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George Dvorsky

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George Dvorsky
Born (1970-05-11) May 11, 1970 (age 54)

George P. Dvorsky (born May 11, 1970) is a Canadian bioethicist, transhumanist and futurist. He is a contributing editor at io9[1] and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He was chair of the board for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET)[2][3] and is the founder and chair of the IEET's Rights of Non-Human Persons Program,[4] a group that is working to secure human-equivalent rights and protections for highly sapient animals. He also serves on the Advisory Council of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

Dvorsky is a secular Buddhist,[5][6] progressive environmentalist,[7] ancestral health advocate,[8] and animal rights activist.[9][non-primary source needed] Primarily concerned with the ethical and sociological impacts of emerging technologies, specifically, "human enhancement" technologies; he seeks to promote open discussion for the purposes of education and foresight.[citation needed] He writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including technoscience, ethics, existential risks, artificial intelligence, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and futurology, from a democratic transhumanist perspective.[2][3]

Nonhuman rights and ethics[edit]

Uplift ethics[edit]

Dvorsky presented an argument for non-human animal biological uplift at the IEET Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights conference at Stanford University in May 2006;[10][11] and wrote the first published article in defence of the Ashley Treatment in November 2006,[12][non-primary source needed] and subsequently the only bioethicist cited by Ashley X's parents in their defense.[13]

Existential risk[edit]

Dvorsky also presented an argument warning of the decline of democratic values and institutions in the face of existential and catastrophic risks at the Global Catastrophic Risks: Building a Resilient Civilization conference in November 2008.[14][non-primary source needed]

Dysonian SETI[edit]

Dvorsky, along with Milan M. Ćirković and Robert Bradbury, published a critique of SETI in the May 2012 Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS) arguing that SETI techniques and practices have become outdated. In its place, Dvorsky, Ćirković, and Bradbury advocated for what they called Dysonian SETI, namely the search for those signatures and artefacts indicative of highly advanced extraterrestrial life.[15][non-primary source needed]

Space development[edit]

Dvorsky has written extensively in favor of space exploration and has both promoted and criticized various Megascale engineering concepts.[16][17][18][19][non-primary source needed]

Dyson sphere[edit]

Dvorsky gained some notoriety in 2012 after writing about Dyson spheres, hypothetical structures intended to collect the entire energetic output of a star with solar power collectors. While Dvorsky presented it as a solution to humanity's resource needs including power and living space,[17] Forbes blogger Alex Knapp and astronomer Phil Plait, among others, have criticized Dvorsky's article.

Dismantling Mercury, just to start, will take 2 x 1030 joules,[note 1] or an amount of energy 100 billion times the US annual energy consumption ... [Dvorsky] kinda glosses over that point. And how long until his solar collectors gather that much energy back, and we’re in the black?

— Phil Plait, in an email cited in [20]

At one AU – which is the distance of the orbit of the Earth, the Sun emits 1.4 x 103 J/sec per square meter.[note 2] That’s 1.4 x 109 J/sec per square kilometer. At one-third efficiency, that’s 4.67 x 108 J/sec for the entire Dyson sphere. That sounds like a lot, right? But here’s the thing – if you work it out, it will take 4.28 x 1028 seconds for the solar collectors to obtain the energy needed to dismantle Mercury. That’s about 120 trillion years.[note 3]

— Alex Knapp[20]

Other publications including Popular Science, Vice, and skeptical blog Weird Things followed up on this exchange.[21][22][23] None of them note the above numerical inaccuracies, although Weird Things does point out Plait's misunderstanding regarding bootstrapping, which Knapp agreed with in an update to his post.[20][23] James Nicoll noted in his blog that Knapp seriously underestimated the area of a sphere.[24]


  1. ^ This is a close approximation to the number given by Wolfram Alpha which is 1.789×1030 J (joules)
  2. ^ This is related to how far we are from the sun, and if we know the energy output of the sun (3.846x1026 W) we can calculate based on distance using the formula for surface area of a sphere 3.846*1026W/(4pi * au2/m2) = ~1400W/m2
  3. ^ This underestimates the time by a factor of 11 million, but also only applies to the energy harvested by one square kilometer at 1.0 AU.


