New books at the Bioethics Research Library

The Bioethics Research Library regularly receives new additions to its extensive catalogue. In the domains of data ethics and the ethics of enhancement, areas in which the Institute is developing new programming, here are a few of our favorite new selections (with abbreviated publishers’ descriptions):

The Internet of us : knowing more and understanding less in the age of Big Data, by Michael Patrick Lynch – With 24/7 access to nearly all of the world’s information at our fingertips, users typically no longer trek to the library or the encyclopedia shelf in search of answers: we just open our browsers, type in a few keywords, and wait for the information to come to us. Demonstrating that knowledge based on reason plays an essential role in society and that there is more to “knowing” than just acquiring information, philosopher Michael P. Lynch shows how our digital way of life makes us value some ways of processing information over others, and thus risks distorting the greatest traits of mankind, charting a path from Plato’s cave to Google Glass.

The ethics of human enhancement : understanding the debate, edited by Steve Clarke, Julian Savulescu, C.A.J. Coady, Alberto Giubilini, and Sagar Sanyal – Humans can enhance some of our mental and physical abilities above the normal upper limits for our species with the use of particular drug therapies and medical procedures. We will be able to enhance many more of our abilities in more ways in the near future. Some commentators have welcomed the prospect of wide use of human enhancement technologies, while others have viewed it with alarm, and have made clear that they find human enhancement morally objectionable. An international team of ethicists refresh the debate with new ideas and arguments, making connections with scientific research and with related issues in moral philosophy.

Technology vs. humanity : the coming clash between man and machine, by Gerd Leonhard – Futurist Gerd Leonhard brings together mankind’s urge to upgrade and automate everything-down to human biology itself-with our timeless quest for freedom and happiness. Before it’s too late, we must stop and ask the big questions: How do we embrace technology without becoming it? When it happens-gradually, then suddenly-the machine era will create the greatest watershed in human life on Earth. Technology vs. Humanity is one of the last moral maps we’ll get as humanity enters the Jurassic Park of Big Tech. Artificial intelligence. Cognitive computing. The Singularity. Digital obesity. Printed food. The Internet of Things. The death of privacy. The end of work-as-we-know-it, and radical longevity: The imminent clash between technology and humanity is already rushing towards us. What moral values are you prepared to stand up for-before being human alters its meaning forever?

Rebel genius : Warren S. McCulloch’s transdisciplinary life in science, by Tara H. Abraham – Warren S. McCulloch (1898-1969) adopted many identities in his scientific life — among them philosopher, poet, neurologist, neurophysiologist, neuropsychiatrist, collaborator, theorist, cybernetician, mentor, engineer. He was, writes Tara Abraham in this account of McCulloch’s life and work, “an intellectual showman,” and performed this part throughout his career. While McCulloch claimed a common thread in his work was the problem of mind and its relationship to the brain, there was much more to him than that. Abraham uses McCulloch’s life as a window on a past scientific age, showing the complex transformations that took place in American brain and mind science in the twentieth century — particularly those surrounding the cybernetics movement.

Ethical reasoning in big data : an exploratory analysis, edited by Jeff Collmann, Sorin Adam Matei – This book springs from a multidisciplinary, multi-organizational, and multi-sector conversation about the privacy and ethical implications of research in human affairs using big data. The advent of the Internet, the mass digitization of research information, and social media brought about, among many other things, the ability to harvest – sometimes implicitly – a wealth of human genomic, biological, behavioral, economic, political, and social data for the purposes of scientific research as well as commerce, government affairs, and social interaction. What type of ethical dilemmas did such changes generate? How should scientists collect, manipulate, and disseminate this information?

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