Category Archives: Philosophy in Paradise

The New Democracies

‘New Democracies’ is a generic term for a number of different alternatives to the traditional problems of large representative democracies. Since the emergence of the internet at the start of the 21st century, a number of theories have been proposed to return democracy to a direct system of government.

The first of these is Electronic Direct Democracy (EDD) which is where people vote directly on issues of concern. This may be done either in terms of special referenda or by regular voting on issues, particularly at local government level. A ‘hybrid’ model of both representative and electronic mediums is often proposed as a means of transition to a pure electronic model. The security of the electronic vote is cited as the most common criticism of this view.

The second option is a wiki-democracy. This is also a variation of an electronic democracy. On this system, a publically editable ‘wiki page’ is established at the start of each calendar year and citizens contribute to the development of policy on that page. At the end of the calendar year, the page is closed down and the various policies are then put to an electronic vote. Apart from the usual concern about voter security, another criticism is the question of how resources are going to be allocated to the implementation of policy. Votes would need to be taken on those issues as well.

The third form of new democracy is liquid or delegative democracy. On this system, individual voters allocate their vote to a delegate who then votes either in person or electronically. Liquid democracy is distinct from both representative and direct democracy. One thing in favour of liquid democracy is the use of blockchain technology. This appears to give some security to the vote.

The fourth form of new democracy is known as Issues Based Direct Democracy (IBDD). The system is based on a voter credit allocated to each voter which can then be used either directly, allocated to a delegate, or saved and used collectively on a decision which they regard as important. One Australian party that promotes IBDD is Flux.

The last form of new democracy is known as Citizen-Led Democracy. In Australia, this model is based on the Kitchen Table Conversation (KTC) concept used so effectively by Cathy McGowan in defeating Sophie Mirabella in the seat of Indi over the course of two Federal elections.

The KTC model operates by small informal groups getting together ‘around kitchen tables’ and discussing the issues that they think are relevant for their local electorate. The results of this conversation are then collated and published in either a physical or electronic form. At this point, the results are either presented to the local member to gain agreement to address these issues or are presented to a ‘town hall meeting’ where the conversation on the importance of the issues raised are discussed further.

The significance of this model is that it is not necessarily concerned with standing candidates for election. Rather it is a model that seeks to build community and get local issues addressed. Hence networking, community action, local resource development, etc. can all be important outcomes for a KTC. However it may be that standing candidates against sitting members will be a legitimate outcome of this process.


Woodbox Café, West Burleigh 14th November 10.30-Noon

Robina Tavern, Robina 14th November 5.30-7.00pm      

GC Arts Centre, Bundall, 15th November 11.30-1.00pm


Casual Rate $10 per class

Reading booklet $10

What are the cardinal virtues?

The cardinal virtues comprise a quartet set of virtues articulated by the philosophers of Ancient Greece. The term “cardinal” comes from the Latin cardo (hinge); the cardinal virtues are so called because they are regarded as the basic virtues required for a virtuous life. They are: justice, temperance, courage, and practical wisdom


For Plato, justice is a virtue establishing rational order, with each part performing its appropriate role and not interfering with the proper functioning of other parts. The just individual is someone whose soul is guided by a vision of the Good, someone in whom reason governs passion and ambition through such a vision. When, but only when, this is the case, is the soul harmonious, strong, beautiful, and healthy, and individual justice precisely consists in such a state of the soul. Actions are then just if they sustain or are consonant with such harmony. Aristotle says justice consists in what is lawful and fair, with fairness involving equitable distributions and the correction of what is inequitable. Aristotle treats the virtue of individual justice as a matter of being disposed to properly respect and promote just social arrangements. An individual who seeks more than their fair share of various goods has the vice of greediness, and a just individual is one who has rational insight into their own merits in various situations and who habitually (and without having to make heroic efforts to control contrary impulses) takes no more than what they merit, no more than their fair share of good things. Justice, then, is the settled disposition to act, so that each person receives their due. This settled disposition includes a practical knowledge about how to bring it about, in each situation, that each receives their due. It also includes a strong positive attitude toward bringing it about that each receives their due.


Courage is a settled disposition that allows one to act reliably to pursue right ends in fearful situations, because one values so acting intrinsically. Physical courage is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, death, or threat of death. Moral courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences. Intellectual courage is having a consciousness of the need to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs or viewpoints toward which we have strong negative emotions and to which we have not given a serious hearing.


Temperance is the espousal of moderation, marked by personal restraint. It is one of the cardinal virtues because no virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire. Temperance is generally defined by control over excess, so that it has many such classes, such as abstinence, chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, forgiveness, and mercy, each of these involves restraining some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger.

Practical Wisdom: also called prudence or, in Greek, phronesis

Phronesis is a Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence. In Aristotle’s ethics, it is distinguished from other words for wisdom and intellectual virtues – such as episteme  and techne  – as the virtue of practical thought. For this reason, when it is not simply translated by words meaning wisdom or intelligence, it is often translated as “practical wisdom”. Phronesis involves reasoning concerning universal truths and combines a capability of rational thinking, with a type of knowledge. It is concerned with particulars, because it is concerned with how to act in particular situations. One can learn the principles of action, but applying them in the real world, in situations one could not have foreseen, requires experience of the world.

In the Roman world, phronesis was translated as prudence. Prudence is the application of universal principles to particular situations. In scholastic philosophy, the integral parts of prudence are the elements that must be present for any complete or perfect act of the virtue. The following are the integral parts of prudence:

Memoria — Accurate memory; that is, memory that is true to reality; an ability to learn from experience

Docilitas — The kind of open-mindedness that recognizes the true variety of things and situations to be experienced; the ability to make use of the experience and authority of others to make prudent decisions

Intelligentia — the understanding of first principles

Shrewdness or quick-wittedness (solertia) — sizing up a situation on one’s own quickly

Discursive reasoning (ratio) — research and compare alternative possibilities

Foresight (providentia)  — capacity to estimate whether a particular action will lead to the realization of a goal

Circumspection — ability to take all relevant circumstances into account

Caution — risk mitigation

The cardinal virtues became the fundamental virtues for western culture and even though the so-called spiritual virtues of faith, hope, and charity were added during the Middle Ages, the cardinal virtues retain a central place in modern discussions of virtue theory.