  1. ^ "George Dvorsky is now a Contributing Editor at io9". ieet.org. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  2. ^ a b Humphrey, Stephen (2004). "No Death, Please, I'm Bionic: Cyborg-Obsessed Transhumanists Push Bioethical Limits While Fending Off Foes From All Sides". Retrieved 2015-06-12. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b Mayer, Andre (2005). "The Great Byte Hope". Archived from the original on 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2007-03-03. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "IEET Rights of Non-Human Persons Program". Archived from the original on 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  5. ^ "Cyborg Buddha Project". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  6. ^ Dvorsky, George (September 2008). "Better Living through Transhumanism". Journal of Evolution & Technology. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  7. ^ Dvorsky, George (2003). "Technophiles and Greens of the World, Unite!". Archived from the original on 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2007-03-19. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Dvorsky, George (2011). "Primal Transhumanism". Retrieved 2011-06-07. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Dvorsky, George (2006). "The myth of our exalted human place". Retrieved 2007-03-19. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ Dvorsky, George (2006). "IEET Monograph Series: All Together Now: Developmental and ethical considerations for biologically uplifting non human animals" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2007-02-09. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ Bailey, Ronald (2006). "The Right to Human Enhancement: And also uplifting animals and the rapture of the nerds". Retrieved 2007-03-03. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Dvorsky, George (2006). "Helping families care for the helpless". Retrieved 2007-02-09. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ Dvorsky, George (2007). "The "Ashley Treatment": Towards a Better Quality of Life for "Pillow Angels"". Archived from the original on 2007-06-11. Retrieved 2007-02-09. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[non-primary source needed]
  14. ^ Dvorsky, George (2008). "Future Risks and the Challenge to Democracy". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ Dvorsky, George (2012). "Dysonian Approach To SETI: A Fruitful Middle Ground?". Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2012-03-16. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Dvorsky, George (2008-03-05). "Seven ways to control the Galaxy with self-replicating probes".
  17. ^ a b Dvorsky, George (2012-03-20). "How to build a Dyson sphere in five (relatively) easy steps". Let's build a Dyson sphere! And why wouldn't we want to? By enveloping the sun with a massive array of solar panels, humanity would graduate to a Type 2 Kardashev civilization capable of utilizing nearly 100% of the sun's energy output. A Dyson sphere would provide us with more energy than we would ever know what to do with while dramatically increasing our living space. Given that our resources here on Earth are starting to dwindle, and combined with the problem of increasing demand for more energy and living space, this would seem to a good long-term plan for our species.
  18. ^ Dvorsky, George (2014-02-12). "Here's what a Martian space elevator might actually look like".
  19. ^ Dvorsky, George (2013-02-15). "Why we'll probably never build a space elevator".
  20. ^ a b c Alex Knapp Destroying Mercury To Build A Dyson Sphere Is A Bad Idea
  21. ^ Boyle, Rebecca (April 2012). "Why Turning Mercury Into a Dyson Sphere to Harvest Solar Energy Is Not Worth It". Forbes writer Alex Knapp takes his argument apart instead, crunching some numbers with the help of astronomer Phil Plait. Click through to Knapp's argument for the breakdown of joules needed to dismantle Mercury versus joules obtained by solar collectors. But the gist is that it would take 174 years to recover the energy input that it would take to blow up the lovely, geologically interesting innermost planet.
  22. ^ Mead, Derek (April 2012). "Forget Wimpy Plans and NIMBYs, Let's Solve the Energy Crisis by Blowing Up Mercury". Archived from the original on 2015-05-04. Knapp calculated (brilliantly, I might add) that, at its earliest stage, the Dyson sphere would take 120 trillion years to produce the energy needed to pillage Mercury. Even at full, Sun-encircling power, the sphere itself would take 174 years to dismantle Mercury. Knapp thus flips the kill switch: "If we're capable of generating the amount of energy right now that would take a Dyson Sphere 174 years to recover, why would we need to build a Dyson Sphere in the first place?"
  23. ^ a b Fish, Greg (April 2012). "Why we won't build a dyson sphere soon". Dvorsky proposed an unworkable plan weren't included in their calculations. Instead, they worked out that it would take so much energy to disassemble Mercury, that a 100% efficient Dyson shell of satellites would take us some 174 years to balance the energy budget. Now this would've been fine if we were talking about warp drives and negative energy/mass constructs, but we're not, and even after having it pointed out that Dvorsky was proposing a very energy amortized bootstrapping scenario, Alex Knapp was still sticking to his energy balancing guns."
  24. ^ Nicoll, James (April 4, 2012). ""I emailed Astronomer Phil Plait" now officially a red flag". More Words, Deeper Hole.[permanent dead link]

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