken from Siddha and other local traditions.[68]

In Indonesia, especially among the Javanese, the jamu traditional herbal medicine is an age old tradition preserved for centuries. Jamu is thought to have originated in the Mataram Kingdom era, some 1300 years ago.[69] The bas-reliefs on Borobudur depicts the image of people ground herbs with stone mortar and pestle, drink seller, physician and masseuse treating their clients.[70] All of these scenes might be interpreted as a traditional herbal medicine and health-related treatments in ancient Java. The Madhawapura inscription from Majapahit period mentioned a specific profession of herbs mixer and combiner (herbalist), called Acaraki.[70] The medicine book from Mataram dated from circa 1700 contains 3,000 entries of jamu herbal recipes, while Javanese classical literature Serat Centhini (1814) describes some jamu herbal concoction recipes.[70]

Though highly possible influenced by Indian Ayurveda system, Indonesia is a vast archipelago with numerous indigenous plants not to be found in India, which include plants similar to Australia beyond the Wallace Line. Indonesians might experimented and figure out the medicinal uses of these native herbal plants. Jamu may vary from region to region, and often not written down, especially in remote areas of the country.[71] Although primarily herbal, materials acquired from animals, such as honey, royal jelly, milk and ayam kampung eggs are also often used in jamu.

According to Eisenburg: The Chinese and Western medical models are like two frames of reference in which identical phenomena are studied. Neither frame of reference provides an unobstructed view of health and illness. Each is incomplete and in need of refinement.” Specifically, the traditional Chinese medical model could effect change on the recognized, and expected, phenomena of detachment to patients as people and estrangement unique to the clinical and impersonal relationships between patient and physician of the Western school of medicine.[72]

Four approaches to the use of plants as medicine include:[73]

1. The magical/shamanicAlmost all societies, with the exception of cultures influenced by Western-style industrialization, recognize this kind of use. The practitioner is regarded as endowed with gifts or powers that allow him/her to use herbs in a way that is hidden from the average person, and the herbs are said to affect the spirit or soul of the person.

2. The energeticThis approach includes the major systems of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Unani. He
rbs are regarded as having actions in terms of their energies and affecting the energies of the body. The practitioner may have extensive training, and ideally be sensitive to energy, but need not have supernatural powers.

3. The functional dynamicThis approach was used by early physiomedical practitioners, whose doctrine forms the basis of contemporary practice in the UK. Herbs have a functional action, which is not necessarily linked to a physical compound, although often to a physiological function, but there is no explicit recourse to concepts involving energy.

4. The chemicalModern practitioners – called Phytotherapists – attempt to explain herb actions in terms of their chemical constituents. It is generally assumed that the specific combination of secondary metabolites in the plant are responsible for the activity claimed or demonstrated, a concept called synergy.

Herbalists tend to use extracts from parts of plants, such as the roots or leaves but not isolate particular phytochemicals.[74] Pharmaceutical medicine prefers single ingredients on the grounds that dosage can be more easily quantified. It is also possible to patent single compounds, and therefore generate income. Herbalists often reject the notion of a single active ingredient, arguing that the different phytochemicals present in many herbs will interact to enhance the therapeutic effects of the herb and dilute toxicity.[75] Furthermore, they argue that a single ingredient may contribute to multiple effects. Herbalists deny that herbal synergism can be duplicated with synthetic chemicals They argue that phytochemical interactions and trace components may alter the drug response in ways that cannot currently be replicated with a combination of a few potentially active ingredients.[76][77] Pharmaceutical researchers recognize the concept of drug synergism but note that clinical trials may be used to investigate the efficacy of a particular herbal preparation, provided the formulation of that herb is consistent.[78]

In specific cases the claims of synergy[79] and multifunctionality[80] have been supported by science. The open question is how widely both can be generalized. Herbalists would argue that cases of synergy can be widely generalized, on the basis of their interpretation of evolutionary history, not necessarily shared by the pharmaceutical community. Plants are subject to similar selection pressures as humans and therefore they must develop resistance to threats such as radiation, reactive oxygen species and microbial attack in order to survive.[81] Optimal chemical defenses have been selected for and have thus developed over millions of years.[82] Human diseases are multifactorial and may be treated by consuming the chemical defences that they believe to be present in herbs. Bacteria, inflammation, nutrition and ROS (reactive oxygen species) may all play a role in arterial disease.[83] Herbalists claim a single herb may simultaneously address several of these factors. Likewise a factor such as ROS may underlie more than one condition.[84] In short herbalists view their field as the study of a web of relationships rather than a quest for single cause and a single cure for a single condition.

In selecting herbal treatments herbalists may use forms of information that are not applicable to pharmacists. Because herbs can moonlight as vegetables, teas or spices they have a huge consumer base and large-scale epidemiological studies become feasible. Ethnobotanical studies are another source of information.[85] For example, when indigenous peoples from geographically dispersed areas use closely related herbs for the same purpose that is taken as supporting evidence for its efficacy.[citation needed] Herbalists contend that historical medical records and herbals are underutilized resources.[86] They favor the use of convergent information in assessing the medical value of plants. An example would be when in-vitro activity is consistent with traditional use.

Indigenous healers often claim to have learned by observing that sick animals change their food preferences to nibble at bitter herbs they would normally reject.[87] Field biologists have provided corroborating evidence based on observation of diverse species, such as chickens, sheep, butterflies, and chimpanzee.The habit has been shown to be a physical means of purging intestinal parasites. Lowland gorillas take 90% of their diet from the fruits of Aframomum melegueta, a relative of the ginger plant, that is a potent antimicrobial and apparently keeps shigellosis and similar infections at bay.[88] Current research focuses on the possibility that this plants also protects gorillas from fibrosing cardiomyopathy which has a devastating effect on captive animals.[89]

Sick animals tend to forage plants rich in secondary metabolites, such as tannins and alkaloids.[90] Since these phytochemicals often have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antihelminthic properties, a plausible case can be made for self-medication by animals in the wild.[88]

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