The other history of the early Christian church

We are all more or less familiar with the early history of the early Christian church… persecution of the early Church by the Roman authorities, martyrdom and sacrifice, before the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the early 4th century AD and the creation of an official ‘New Testament’ of Christian belief. But what of the other streams of early Christianity that existed during these centuries but were excluded from inclusion in the ‘orthodox’ doctrines? What do we know of these unorthodox voices?

After the death of Jesus (around 33 AD), Christianity grew from a small Jewish sect of apostles and followers to a religion that began to spread around the Roman empire. The uniqueness of early Christianity is that even though its early leaders were Jews, the Christian message was addressed to people of all nations and classes. For the first forty years of the movement, the records of Christ’s life and the acts of the apostles were primarily verbal ones, but after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70ad the first gospels were committed to writing. The gospel of Mark was written at this time and over the next twenty years (to 90ad), Mathew and Luke were written, followed by John (95ad). These gospels were all ‘narrative’ gospels in that they essentially recorded the activities of Jesus’ life. The remainder of the New Testament is believed to have been written by 150 ad.

This early period was known as the Apostolic Church and after 100ad the Christian church moved into the Post-Apostolic period. Justin Martyr (100-160ad), in the early 2nd century (around 120ad) mentions the memoirs of the apostles which are called ‘gospels’ and around 185 ad Irenaeus of Lyon insisted that the four gospels were the ‘pillars of the church’. The religious scholar, Elaine Pagels, argues that the gospels chosen by Ireneaus were concerned with providing moral instruction to the Christian community which helped served the institutionalising of the Christian movement. Ireneuas also referred to other Christian works (which he described as ‘heresies’) but these were excluded from the Christian Canon because they did not serve the purpose of institutionalisation. By the early 3rd century, Origen of Alexandria may have been using the same 27 books as exist in the modern New Testament.

During this time, Christianity suffered various persecutions, but continued to spread because of its appeal to Jews and Gentiles alike. However this persecution came to an end with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in 323ad and Christianity became the official State religion of the Roman Empire. In 367ad, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, provided the earliest preserved list of the New Testament canon and the African Synod of Hippo of 393 approved the New Testament as it stands today. The Councils of Cathage of 397 and 419, presided over by St. Augustine, repeated the decision of 393 and Augustine regarded the canon as already closed.

Early church writers such as Ireneaus and Tertullian (150-220ad) wrote against alternative accounts of Christian doctrine and theology known as ‘Gnosticism’, although little precise detail was known about these views. Some fragments of Gnostic doctrine and theology were preserved in the ‘refutations’ of these Christian writers but it was not until 1945 when a large collection of Gnostic manuscripts were discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt that the original documents of Gnosticism were first known. The word ‘gnosticism’ is derived from the Greek word gnosis which means knowledge of a revelatory or salvationist nature (as against ordinary knowledge of the world). The intellectual movement known as Gnosticism incorporated Christian, Jewish and pagan belief systems and existed from the early first century to the end of the fourth century

The Nag Hammadi codex is a collection of non-orthodox writings (52 separate texts in total) dating from the 1st to the 4th century ad. Apart from texts relating to Christian Gnosticism, the other Nag Hammadi texts include discussions of Jewish Gnosticism (usually referred to as Sethian Gnosticism – Seth being the third son of Adam and Eve after Cain and Abel), Gnostic criticisms of Neo-Platonism (the late Platonic movement – 3rd to 5th century ad – dating from Plotinus (204-270) through to Proclus (412-485)) and discussions of hermeticism (also known as the Hermetica), the occult tradition of late antiquity incorporating elements of alchemy and astrology. Sethian Gnosticism is often thought to predate Christian Gnosticism and may have been influenced the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria (25 bce – 50 ce).

Apart from its emphasis on the esoteric nature of gnosis, a consistent theme in Gnostic writings is the view that the creator of the physical world (known since the time of Plato’s Timaeus as the ‘demiurge’) is an inferior spiritual being or fallen angel. According to the gnostics, no truly spiritual being would consciously seek to create the physical world and this is the reason why the Neo-Platonic philosophers, who saw rational order in the physical world, were so hostile to the gnostics. Within the Nag Hammadi codex, dialogues which make use of Neo-Platonic ideas include Allogenes, Marsanes, The Three Steles of Seth, and Zostrianos, while those relating to Sethian Gnosticism include the Apocalypse of Adam, the Apocryphon of John, and the Thought of Norea.

The texts relating to Christian Gnosticism are diverse in number and dating, although in discussing these texts it must be remembered that early Church writers such as Tertullian and Origen had a hostile view of Gnosticism. Hence there is much dispute by modern orthodox writers as to the dating of any Gnostic gospels before the second century. (Elaine Pagels argues that the creation of the Nag Hammadi codex was in fact a reaction to the persecution and destruction of Gnostic communities during the 4th century).

Remembering that the original gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John were only written down in the late 1st century, it is significant that there are several Gnostic gospels which date from the early 2nd century and perhaps as early as the late 1st century. These include the Gospel of Thomas, the Dialogue of the Savior, the Gospel of Truth, and the Apocalypse of Adam. The most well known of these is the Gospel of Thomas which is a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus and has been dated as early as 50ad. An example of this gospel:

“Jesus said ‘Blessed are the solitary and the elect, for you will find the kingdom. For you are from it, and to it you will return.”

This gospel also mentions a conflict between Mary and Peter which is a theme of the Gospel of Mary:

“Then Mary wept and said to Peter, ‘My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my own heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?’”.

