The question that motivates this essay is “Can we build a benevolent AI, and how do we get around the problem that humans, bless their cotton socks, can’t define ‘benevolence’?” A lot of people want to emphasize just how many different definitions of “benevolence” there are in the world — the point, of course, being that humans are very far from agreeing a universal definition of benevolence, so how can we expect to program something we cannot define into an AI?
Dr. Hughes is a Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of Humanity+, the Neuroethics Society, the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities and the Working Group on Ethics and Technology at Yale University. He serves on the State of Connecticut Regenerative Medicine Research Advisory Committee (formerly known as the Stem Cell Research Advisory Board).
Ferguson is obviously a real and different situation than Mockingjay, but effective fiction often tells us something about our society. What, if anything, is being said about state sanctioned violence and the demand for change?
My son recently shared an interesting idea. Suppose we cryogenically preserve ourselves and send our bodies and brains into space, or simply leave them on earth to be reanimated. Even if advanced beings find us in the future and want to awaken us, there is a good chance that our minds will be too primitive to be rebooted. Our futuristic descendants may not have technology compatible with our primitive mind files. It would be as if we come across an old floppy disk or early telephone but no longer had the technology to run them.
In his 1960 paper “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infra-Red Radiation”, published in the journal Science, Freeman Dyson famously argued that the long term evolution of technological alien societies might lead to capturing the bulk of all their star’s emissions, forming what came to be called by others Dyson Spheres. Dyson once said, “Science is my territory, but science fiction is the landscape of my dreams.” Though he has never written science fiction, his scientific imagination has inspired a great deal of it. Here he looks again at the very long term, but this time for life far from stars. Still, his focus is their energy needs.
Empathy draws on both mammalian circuits that we share with other animals and cognitive abilities that only appear to be present in our closest relatives, the great apes and and cetaceans, and ourselves. As with happiness and self-control, there is strong evidence that differences in our capacity for compassion and empathy are tied to differences in the brain structures and neurochemistries that they depend on.
Published on Dec 9, 2014
Noam Chomsky discusses the recent climate agreement between the US and China, the rise of ISIL, and the the movement in Ferguson against racism and police violence. Chomsky is the author of more than a hundred books and the subject of several films about his ideas. He is a political theorist and philosopher who has dissected the contradictions of US empire and inspired several generations of activists. This episode also features a special report on successful worker organizing among low-wage workers in New York City.
French philosophers Bergson and Deleuze bring to nanocognition and machine ethics interfaces the philosophical conceptualizations of image, movement, time, perception, memory, and reality that can be considered for implementation in tools for both cognitive enhancement and subjectivation (the greater actualization of human potential).
A few days ago I was glued to the screen to watch the launch of Orion, just like I used to do when I was a kid in the 60s and watched everything Apollo on TV. In a very good article on Gizmodo, Jesus Diaz argues that Orion’s launch is the best news for humanity in a long time. “We should rejoice,” he says. “[W]e are going back to the stars.”
If predictions by future thinkers such as Aubrey de Grey, Robert Freitas, and Ray Kurzweil ring true – that future science will one day eliminate the disease of aging – then it makes sense to consider the repercussions a non-aging society might place on our world.
One of the weirder things about human being’s perception of time is that our subjective clocks are so off. A day spent in our dreary cubicles can seem to crawl like an Amazonian sloth, while our weekends pass by as fast as a chameleon’s tongue . Most dreadful of all, once we pass into middle age, time seems to transform itself from a lumbering steam train heaving us through clearly delineated seasons and years to a Japanese bullet unstoppably hurdling us towards death with decades passing us by in a blurr.
Some people think that neuroscience will have a significant impact on the law. Some people are more sceptical. A recent book by Michael Pardo and Dennis Patterson — Minds, Brains and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience — belongs to the sceptical camp. In the book, Pardo and Patterson make a passionate plea for conceptual clarity when it comes to the interpretation of neuroscientific evidence and its potential application in the law. They suggest that most neurolaw hype stems from conceptual confusion. They want to throw some philosophical cold water on the proponents of this hype.
Of course, no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy, but by combining present day knowledge with anticipated advances, we can make plausible guesses about what life might be like in the 2050s. Over the coming decades, healthcare research will wield huge benefits for humankind. By 2050, stem cells, gene therapy, and 3-D bio printing promise to cure or make manageable most of today’s diseases.
