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February 26, 2006

Theory of Web Evolution, Web 2.0, life studies as open source


I am now reading the book, A Theory of Web Evolution (Uwebu Shinkaron), Chikuma Shinsho, 2006, written in Japanese by Mochio Umeda. This book has just been published and is likely to become a bestseller. This is a really interesting book. I am going to write a book review for a local newspaper. Umeda, the author, is an engineer with a Ph.D., and the CEO of the Japanese web company, hatena. He has lived in Silicon Valley, USA, for these ten years.

He stresses that the revolution now being made by weblogs and Wikipedia as well as such company as Google and Amazon, will provide us with a completely different kind of cyber space, compared with that which the "old" style company, such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Intel, have shown us. The difference is that the former encourages us to create new webpages, information, and dynamic links using their open source technologies, and encourages us to go beyond the original models those companies have prepared beforehand. And after that, those companies tries to make profit out of us by monitoring users' activities and acquiring information about how the majority behave on the Internet. He thinks this is the core image of Web 2.0, which is one of the hottest issues on the web today.

Umeda summarizes the three main features of Web 2.0 as follows:

1) First law: The understanding of the world from the viewpoint of "God"
2) Second law: A new economic sphere in which ones' automatic agents on the web make money automatically
3) Thrid law: Possibility of earning money from the accumulation of scattered very small profits (p.34)

However, in the latter half of the book, Umeda emphasizes that the most important feature of Web 2.0 is not that we can make money from it, but that we can cooperate to create a new world of dynamic knowledge and collective intelligence, just like Wikipedia, on the web volantarily and openly. This is the core philosophy of Web 2.0, and probably the most revolutionary contribution to our cyber society.

This could also be applied to our life studies project. Life studies should be a kind of open source, by using which every concerned person can create their own life studies in their real lives. Every life studies activity is different, but all of them are interconnected with each other. The same thing can be said about "philosophy of life." I am going to write about it here in the near future.

My intuition is that life studies or philosophy of life is similar to Web 2.0, because both of them aim to connect people, knowledge, wisdom, and activities in the way only developing living beings can fully execute. Hence for me, "2.0" means "life."

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 18, 2006

Fundamental sense of security, disappearence of conviction of love


The paper, "Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology" has just been published in the web journal, Polylog. I discussed some philosophical problems raised by recent&future human biotechnology, and then I proposed four concepts, such as "problem of disempowerment", "fundamental sense of security", "disappearence of <conviction of love>", and "painless civilization."

This paper is a kind of a summary of my recent studies on life studies and bioethics, so if you are interested in Morioka's philosophy, I would recommend reading this paper first, then you can get an outline of my recent thoughts. Most topics in this paper have been discussed in my former Japanese books, such as Painless Civilization and Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics, hence, by reading this paper you might be able to get a glimpse of the discussion in those Japanese books.

The following is the summary of the paper:

This paper discusses some philosophical problems lurking behind the issues of human biotechnology, particularly prenatal screening. Firstly, prenatal screening technology disempowers existing disabled people.

The second problem is that it systematically deprives us of the »fundamental sense of security.« This is a sense of security that allows us to believe that we will never be looked upon by anyone with such unspoken words as, »I wish you were never born« or »I wish you would disappear from the world.«

Thirdly, we argue that the loss of the fundamental sense of security is connected with the disappearance of »conviction of love« in the age of human biotechnology.

And finally, all these issues are examined from the viewpoint of »painless civilization.« Our society is filled with a variety of »preventive reduction of pain,« of which prenatal screening is a good example. By preventively reducing pain and suffering, we lose the chance to transform the basic structure of our way of thinking and being; as a result, we are deprived of opportunities to know precious truths indispensable to our meaningful life.

Hence, it is concluded that what is most needed is an academic research on »philosophy of life.« (Web)

I believe the concepts of "fundamental sense of security" and "preventive reduction of pain" will probably become key terms when discussing philosophical problems that will be caused by high-tech medicine, such as "preinplantation genetic diagnosis" and "genetic enhancement." And I think these concepts will cover not only medical ethics but also the problem of, for example, a surveillance society that uses security cameras to prevent unforeseen crimes. Because contemporary society is deeply influenced by "painless civilization," we can find similar problems everywhere in our society. This is what I have repeatedly stressed in my papers and books.