The Dialogue of the Savior is an elaboration of traditional sayings and has a close relationship to the Gospel of Thomas. From the Dialogue of the Savior:

“The Lord said ‘Right. For do they see you? Do they see those who receive you? Now behold! A true Word is coming forth from the Father to the abyss, in silence with a flash of lightning, giving birth’.”

Within the corpus is a complete account of the Gospel of Truth, written by a 2nd century Gnostic (about 150 ad) Valentinus. Valentinus was an extremely important Gnostic and was, at one point, a candidate for the position of bishop of Rome within the Christian church. Another important Gnostic text (20 pages) was the Apocryphon of John which dates from before 185 ad and was still in use in the 8th century by the Audians of Mesopotania. Part of the importance of this text lies in its criticism of the Old Testament such as when Jehovah says “I am a jealous God”, this author of this gospel states:

“But by announcing this he indicated to the angels who attended him that there exists another God. For if there were no other one, of whom would he be jealous?”

A similar theme is treated in The Second Treatise of the Great Seth:

“And then a voice – of the Cosmocrator – came to the angels: ‘I am God and there is no other beside me.’ But I laughed joyfully when I examined his empty glory.”


“For the Archon was a laughingstock because he said ‘I am God and there is none greater than I. I alone am the Father, the Lord, and there is no other beside me. I am a jealous God, who brings the sins of the fathers upon the children for three and four generations.’ As if he was stronger than I and my brothers! But we are innocent with respect to him, in that we have not sinned, since we mastered his teaching. Thus he was an empty glory.”

Both of these texts emphasise the common Gnostic theme that the God of the Old Testament (Jehovah), by his own words, demonstrates that he is not the only God in the heavens and that there must be others greater than him.

The Teaching of Sylvanus (dating from the late 2nd century) is not a standard Gnostic text but does present a unique view of Christ:

“Light the lamp within you. Do not extinguish it. Certainly no one lights a lamp for wild beasts and their young. Raise your dead who have died, for they lived and died for you. Give them life. They shall live again. For the Tree of Life is Christ. He is Wisdom”.

In the Apocalypse of Peter (a 3rd century text) the crucifixion of Christ is understood to be an illusion. In this docetic passage, Peter is standing next to Christ watching Christ’s own crucifixion:

“When he had said those things, I saw him seemingly being seized by them. And I said ‘What do I see, O Lord, that it is you yourself whom they take, and that you are grasping me? Or who is this one, glad and laughing on the tree? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?’ The Savior said to me, ‘He whom you see on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But the one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails in his fleshy part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and look at me…. But he who stands near him is the living Savior, the first in him whom they seized and released, who stands joyfully looking at those who did him violence, while they are divided among themselves. Therefore he laughs at their lack of perception, knowing that they are born blind.’”

Many of the texts present ascent rituals whereby through the uttering of certain sacred words and phrases, the Gnostic was able to ascend through the various layers of reality and return to the true God. In the Trimorphic Protennoia the overcoming of the Underworld is described:

“Every bond I loosed from you, and the chains of the Demons of the underworld, I broke, these things which are bound on my members, restraining them. And the high walls of darkness I overthrew, and the secure gates of those pitiless ones I broke and smashed their bars …indeed all these I explained to those who are mine, who are the Sons of the light, in order that they might nullify them all and be saved from all those bonds and enter into the place where they were at first.”

The Protennoia is the Voice of the First Thought and in this gospel she describes her nature:

“I am androgynous. I am Mother and I am Father since I copulate with myself. I copulated with myself and with those who love me, and it is through me alone that the All stands firm. I am the Womb that gives shape to the All by giving birth to the Light that shines in splendour.”

A similar idea is treated in The Paraphrase of Seth and the explicit imagery used makes it clear why some of these texts were not acceptable in the early church. The text describes Nature as a giant womb and the Savior puts on his Trimorphic garment and has intercourse with Nature. Nature has an orgasm and casts off its Mind in the form of a fish and as a result the physical world is created.

Much more could be said about the unique texts contained in the Nag Hammadi codex, although it should be clear that from a very early point in the Christian period, there were many other views apart from those that we have come to regard as orthodox. These views were not united by a single religious perspective but were simply alternative accounts, not only of Christianity, but also Judaism and Platonic philosophy. However there is a general theology that does characterise Gnosticism and this will be discussed in a later post.


In the Year 2025

Even though the year 2025 is only eight years way, it will be a transformed world to the one we now inhabit. We know quite definitely there will be less jobs and less hours to work. It has been estimated in a number of national and international reports that there will be 40% less jobs by 2030 due to the impact of AI and robotic labour. And with less hours worked, there will be less money to go around. Will we have to change our expectations of what we want in life? But the things we want may also be much cheaper. 3-D printing could change the way we build our houses and will cost a fraction of the price to build. And with less work, we will have more leisure. But what will we do? Will we spend our leisure time thinking of new ways to make more money or will we think about the meaning of making more money? Will we, in other words, engage in philosophy? Not if there’s going to be all these sex and companionship robots walking around. What will we do then?

Woodbox Café, West Burleigh 6th June 10.30-Noon $5

Krish restaurant, Easy-T centre, Robina 6th June 5.30-7.00pm $10 (includes nibbles)

GC Arts Centre, 7th June 11.30-1.00pm $5


Robots and Work

The landmark 2013 Frey and Osborne report predicted that 40% of jobs in countries such as Britian, the US, and Australia will be lost to robots and AI by 2025. However a Forrester report predicts only a 6% loss by 2021 and some writers think the danger is completely over-blown. Accurate industry figures can be found at the World Robotics Organisation.