Many scientists believe that we will soon be able to preserve our consciousness indefinitely. There are a number of scenarios by which this might be accomplished, but so-called mind uploading is one of the most prominent. Mind uploading refers to a hypothetical process of copying the contents of a consciousness from a brain to a computational device. This could be done by copying and transferring these contents into a computer, or by piecemeal replacement with parts of the brain gradually replaced by hardware. Either way consciousness would no longer be running on a biological brain.
I will attempt to take the fear out of the future, by giving Transhumanism a digestible definition, while at the same time offering a cautionary note. As an educator, technologist and ethicist, I feel I have a social obligation to provide a rationale for understanding Transhumanism for those people who have questions about our natural evolution and for younger generations who are embracing technology but want to know there is a brighter future.
Police body cameras are all the rage lately. Al Sharpton wants them used to monitor the activities of cops. Ann Coulter wants them used to “shut down” Al Sharpton. The White House wants them because, well, they’re a way to look both “tough on police violence” and “tough on crime” by spending $263 million on new law enforcement technology.
Death, like life, occurs within an interconnected web of forces. Eric Garner died at a specific place and time, but he was drawn there by those larger unseen forces. So was the officer who took his life. One of them never left. The neighborhood where Eric Garner died was near the terminal point for the Staten Island Ferry, which leaves lower Manhattan from a newly-built building on Whitehall Street.
Products with the label “BPA-free” have become ubiquitous on store shelves in recent years. It’s a trend that has been driven by consumer concerns that the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, may be harmful at low doses. Yet a recent study suggests that the label may mislead consumers into thinking that “free” means “safer” — even when there’s a chance that the substances used to substitute for BPA may also be harmful. The study is one of the first to explore how consumer responses to uncertainty and ambiguity in risk information may lead to “regrettable substitutions” — the replacement of one material with another that is potentially less safe.
Why do we punish others? There are many philosophical answers to that question. Some claim that we punish in order to incapacitate a potential wrongdoer; some claim that we do it in order to rehabilitate an offender; some claim that we do it in order to deter others; and some claim that we do it because wrongdoers simply deserve to be punished. Proponents of the last of these views are called retributivists. They believe that punishment is an intrinsic good, and that it ought to be imposed in order to ensure that justice is done. Proponents of the other views are consequentialists. They think that punishment is an instrumental good, and that its worth has to be assessed in terms of the ends it helps us to achieve.
Rachel Maddow is host of the Emmy Award-winning “The Rachel Maddow Show” on msnbc. “The Rachel Maddow Show” features Maddow’s take on the biggest stories of the day, political and otherwise, including lively debate with guests from all sides of the issues, in-depth analysis and stories no other shows in cable news will cover.
Maddow is the author of “DRIFT: The Unmooring of American Military Power,”which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list in March 2012.
“The Rachel Maddow Show” was the most successful show launch in msnbc history, immediately boosting ratings in its time period when it debuted in September 2008. “The Rachel Maddow Show” was named one of the top shows of the decade by the Washington Post in 2009. Maddow was also named a “Breakout Star of 2008” by The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times named her to the “Best of Television 2008” and she was named one of the “Top Ten Political Newcomers of 2008” by Politico.com.
Maddow was honored by the Interfaith Alliance with the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award and received the 2012 John Steinbeck Award from the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose University. She has received two Gracie Allen Awards including Outstanding Host – News/Non-fiction in 2012. “The Rachel Maddow Show” has been nominated twice by the Television Critics Association for the “Outstanding Achievement in News and Information” category and the show took home a GLAAD award in 2010.
Maddow was named an msnbc political analyst in January of 2008. She first gained national prominence as a host on Air America Radio, where she worked from its inception in 2004. Prior to joining AAR she worked for WRNX in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and WRSI in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Maddow received a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University. She earned her doctorate in political science at Oxford University, which she attended on a Rhodes Scholarship. She lives in New York City and Massachusetts with her partner, artist Susan Mikula.
