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Alright, #SoCIA18 friends and followers. Next up is the conference's final act & second keynote: "Is there a sensible way to say Life is alive?" by Ford Doolittle of Dalhousie University!
Steps in the logic: 1. Life (capital L) = LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) and her descendents. 2. Life and Life only (not lowercase-l) exists - see my tweets on yesterday's Carlos Mariscal talk...
...though the short version is that Life is better viewed as a cluster/individual than as an abstract natural category (which would be lowercase-l life). Anyways: 3. A Godfrey-Smithian approach to 'life' (whatever that means), 4.5.6.too fast.
Read 59 tweets
At the #SoCIA18 panel discussion on space settlement. Based on room setup, I might be too busy engaging in discussion to livetweet, but we'll see!
Begins with everyone around the table summarizing their positions. 16 of us. Nice mix of "humans not worth saving" to "yes let's do it (sensibly)" to "will interfere with science" or "too muddled with Earth politics/elites."
I might've been the most radical sounding with "we should create aliens" angle, but I don't take that as an ethical conclusion - just a new vector people should add to the (serious) moral calculations.
Read 35 tweets
Last talk of this block: "Neo-Liberal Space Ethics" with Linda Billings. AKA "Yet Another Thing to Fret About: The Neoliberal Ideology of Space Exploration" #SoCIA18
Speaker is a science communication professional, blogs at doctorlinda.wordpress.com
Talking here about exploration (scientific) or exploitation (human). NASA has thus far been driven by search for extraterrestial life, NOT colonizing other planets. Is there any reason to change that priority? (Spoiler: she says no.)
Read 22 tweets
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Next up, a talk I've been eagerly waiting for: "Cops on Mars: Policing & Weaponization of Space – In the Imagination & Beyond" by Lucianne Walkowicz (@shaka_lulu). #SoCIA18
Looking at the real-world implications of how we imagine space settlement. Specifically today, the placement of law enforcement in future space scenarios.
Some great historical notes about what we thought about Mars. "Mars is Populated by One Giant Thinking Vegetable" is probably the winner.
Read 21 tweets
My next #SoCIA18 talk will be "Being Here: The Significance of Human Place in the Light of Astrobiology," by Sarah Reynolds!
What does "learning about what's out there" teach us about ourselves, here on Earth?
"How are we shaped/influenced by our places of origin and habitation" is not a new question! Just a new context here. Though now we need to distinguish between habitable, habit-worthy, and hospitable. How do qualities of a place & its (native) life relate to position in universe?
Read 15 tweets
Gonna try to stay focused here at #SoCIA18 with "The Value of Astrobiology with or without Specimens" by Gonzalo Munevar. What can this discipline tell us, even if we never find ETlife?
Ex: Earth life favors left-handed amino acids, right-handed sugars. Are these accidents of evolution, or are there reasons? Why does DNA use only 4 bases? Why do proteins use 20 amino acids? All these would be addressed by even N=2 origins of life.
ETlife would have evolved under different history, geology, accidents (meteorite strikes etc), so alien road to complexity would be different from ours.
Read 11 tweets
#SoCIA18 is about to go back on with "Thinking like a Red: A Consideration of the Ethics of Terraforming in light of Kim Stanley Robinson's RED MARS," by Roberta Millstein.
This talk is focusing on Ann Clayborne, inadvertent founder of Reds anti-terraforming movement in the KSR books. What exactly ARE her views/arguments? They are never stated directly in the book.
Can understanding her arguments help us formulate our own arguments about/against terraforming? It seems like Ann is groping for ideas that remain poorly grasped.
Read 17 tweets
Ooh, this looks like part of my Personal Expertise: "Modeling Life on Mars" by Erica Dietlein (@ericadietlein) is my next #SoCIA18 talk!
Begins with some fun paradoelia (sp?) examples - humans seeing patterns where there are none.
Which leads, of course, to the Canals of Mars. Original Italian "canali" can mean Canal or Channel (natural or artificial).
Read 18 tweets
Next up for me at #SoCIA18 is β€œThe Time of Life” by Jason Howard. Temporal naturalism vs timeless naturalism? We'll explore those terms now. Forward!
Timeless Naturalism holds that experience of moments/passage is illusion. Doesn't deny the appearance of time, only its importance. If you unroll a carpet, the pattern is already set, the unrolling is not causative.
Apparent flow of time creates no novelty, complexty, or diversity. It all comes down to other physical laws.
Read 19 tweets
Back to the #SoCIA18 livetweeting game! Now is "The Importance of Answering the Major Questions of Astrobiology" by Jim Schwartz.
This is about the public's attitudes - how do they feel about extraterrestrial life, astrobiology, etc?
Interestingly 50-90% of people say "religion is somewhat/very important to our views about evolution," - 90% of creationists but even 50% of people who believe in natural selection.
Read 16 tweets
It's the moment you've been waiting for! Tonight's #SoCIA18 keynote speaker is the science fiction author Elizabeth Bear (@matociquala) on "What Do We Owe The Galaxy? Ethical Considerations of Practical Astrobiological Research."
For the purpose of this talk, the definition of life will be based off Damon Knight's definition of science fiction: "Whatever I'm pointing at when I say 'life'."
What do we know about astrobiology? Baaasically nothing. All we have are theories and extrapolations, but that's enough to let us start building an ethical framework. In the absence of data, science fiction is fully qualified to explore this!