Frey and Osborne 2013 report

Robots eliminate 6% of US jobs by 2021

Robotenomics: over-stated fear of job loss

World Robotics Organisation

However the generally accurate recognition that many jobs will disappear has prompted speculation about a future world without work – will it be a utopia or a hell? In fact, the catch-phrase ‘robots are coming for your jobs’ has become so popular that it yields dozens of direct hits on a google search. An example of the rapid development of highly mobile robots can be seen on the links for Boston Dynamics. In 2016, a driverless bus was tested in Perth. This example illustrates how quickly these changes are happening.

World without work

Google search: ‘robots are coming for your jobs’ multiple references eg on the need for digital literacy

Robots at Boston Dynamics

Driverless bus in Perth

Humanoid robots

The World Robotics Organisation distinguishes between industrial robots and personal service robots, the latter generally having a humanoid appearance. Humanoid robots are either gendered (gynoids (F) or androids (M)) or are gender neutral.   They will be employed in a variety of occupations including aged care, domestic workers, and sex workers. The Pepper robot is now being sold for use in retail and domestic situations.

Japanese gynoid video

German gynoid video

Non-specified gender robots

Domestic robot gynoid

Gynoid sex worker

Pepper robot

Over the past five years, humanoid robots have developed so quickly that they are now almost physically indistinguishable from humans. There is currently a large demand for sex gynoids for men (at a cost of around $US15,000) but there is also development occurring for sex androids for women.

10 humanoid robots

10 robots that will change the world

8 robots that look human

Sex robots for men

Sex robots for women

Robot psychologists

One unexpected area where robot growth is expected is in the field of robot therapy and psychology.

Robot therapist

Psychological intimacy with robots

Robot Intelligence

AI programs have now surpassed human capacity in a number of games including Chess and Go and as this capacity increases in the future, there will be the development of super-intelligence in A.I. programs. This intelligence will have the capacity to connect wirelessly with robots, thereby creating super-intelligent robots.


Intelligent robot

Robot intelligence


In this brief summary view of the future world of 2025, I have focused exclusively on the role of robots even though there will be many other technological impacts including nanotechnology, cyborgs, 3-D printing, electronic surveillance, etc. There is no definitive resource for this topic and it is one of those issues where your own research will take you far.

Two interesting literary resources are the writings of Isaac Asmiov who looks at the development of robots into the far future and the TV series ‘Humans’ (derived from the Swedish noir ‘Real Humans’) which examines many of the issues raised here.





What is a syllogism?

It came to my attention last week, that I often use a word in class that many people don’t have a clear understanding of . That word is ‘syllogism’. The word itself dates back to ancient Greece and is a combination of two parts – ‘syll-’ (derived from ‘syn-’ meaning ‘with’ or ‘together’ – for example, ‘syllable’, ‘syllabus’, ‘syllepsis’, ‘synthesis’, ‘synthetic’, ‘synoptic’, ‘syntactic’, etc) and ‘-logos’ (meaning ‘reason’, ‘word’, ‘idea’, ‘theory’ or ‘discourse’ eg ‘logic’, ‘psychology’, ‘geology’ (and almost any other science you care to name), ‘logocentric’, ‘logorrhoea’, etc.), so that the word ‘syllogism’, etymologically speaking, means a combination of distinct ideas. The word itself was first used by Aristotle in his Prior Analytics, which is also the source for the term ‘logic’.

For Aristotle, logic had two meanings: dialectic and analytic and it was the latter meaning which was understood in terms of syllogism. Aristotle’s theory of syllogism effectively defined the field of logic for over two thousand years. His key texts in logic were widely used during the Roman empire, but after the collapse of the empire in the 5th century AD, these texts were lost in the Latin Western Europe. However the texts were preserved in their original Greek in the Eastern Byzantine Empire and after the rise of Islam in the 8th century AD, many of these texts were translated into Arabic. The dispute between the Platonist Avecinna and the Aristotelian Averroes was an important stimulus to the development of medieval philosophy, especially the theology of Aquinas. It is only since the start of the 20th century that philosophers such as Frege, Russell, and Quine have discussed non-Aristotelian (syllogistic) forms of logic.

Despite its long history, a syllogism has a very precise meaning. It is the connection between two propositions (known as premises) which imply a conclusion. A classic example of a syllogism is as follows:

Socrates is a man

All men are mortal

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

The first two propositions are the premises; the final proposition is the conclusion. The conclusion follows logically from the premises. In technical terms, the conclusion is deduced from the premises; and this deduction is indicated by the expression ‘therefore’.

There is much more that can be said about syllogism – its components and conditions, for example – but to understand that the relationship between the three propositions is a logical relationship (as against, say, a temporal relation – eg ‘This happened, and then that happened, and then something else happened’ as so often occurs in narrative or story telling – is to understand the key feature of the syllogism.


Should humans be allowed to marry robots?

What is marriage? We all know what it means, don’t we? Traditionally it has been conceived as a legally recognised union between a man and woman. This is still the accepted view amongst a large number of Christian and conservative people. However in recent years, there has been a move to allow gay and lesbian people to marry – commonly called ‘same sex marriage’. This move has prompted a lot of debate about the nature of marriage. Is marriage to be defined exclusively in terms of its traditional connotation reflecting past values and arrangements or should the definition be extended to include more modern relationship arrangements?

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalised same sex marriage across the US. In its decision, the court emphasised that in a free society, individuals have the ‘fundamental right’ to choose the relationships that they pursue. No doubt this debate will rage for many years to come, although it may, in time, become a side issue.





Poster for 2017 Brisbane sexpo

Over the last decade, the development of robots has occurred so quickly that it is difficult to keep up with the changes that keep taking place. On the one hand, the appearance of humanoid robots are becoming more and more lifelike while on the other hand, the development of AI is creating a semblance of intelligence which is difficult to distinguish from the human mind.

AI programs are currently world champions across a number of games including chess, Go, and Jeopardy, and the development of AI programs which are emotionally intelligent are reaching the point where they may soon passed the equivalent of the Turing test for emotions. Also the development of humanoid robots have reached the point where life-like companion and sexual robots can be purchased for a reasonable price.