Welcome to part 1 of the Your Mileage May Vary series of blog posts. The point of this series is to clearly and briefly state my personal view on matters which come up repeatedly, to save having to say the same things again and again. Although these are my own [Dr M. Amon Twyman's] views rather than the official position of any organisation (except where stated otherwise), no-one should be surprised when my own views coincide with those of organisations where I hold any position.
The value of religion depends, of course, on what you mean by "religion". If religion is merelyeuphemization of escapism or nihilism, as it so often manifests itself, then it probably has a net negative value—"probably" only because I can imagine some poor unfortunate souls that are constituted in ways that are painfully incompatible with the world as presently or possibly configured. Too many of us use religion or are used by religion to stop caring about the world and each other, except to the extent it and we happen to be "good" already.
Many people think about science in a fairly simplistic way: collect evidence, formulate a theory, test the theory. By this method, it is claimed, science can achieve objective, rational knowledge about the workings of reality. In this presentation I will question the validity of this understanding of science.
I will consider some of the key controversies in philosophy of science, including the problem of induction, the theory-ladenness of observation, the nature of scientific explanation, theory choice, and scientific realism, giving an overview of some of the main questions and arguments from major thinkers like Popper, Quine, Kuhn, Hempel, and Feyerabend. I will argue that philosophy of science paints a much richer and messier picture of the relationship between science and truth than many people commonly imagine, and that a familiarity with the key issues in the philosophy of science is vital for a proper understanding of the power and limits of scientific thinking.
There are several reasons why creating a superintelligent mind could bring about an existential catastrophe. For example, the AI could be malicious, or unfriendly, a scenario that I call the amity-enmity problem. It looms large in Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence, in which Bostrom suggests that we should recognize "doom" as the "default outcome" of creating a superintelligence. And AI could also be apathetic about our well-being and continued survival. Perhaps it wants to convert the entire surface of earth into solar panels (an example that Bostrom mentions), and as a result it annihilates the biosphere. Let’s call this the indifference problem.
How Big Bang Gravitational Waves Could Revolutionize Physics! Lawrence is well known for his critical thinking and promotion of science. He has appeared on Q & A among other shows. Lawrence Krauss is Director of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University and Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics.
Described by Scientific American as a unique scientific ‘public intellectual’, Krauss is a renowned theoretical physicist as well as one of the most well-known advocates for science worldwide. In addition to over 300 scientific publications, He has written nine books for a general audience, including the international bestsellers The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe From Nothing, with translations into over 20 languages. His research has focused on the intersection on cosmology and elementary particle physics, including general relativity and quantum gravity, the early universe, the origin of mass, neutrino astrophysics, and the long term future of the universe. He is the winner of numerous international awards, and is the only physicist to have received the major awards from all three US physics societies. In 2012, he was awarded The National Science Board’s Public Service Award for his many contributions. He frequently appears on TV and radio and contributes to newspapers and magazines, and is the subject of a new full-length feature film, The Unbelievers, which follows Krauss and Richard Dawkins around the world as they discuss science and reason.
What responsibility do we have for the things we make? At its root, this is a fairly straightforward science story. Neuroscience researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Copenhagen successfully transplanted human glial progenitor cells (hGPCs) into a newborn mouse (here's the technical article in The Journal of Neuroscience, and the lay-friendly version in New Scientist). While glial cells are generally considered a support cell in the brain, positioning, feeding, insulating, and protecting neurons, they also help neurons make synaptic connections.
If the controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) tells us something indisputable, it is this: GMO food products from corporations like Monsanto are suspected to endanger health. On the other hand, an individual’s right to genetically modify and even synthesize entire organisms as part of his dietary or medical regimen could someday be a human right.
Lately there’s been a great deal of talk about finding a better Democratic message, one that will unify the party and energize voters. But how, exactly, can Democrats reconcile factions that include both the Wall Street-friendly Clintons (whose relationship with the financial industry is highlighted in this cutting infographic from The Nation) and populist senators like Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown?
Ramachandran begins the book by wondering which features are truly unique to the human brain. Many features of the ape brain were hijacked by evolution to produce novel functions in the human brain (a process called “exaptation”). For example, mirror neurons are responsible for human culture and ethics. Ramachandran believes that these unique traits are perfectly consistent with Darwinian evolution: millennia of gradual evolution can produce the mental equivalent of phase transitions, when suddenly a substance reorganizes itself into a different substance with different properties.