Toward Dystopia

From the January 2015 Print Edition

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
by nick bostrom
oxford, 352 pages, $29.95
Since cofounding the World Transhumanist Association in 1998, the Swedish-born Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has attempted to give a serious academic mien to the movement known as transhumanism. Transhumanists aim to use advanced computing, engineering, and biological manipulation to improve and extend human life. First associated with twentieth-century eugenics, transhumanist ideas are increasingly popular among the people who design the products that affect our lives. Rapid advances in computing have fueled transhumanist hopes that human and computer intelligence will one day merge. The idea of the “singularity”—the moment at which advanced computers become so powerful that they can keep upgrading themselves absent human help—has gained prominence through the efforts of people like engineer and ­futurologist Ray Kurzweil, whose 2005 book The Singularity Is Near was a bestseller. Google’s appointment of Kurzweil as its director of engineering in December 2012 marked transhumanism’s entrance into the mainstream. Continue Reading »


From the April 2013 Print Edition

In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible by Michael Walzer Yale, 256 pages, $28 In the Bible, argues Michael Walzer, God casts a shadow over human politics, making it hard to see that human beings are at work. The Pentateuch’s different law codes, for example, bear silent witness to . . . . Continue Reading »