Man with robotic sex doll                                           French woman with robot she wishes to marry

It appears to be a foregone conclusion that humans will have sex, and sexual relationships, with robots in the not too distant future, perhaps 15 to 20 years. Many android robots for this very purpose are already in prototype development and this prospect already seems very appealing to some humans. Certainly the possibility of this development within 20 years, will have important implications for the prostitution and sex industry. Further, the prospect of ‘loving’ relationships between humans and robots may only be another 15 to 20 years after that.

When these two technologies – humanoid robots and emotionally intelligent AI – converge (say between 10 and 20 years), we will have humanoid entities which are sentient. Sex with these robots will be fairly well common by that time and, given that human nature is what it is, it is inevitable that some people will wish to marry their robots. This raises some interesting philosophical questions.

Will governments be able to prevent human to robot marriage? Assuming, for example, that a male human wishes to marry a female robot, there can be no argument that this is a male-female union. It will be objected that the intention behind the idea of marriage is that it is only humans who can be married. But if this intention is no-where clearly expressed as such, then it remains only an assumption.

Perhaps the more pressing point behind the concept of marriage is that is a choice, a contract entered into, between two rational beings. But if the issue is one of sapience, then there is no reason to assume that robots cannot be as intelligent as, if not moreso than, humans. And if this is the case, then the current dispute about same-sex marriage will, in the future, be irrelevant. Not only might we have human to robot marriage, but perhaps even human to AI marriage. Now that would be something to see.


What do you think your next job will be….. and why you’re probably wrong.


Are you under fifty? Do you think you will you be working for at least another twenty years?


Then there is more than a one in three chance that your current job will be automated during that time.

A raft of reports over the past few years have emphasised the significant impact that technology will have on future employment. In a report for the Committee for Economic Development, it was estimated that 40% of jobs in the Australian workforce will be lost to automation over the next fifteen years.

And these wont just be the unskilled labouring and trades jobs that have traditionally been lost through the automation of the manufacturing industry. They will also include white-collar clerical and sales positions which have seen such strong employment growth over the past forty years.

Automation will even impact on some professional occupations such as accountancy, law, and architecture that were previously thought immune to technological unemployment.

In fact, it is unlikely that there will be a field of work that wont be impacted by technological change over the next fifteen years. And as workers are pushed out of their traditional sphere of employment, they will crowd into a labour markets where opportunities will be shrinking.

So how can you protect yourself against future unemployment?

Quite simply… become creative.

The single consistent feature that has been identified in those jobs most under threat from technology is the routine nature of the work task and the one skill that will not be impacted by automation is creativity. Workers in the future that will have the most secure and profitable employment will be creative workers. But this creativity wont be a special skill of artists and musicians.

All future workers will need a moderate level of creativity to thrive in the future workforce. These workers will need to be problem solvers. They will need to think laterally, both in their jobs and in the ways they get their work.

These workers will be curious about future trends and good at imagining alternative scenarios where they might profit. They wont work for any one employer for more than a few years and their work will be contractual, flexible, and part-time.

These workers will need to be creative in way they approach their home-life balance. They wont be going off to their office in the city anymore. Their home and their community will be their work hub and they will need to negotiate a whole new set of domestic relationships as a result.

What is creativity? Is it a skill I can practice? Can I test my creativity? Will my current job be under threat from technology?

Find the answers to these questions in a ‘Creativity and the Future of Work’ workshop, next Saturday 8th April 2-5pm at Robina Community Centre. Cost $30.



Creativity Workshop

What is creativity?



Who is the creative person?

A creative person chooses their own goals and how they will achieve them. The creative person is expressive and curious, often both introverted and extroverted, and is driven by an urge to create and produce things.

 What is the creative process?

The creative process is untidy and messy, undisciplined and unruly. It is lateral, playful, imaginative, unconscious, childlike.

 What are the techniques of creativity?

The creative person practices the techniques of creativity. They are not afraid to learn to be more creative. In fact, they welcome the opportunity because they know that they don’t know everything.

 How do I test my creativity?

The creative person is not afraid to test their creativity. Give me a puzzle, they say, and I will try to resolve it. And if I can’t, then I will learn something from it.

 What is the place of creativity in future employment?

The creative person will be a worker in demand in the future. They will have the creative skills that cannot be easily replaced by computer automation.


 What is this workshop about?

This workshop will be a discovery learning experience which will examine six knowledge areas: What is creativity? What techniques increase creativity? What is the creative process? What is the creative personality? How can I test my creativity? What is the relationship between creativity, technology, and the future of work?


Saturday 8th April 2-5pm

Robina Community Centre


Cost $30 Bookings through

Creativity and the Future of Work



“40% of the Australian workforce face the high probability of being replaced by computers in the next ten to fifteen years.”                  (2015 CEDA report)

“Skills associated with creativity are not only important for finding novel and innovative solutions, they are also skills that are unlikely to be made redundant by disruptive technology such as automation.”                                    (2016 PC report)

“Economists have predicted that, over the next two decades, the jobs most unlikely to be automated are those that involve creative intelligence, social intelligence and problem solving.” (2015 FYA report)


Technology has been radically changing the nature of work over the past century and will
continue to do so into the future. A series of recent industry reports have stressed the importance of creativity in confronting the challenges that rapid and extensive technological change will have on future employment prospects.

The magnitude of the problem is stated simply in a detailed 2015 Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA) report. Over the next fifteen years, 40% of Australian jobs are a high chance of loss to technology and another 18% are at a medium chance of loss. Jobs that involve low levels of social interaction, low levels of creativity, or low levels of mobility and dexterity are more likely to be replaced by automation. In contrast, occupations that involve complex perception and manipulation tasks, creative intelligence tasks, and social i
ntelligence tasks are least likely to be replaced by automation.