In the conclusion section of this paper I talked about the importance of "philosophy of life." I am planning to start the "philosophy of life project" in a year or two with my colleagues. I am going to write an outline of the project soon on this blog.

See related post: Prenatal diagnosis, sense of security, and bioethics (March 28, 2006)

Photo: The entrance of National Museum of Art, Osaka

Related external links: http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog/2005/04/painless_civili.html

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 09, 2006

Neuroethics, Gazzaniga, Ethical Brain


I read Michael Gazzaniga's The Ethical Brain (2005) in Japanese translation, and I wrote a book review for a news agency, which will be published in newspapers later in this month. This is one of the first books that deal with the issues of "neuroethics." Neuroethics is a fairly new word, which was created in 2003 to discuss ethical problems raised by the observation and manipulation of the human brain by using drugs, silicon tips, fMRI, and other high-tech devices. Specialists predicate that in the future we will be able to see through a person's inner emotions and ideas from outside his/her brain, but isn't this violation of one's privacy? Or should it be acceptable in order to detect terrorists? What about the enhancement of memory and IQ of a child? It might be possible to do that by giving certain drugs to the child, or by operating certain parts of the child's brain.

It is disappointed that Gazzaniga does not fully discuss the above "neuroethical" questions. Most pages are about current topics on brain science and psychology, particularly topics of human cognition. But his discussion is interesting, especially the interpretation of data acquired from his experiments on patients with the split brain (The split brain has been one of the main topics of Gazzaniga's brain research). From his research, he concludes that the left hemisphere is the locus of the function of creating meaning. And he says that the frontal lobe is activated when buddhist monks are meditating, and the temporal lobe is activated when one is having a vivid religious experience, including out-of-body experiences. He suggests that the combination of these brain functions have helped create various forms of religions around the world.

Gazzaniga says that in a similar manner, our moral judgment might be able to be predicted by looking inside one's brain and detecting the activated areas of the brain. It is discovered that a certain area is activated when one makes a judgment on a certain moral question.

It is interesting to foresee how many areas of humanities will be replaced by future interdisciplinary brain sciences. In the near future, we will have to understand the brain function more and more in order to understand our inner activities. Probably psychology (including Freudian ones) will be merged into brain science sooner or later. Then, what about philosophy, ethics, and religious studies? There will be harsh debates over some fundamental concepts of philosophy and ethics between philosophers and brain scientists. (We can see some early examples even now.) I think one of the challenges of philosophy is to point out the theoretical limitation of brain science, that is to say, what brain science cannot understand theoretically.

Last year a research group on neuroethics was established by biologist Osamu Sakura, associate professor at the University of Tokyo. I have not attended their meetings yet, but this year I want to join their conference and see what they are discussing. Neuroethics is a really interesting topic, however, we have not fully known what we should discuss in the name of neuroethics. And I am curious to know what life studies can contribute to neuroethics.

Photo: The entrance of National Museum of Art, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 03, 2006

Taste of whale meat


I have not posted for more than 10 days because I was busy writing papers last month.

I wrote about whale meat in the previous entry. Last week, I read an interesting article in the Kyodo news (Kyodo, Jan 28 in Japanese). In Japan, whale meat acquired as the result of research whaling can be legally sold, however, the amount of the stock of whale meat has increased, doubles in these ten years. The reason is that while the total number of caught whales is increasing, the consumption does not increase in proportion.

Wikipedia writes as folows:

In the postwar 1940s and 1950s, whale meat became a primary source of food and protein in Japan following the famines that came with World War II.

This coincide with my own experience in the 1950s and 60s. We loved to eat whale meat. I liked fried whale meat (tatsuta age). But it seems that recent Japanese prefer beef to whale meat. Our custom of eating whale meat will probably be decreasing and disappear someday. I miss the taste of whale, but it will be good news both for the Japanese and Greenpeace, and of course, whales.

Photo: "Life" supermarket, Osaka.

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org