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Last of today's short #SoCIA18 talks: Kelly Smith (of Science Friday fame!) on "METI or REGRETTI: Scientific Paternalism, Informed Consent, and Alien Contact."
Or, revised title (on slide instead of the program): "METI or Regretti? The Ethics of Attempting Contact with Extraterrestrials."
REGRETI (as a variant on SETI/METI) apparently comes from a comic by Tim Rickard: Reckless Endeavor Goofily Revealed Earth to Invaders.
Read 30 tweets
Two more #SoCIA18 talks today! Some confusion but I believe the next one is "What Lives? Life, Consciousness, and the Eco-Systemic Multiversity" by Kala Perkins. Ooh, she used to be an neuroscientist, might be my jam. (Extra jammy. It's all jamful here today.)
What is life? Why (don't we) respect it? Beyond the Last Common Ancestor, we share our origins with the entire universe from its original impulse, stellar atomic synthesis. A radically eco-systemic view.
There are things we co-exist with, intertwined with, than we know. Forex, we sure can't list all the bacteria that make our digestion possible. Bioethics require a better understanding of life/birth.
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More #Socia18 awesomeness! Now, media analysis: β€œA Path to the Stars vs The Space Frontier: National Space Mythology in Soviet and American Newspapers," by Christina K. Roberts.
Different expressions of national mythology in the space discources in each of these countries, 1957-1969. As noted in the talk title: "A Path to the Stars" (soviet) vs "The Space Frontier" (USA).
The US imagery emphasizes ruggedness, places. The USSR images emphasize connection driven by human effort.
Read 13 tweets
Bam! Rapid-fire #SoCIA18 talks! Next up, terraforming: Brian Green with "Ethics for Planetary-Scale Interventions on Earth and Beyond." Opens with the comment that we are currently un-terraforming Earth. Oops.
So, okay, we're already modifying our planet. Should we do this intentionally? If so, how? What are the underlying moral & ethical questions?
Different questions for terraforming our planet, lifeless planets, places with native life, etc? (Three of 8 questions, whoof things are fast.)
Read 19 tweets
Hello internet! Next up for me at #SoCIA18 is Lori Marino, with "Are We Ready for Space Colonization?"
Opens with an analogy about a teenager who just crashed their first car, and whether or not you'd buy them a second, faster car. I can see where this talk is going!
Lots of well-intentioned folks out there think it's imperative for humans to become a multi-planet species. And most of them are motivated, in part, by our failures on/with Earth.
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One more try in this #SoCIA18 block! "The Spiritual Quest in the SETI Research, by Jose Funes." Good news (for my attentional skills), there are slides.
Excuse me, JosΓ© Funes.
A member/leader of Project OTHER: "Ortos Mundos, Tierra, Hunanidad, Espacio Remoto." Dealing with otherness and diversity.
Read 15 tweets
#SoCIA18 is back for the afternoon. I've decided to sit in on the block of Astrobio+Religion. First up: "SETI & Christianity" by Greg Anderson, read by Kelly Smith.
Hmm. This appears to be literally a reading of a paper. Will do my best, but may be hard to tweet while paying audio-only attention.
This paper is not taking the biblical story literally, but is taking the "something exceptional must have happened, based on peoples' adherence to it immediately afterward."
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Next #SoCIA18 is our conference organizer Carlos Mariscal (@proflos) with "Life & Life Only: a radical solution to life determinism."
Core argument: "life" is not a natural kind, and so investigating its nature is misguided.
Guiding questions: What is the relationship between life on Earth & life in general? How should we think about life in general?
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Next #SoCIA18 talk looks exciting: "Body Snatchers: What whole body hijacking reveals about our definitions of life," by Lucas Mix.

(Note that this is a 2-track conference, so I am missing at least 50% of talks.)
"What is life?" He thinks it's a process, not an object. Four useful/overlapping subcategories: Darwin (evolve by natural selection), Woese (uses SSU rRNA), Aristotle (perpetuate with nutrition), Haldane (self-regulation).
He's got a nonfic book (out or coming out?): "Life Concept from Aristotle to Darwin: On Vegetable Souls"
Read 17 tweets
Up next in this #SoCIA18 track is Sheri Wells-Jensen with "Things you didn't see because you were looking: Blind aliens, science and inter- species miscommunication.” I'm not sure what this is about but I'm excited to find out.
Speaker - who is visually impaired, which is relevant given the talk title, and obvious to us here in the room - starts by noting that her introduction name/affiliation/title slide could be full of lies and nobody would notice.
But we have assumptions about this slide starting off a talk. We look for it, and compare against it.
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Next #SoCIA18 talk: β€œOn aliens and robots: moral status, epistemological and (meta-)ethical considerations" by Keith Abney!
(These are 20min talks, so they'll come fast & furious.)
How do robot ethics inform alien ethics? Robot Ethics definitely a big question, what with lethal autonomous weapons systems being developed. (Abney is from a group with a neutral position - finds some anti-roboweapon arguments compelling, others not)
Read 21 tweets
Here we go, folks! The first talk (of those that I'll be trying to livetweet) at #SoCIA18: "Logic, Ethics and History: the Mistake is Thinking It's a Mistake," by Daniel Wueste.
How will alien contact change our understanding of ethics, logic, and history? People think logic and ethics as having some kind of fixed rules. We ask questions to fit things into our heuristics. ("Is it conscious? If so, rational conclusion is...")
But people really like the idea of getting objective, rational certainty. Even though it's mostly a fairytale.
Read 9 tweets
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