This importance of creativity in future employment was reinforced in a 2015 Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) report. This report found that what it termed ‘21st Century Skills’ – creative intelligence, social intelligence, and problem solving – are the least likely to be affected by automation. Jobs which involve routine tasks – whether they be manual or intellectual – face the highest likelihood of automation, whether it be from robotics or advanced computer algorithms. For example, routine data search task such as commonly performed by acc
ountants or lawyers face a high possibility of automation.

Finally a 2016 Productivity Commission (PC) report specified which occupations will be most at risk and those that will be immune from change. Labourers, machinery operators, drivers, and clerical workers will all face significant risk from automation, while professionals and personal service workers face the least risk. This report also found that the nature of work will change, with employment being more oriented to self-employment, contract and casual work, and project management. On-going, full time employment with a single employer will largely be a thing of the past.

In the future labour market, creativity wont simply be a special skill or capacity of artists and musicians. It will be a necessary skill for all workers. Why is this?
Firstly, workers of the future will need to be problem-solvers. They will need to think laterally and creatively as they confront new social, industrial, and economic problems.

Secondly, workers of the future will need to anticipate coming trends. They will need to be creative in the way they access information and knowledge about the future.
Thirdly, workers of the future will need to be creative and inventive in the way they organise their employment and their home-work balance. Work in the future will be contract driven and part-time in nature.

Fourthly, workers of the future will need to use social media creatively to advertise their skills and gain work contracts.

Finally, workers who are creative will be those who are most immune from the impact of computer automation on the job market.


A Creativity workshop will be held at Robina Community Centre on April 8th, 2-5 pm.


The workshop will be run by Dr. Mark Weblin, a qualified philosopher and counsellor. Mark has worked in a number of employment agencies, both public and private, and has extensive knowledge of the labour market and the impact of technological change.

The cost for the workshop is $30 and bookings are essential.

For more details and to book a place contact

What is transhumanism?

(An address to the Byron Bay Philo Cafe 3rd Feb. 2017

The last time I spoke to this group, I considered the question of time from a philosophic point of view. Can time have a beginning? Obviously not. And therefore Quantum Theory is false. This time, in talking about transhumanism, I want to talk about time in a more concrete fashion.

Four billion (1,000 million) years ago, first life appeared on earth. (By way of contrast, it has been estimated that four billion years into the future, the earth itself will end.) Three billion years ago, photosynthesis first occurred and two billion years ago, oxygen was created. One billion years ago, sexual reproduction occurred for the first time and half a billion years ago, the first living creatures crawled onto land. 250 million years ago, dinosaurs first appeared and the first flowers existed 125 million years ago.

Apes first appeared 10 million years ago and human-like apes walked the earth 5 million years ago. The hair covered Australopithecus existed 4 million years ago and homo habilis who invented stone tools lived 3 million years ago, followed shortly after (2 million years ago) by homo erectus who was a hunter-gatherer. Neanderthals flourished 500,000 years ago and at 280,000 years ago homo sapiens appeared, followed by homo sapien sapien (anatomically modern humans) at 200,000 years. 60,000 years ago, behaviourally modern human appeared with their capacity for abstract thinking, capacity for planning, and use of symbols and the earliest cave art appeared at 30,000 years ago.

Agriculture was invented 10,000 years ago, followed by the discovery of writing at 6,000 years ago and the first emergence of human civilisation. The Sumerians flourished 4,000 years ago with Bronze Age Egypt and Babylonia following 3,000 and 2,000 years ago respectively. At 500 BC, we have the start of the classical Greek culture, followed at 100 BC by the emergence of the Roman Empire at 100 BC which eventually collapsed in 500 AD. This was followed by the Middle Ages until the start of the Renaisannce in 1500 AD, a point which we typically describe as the start of modernity. Industrialisation began in 1800 and, if I am right, the transhuman period is beginning in the period 2000-2050 AD. This fifty year period, when compared to the previous 4 billion years of life on earth, is equivalent to one second every 137 years.

I have taken the time to detail this brief history of life on earth because people often say to me when I’m discussing transhumanism and post-humanism that it is ‘off in the future’. Clearly, when we consider these questions, the question of time is a question of perspective. Do we, when estimating the impact of technology on the human species, imagine 100 years into the future or 1,000 or 1 million or 1 billion? So, when we estimate the changes that may occur up to say 2050, we are estimating on very small time frames indeed. (As an aside, there is now research investigating a new geological timeframe called the Anthropocene epoch because the impact of human activity on the earth’s environment since 1950 has been so significant, that future geologists will be able to look back and specify the start of this new geological era.)

Now back to transhumanism. It is a clumsy, imprecise term. It refers to the transitionary period from Renaissance Humanism and its optimistic belief in the unparalleled capacities of biological humans to a post-human future where fully biological humans are only one sentient species (and indeed a rare one) amongst many others. A post-human will be primarily composed of artificial parts and organs and will be distinguished from other artificial sentient beings by the fact that a post-human, despite all its technological accretions, was once a human at some point in its past. This part may be very small, limited perhaps to the brain or even merely neural pathways, but that will be enough to designate it as a ‘post-human’. So while we might know when transhumanism is beginning (now) we don’t know when it’s going to end (and the post-human period begins) or even what its defining characteristics are.

In its most general sense, transhumanism refers to the modification and adaption of the biological human body by the use of technology. This process began a decade or so before the end of the twentieth century but has really accelerated since about 2005-2010. However transhumanism also refers to the development of non-biological Artificial Intelligence and robots which will replace humans in many fields of social endeavour and will even surpass human capacities.

Lets consider the first sense of transhumanism. The technological modification and adaption of the human body can be done in two ways. The first is biological and involves three possible processes. The first process in the enhancement of the existing human body by the means of drugs and supplements. This has been common for several decades, especially in sport, and continues to predominant in many sports. Bans on supplements and drugs are common because it is believed they give an unfair advantage to those athletes who take them. Supplements and drugs are also used to improve individual’s cognitive abilities. This is human enhancement in a trivial sense. The individual reverts back to their former capacities once they stop taking these drugs. The second process is genetic engineering which is the alteration of individual embryos to promote so-called desired qualities. This is also known as ‘designer babies’. By its very nature, this is a more permanent alteration of individual capacities and can be said to be human enhancement in a non-trivial sense. There does not appear to be any logical limit to the sort of capacities that could be engineered.

A third process of biological modification is through the growth of organs and limbs under laboratory conditions. In principle, there is no restriction of the sorts of organs which could be cultured and grown and hence no restriction to the number of such organs an individual may have in their body. This is not technically human enhancement (the individual in not enhanced in any way) although it is human modification. Significantly, the organs do not need to be grown from the individual’s own DNA, so technically the individual can, in time, become less of ‘themself’ and more of an ‘other’. Given that there is no logical limit to the parts of the body that could be replaced, it is possible that over time the individual will have none of their original parts, not even their brains. This raises special problems regarding the identity of the individual. Technically, this is not human enhancement because the individual does not gain any new ability, except for the capacity to live longer.

The second technological modification of the human body is by artificial or synthetic (i.e. non-biological) means. For example, many humans now alive have pacemakers, cochlear implants, or insulin pumps attached to their bodies. These attachments form an interactive feedback loop with the bodily processes. A human who is modified in such a way is known as a cyborg. Much public perception of cyborgs is informed by science fiction portrayals of them as inhuman monsters (e.g. The Terminator) whereas in fact cyborgs are quite ordinary human beings. However with the increasing sophistication of mechanical limbs (think of Luke Skywalker’s mechanical arm in Star Wars) the distinction between biological and synthetic will become increasingly blurred. Consider, for example, Darth Vader, whose biological parts are ultimately only a very small part of his overall being. Cyborgs will become increasingly common in the transhuman period.

In the second sense of transhumanism – that of AI and robots – the emphasis is on non-biological sentience and labour. Lets consider the coming impact of Artificial Intelligence. In many ways, the domination of AI over humans has already occurred. All the reigning champions of chess, Go, and Jeopardy are AI programs. The sophistication of these systems will only improve throughout this century and beyond. AI programs will also, in the very near future, perform many tasks currently carried out by medical, legal, and educational professionals, thus reducing the employment prospects of those professionals.

Much contemporary talk on the dangers of AI centres around the idea of the Singularity. This is the point – commonly said to be 2050 but this is being revised earlier on regular basis – when an AI program will design its own operating parameters and there will be no further need for human involvement in that process. At that point, it is argued, AI will become a self-sustaining entity. And from that point, there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why future AI systems will need to take account of human requirements and needs in the design of its own parameters. Many contemporary thinkers such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawkins believe there is a great existential danger in this. We only need to think of Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey or Skynet from Terminator to get a sense of this danger. Others, such as Ray Kurzweil, believe that only good will come from this. Either way, it is certainly true that AI programs currently outstrip human cognitive ability and by the start of the 22nd century the capacity of these programs will appear god-like to humans. It could be replied that no artificial system will ever equal human biological creativity and speculative capacity but this would appear to be a question that can only be answered empirically and not one known a priori.

The other important issue in this sense of transhumanism is robots. Robots have been in use for manufacturing purposes since the 1960’s but since the start of the 21st century the development of humanoid robots for use in a variety of industries has grown rapidly. For example, in 2015 robots were used in a number of positions in a new ‘robot hotel’ including three on the reception desk – one with the appearance of a ‘robot’, one with the appearance of a human, and another with the appearance of a reptile.

Robots are also being developed for a number of military and public safety functions and humanoid versions of these have the capacity to walk and run, even on slippery surfaces such as ice. Humanoid robots are also being given human appearance and the female versions of these – gynoids – are expected to be popular in the sex industry. It is quite possible that employment in the oldest profession in the world will go into irreversible decline by the end of the century. One expert recently predicted that robot sex will be ‘normal’ by 2070. And if we have sex with robots and if we also form romantic attachments with them, will be able to marry them? This has already been a book written on this subject.

Humanoid robots will also become popular in domestic and personal care situations. Our psychologists will even be robots. The television series, Humans, touches on many of these issues. At any rate, unemployment due to the spread of robot labour will skyrocket during the century. This will necessitate a re-thinking of our taxation and social service systems and Elon Musk believes that a Universal Basic Income Scheme is inevitable. Finally there is the question of whether sentient robots will have the right to be treated as sentient beings in the same way as humans are. Could a robot be tried for murder? Again, this is a question taken up in the series, Humans.

Clearly there are many vexing questions concerning the emergence of transhumanism and many of these are moral and legal questions. What can be done to advance or hinder the progress of transhumanism? Should anything be done at all? But there are also political questions as to the access of the population to the benefits of transhumanism. One school of thought is Libertarian Transhumanism which argues that these benefits should flow to those most able to afford it. In contrast, Democratic Transhumanism holds that such benefits should be available to all, irrespective of income.

A curious offshoot from Democratic Transhumanism is known as Technoprogressivism. This radical offshoot incorporates a number of various ideas including abolitionism (the abolition of suffering in sentient entities), immortalism (the pursuit of technological immortality), extropianism (the pursuit of long term biological life extension), technogaianism (the use of technology to restore the earth), post-genderism (the use of technology to create a society free from gender roles), biopunk (the open access to genetic material) and many others including body modifiers, world federalists, nanosocialists, socialist feminist cyborgs, bioutopians, and revolutionary singulartarians. The transhuman future will be a very strange place indeed.

But even stranger will be the post-human future. Now while there is no clear consensus of when the dividing line between the transhuman and post-human periods will be, we can safely estimate that by the year 3000, we will be living in a post-human future. One writer gives a reasonable outline of the development of the human species within this timeframe. George F. Hart, a palaeontologist and emeritus professor at Louisiana State University, argues that the next stage in human development from homo sapien sapien will be homo roboticus which will be a conscious human mind attached to a manufactured body. He suggests that the simplest way of doing this is to simply attach a human head to such a body, with this body being either totally biological, totally mechanical, or bio-mechanical. He believes that this species will emerge within 300 years. (I think Hart needs to distinguish between homo roboticus and homo cyborgus. A cyborg will, by definition, always be a human and never a robot, whereas a synthetic biological body with human brain attached will not be neither a cyborg nor a robot.)

The next stage in the evolutionary development according to Hart will be a manufactured mind within a manufactured body which he describes as robotico earthensis. This will, in fact, be the creation of a new genus, robotico, with its differentia being its point of origin, Earth. The final evolutionary step that he envisages is homo cosmos which occurs when homo sapiens migrate into deep space and form genetically isolated populations. Genetic engineering will allow for the modification of homo sapiens to survive in potentially hostile environments. Hart argues that this post-human future which will be achieved within 1,000 years.

As it happens, there is other speculation about the state of humanity by the year 3,000. The Millenium Project, a joint enterprise of the U.N. University and the Foundation for the Future, postulates several alternative scenarios for the year 3,000. The first, and most optimistic, is that humans are alive and thriving. Through biological and artificial enhancement, humans survive and prosper, with an earth population of 10 billion and a population of 50 billion humans in space. The second, and most pessimistic, is that environmental degradation and biological viruses leads to the end of the human species. The third postulates that the development of greatly advanced AI and sentient robots leads to a conflict with humans and the outbreak of robot wars. Humans are marginalised and pushed to the edge of extinction but, according to the authors of this scenario, somehow recover and come to an uneasy truce with the robots.

The final possibility, called the Great Divide, postulates the existence of three sentient lifeforms. The first are standard biological humans who refuse to adopt any form of biological or artificial enhancement and become like a religious cult. The second are modified humans known as con-techs (conscious technology beings) who use biological enhancement, mechanical attachments, and AI to survive and prosper, first on earth, and then in outer space. The final group are known as artificials, which may be sentient robots or may be nano-lifeforms which breed with a range of biological creatures including humans, even though they have vastly superior capacities compared to the ‘standards’.

A final vision of this post-human future can be found in the science fiction of Isaac Asimov. In his Robot and Foundation series, Asimov introduces us to Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist working for the U.S Robots Corporation in 2007. By the time of her death in 2064, humans have started colonising other planets, but the development of sentient robots has been so successful that civil unrest breaks out and robots are banned from the cities. Humans eventually gather and live underground to escape the conflict on the surface.

Further into Asimov’s future to the year 3,200 AD, a humanoid robot with a wide emotional range, Daneel, is created who then becomes a central character in the remaining books. At about the same time, Asimov introduces us to a female human, Gladia, who has had every part of her body, except for her brain, replaced with a biological or mechanical parts. She is 230 years old and still only in mid-life, with about another 100 years to live. She feels emotionally close to Daneel because she once had a romantic relationship with a similar robot named Jander. Another robot from this time is Giskaard who is non-humanoid and with a limited emotional range but is able to control humans by manipulating their emotions. Giskaard eventually ‘dies’ after 500 years, but Daneel survives for at least 22,000 years. Asimov’s imagination takes him a long way into the post-human future.

So what is transhumanism? It is not some imagined future. It is an actual reality, existing right now. As I said before, it is a clumsy and imprecise term and while we can only guess at some of the consequences and even the timeframe for the transhuman period, we can see now that the characteristics of the transhuman are quite clear: the transformation of humans through technological means and the emergence of artificial entities which are, in many respects, superior to humans. And these issues are not merely technological and social but also philosophical. What does it mean to be human, or, more precisely, what does it mean to be homo sapien sapien? If the essence of our humanity lies in our capacity for thinking and reasoning, then is the modification of our bodies irrelevant to the definition of us as humans? But if AI enhances our capacity for reasoning and thinking, will the next stage of our evolutionary development be homo AI? In other words, what are the dividing lines between human, transhuman, and post-human?

Some questions to consider

1. Would you, when faced with chronic illness or death, have an artificial organ or instrument placed in or attached to your body so you could survive longer? If no, would this be a decision taken as a matter of principle, irrespective of the consequences? If yes, is there a point where you would refuse to accept any further technological adaptions? Would you have any difficulty with being described as a cyborg?

2. Would you ever contemplate having an electronic probe placed into your brain that would replace your phone and computer and give you instantaneous access to any knowledge whenever you wanted it? Would you consider having such a probe inserted that would stimulate your pleasure centres, or suppress feelings of pain, at your command?

3. Would you consider having a romantic or sexual relationship with a robot that is indistinguishable in feeling, appearance, thought, and action from an ordinary biological human? If no, how would you know the difference between the human and the robot? If yes, would you like to choose the personality profile and appearance of the robot yourself? Is it possible that you would consider marrying such a robot?

4. Should sentient robots have rights similar to human rights? If yes, do we need a broader classification of sentient rights than simply human rights? Is an AI without any physical ‘body’ entitled to sentient rights?

5. Which, if any, of the following transhumanist philosophies would you support?

a. Abolitionism: the abolition of suffering in sentient entities
b. Immortalism: the pursuit of technological immortality
c. Extropianism: the pursuit of long term biological life extension
d. Technogaianism: the use of technology to restore the health of the earth
e. Post-genderism: the use of technology to create a society free from gender roles

6. In the above discussion, I mentioned the fictional character Gladia, who had all of her organs and body parts replaced except for her brain. We would probably want to say to this point that, in a meaningful sense, Gladia had retained her identity as Gladia. But now consider that Gladia has her brain replaced with a new empty brain and all her previous memories are uploaded into this new brain. Is she still Gladia in the same sense as she was before?