Cognitive Easing is the aim of much of our endeavor, whether explicit or implicit. We have never wavered from trying to create a life of ease, enjoyment, and fulfillment. The definition of Cognitive Easing is spending less mental effort to achieve a result.
Some 6 years ago, Forbes published an article on The Economics of Trust, where the author Tim Harford made the case that
“trust is about more than whether you can leave your house unlocked; it is responsible for the difference between the richest countries and the poorest. How could that be? Trust operates in all sorts of ways, from saving money that would have to be spent on security to improving the functioning of the political system. But above all, trust enables people to do business with each other. Doing business is what creates wealth.”
How much time should kids be allowed to stare into their screens like zombies? New guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics upturns conventional thinking on the matter, showing that a sweeping one-size-fits-all approach is not the right way for parents to go about limiting their children’s screen time.
Contrast these two scenarios. First, I’m in the supermarket. I want to remember what I need to buy but I’m not the kind of guy who write things down in lists. I just keep the information stored in my head and then jog my memory when I arrive at the store. If I’m lucky, the list of items immediately presents itself to my conscious mind. I remember what I need to buy. Second, I’m in the supermarket. I want to remember what I need to buy. But I’m hopelessly forgetful so I have to write things down in a list. I take the list from my pocket and look at the items. Now, I remember what I needed to buy.
Neuroscientists working on the Human Connectome Project have compiled the most accurate map yet of the human cerebral cortex. The researchers identified 180 distinct areas of the brain’s outer layer—effectively doubling the previous number of known regions.
Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. ~ Bertrand Russell
Our smart phones, smart watches, and smart bands promise a lot. They promise to make our lives better, to increase our productivity, to improve our efficiency, to enhance our safety, to make us fitter, faster, stronger and more intelligent. They do this through a combination of methods. One of the most important is outsourcing,* i.e. by taking away the cognitive and emotional burden associated with certain activities. Consider the way in which Google maps allows us to outsource the cognitive labour of remembering directions. This removes a cognitive burden and potential source of anxiety, and enables us to get to our destinations more effectively. We can focus on more important things. It’s clearly a win-win.
The shootings at the Pulse club in Orlando highlight once more just how far we humans need to go in the evolution of our ethics. People on all sides have already weighed in on how their particular way of seeing the world would have prevented the crime. Almost immediately they began talking past each other with little or no effort to hear the other side.
A discouraging new study concludes that most antidepressants are ineffective for children and adolescents, and may even be harmful in some cases. But the researchers caution that the low quantity and quality of clinical trials are obscuring the true effects of these drugs.
NOTE: This is a guest post by Iason Gabriel from St. John’s College Oxford. I recently did a series on Iason’s excellent article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’. In this post, Iason develops his counterfactual critique of effective altruism. Be sure to check out more of Iason’s work on his academia page.)
This is going to be my final post on the topic of effective altruism (for the time being anyway). I’m working my way through the arguments in Iason Gabriel’s article ‘Effective Altruism and its Critics’. Once I finish, Iason has kindly agreed to post a follow-up piece which develops some of his views.
IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher published a new paper coming out in the journal Bioethics. It’s about the philosophy of education and student use of cognitive enhancement drugs. It suggests that universities might be justified in regulating their students’ use of enhancement drugs, but only in a very mild, non-compulsory way. It suggests that a system of voluntary commitment contracts might be an interesting proposal. The details are below.
William James, in his famous book The Varieties of Religious Experience, draws a contrast between what he calls “once born” and the “twice born” people. Once born people appear biologically predisposed to happiness. They are relatively untroubled by their own setbacks as well as by the suffering the world; they rarely speak ill of others; they don’t complain much; they tend not to be fearful or angry. Today we might call them happy-go-lucky, easy-going or upbeat.
It is amazing how intelligent we can be. We can construct shelter, find new ways of hunting, and create boats and machines. Our unique intelligence has been responsible for the emergence of civilization.
But how does a set of living cells become intelligent? How can flesh and blood turn into something that can create bicycles and airplanes or write novels?
This is the question of the origin of intelligence.
IEET Fellow Stefan Lorenz Sorgner was invited to being a visiting professor at the University of Jena during the summer of 2016. There, he will also give the following talk:
Topic: Transhumanism, Big Gene Date, Bioprivacy
A colleague recently sent me a link to an article which claims that having nature in your surroundings extends life and increases happiness. The article titled, “Having a nice garden could save your life, study suggests,” notes the strong association between exposure to greenness and vegetation and lower mortality rates.
How likely is it that artificial intelligence will achieve a human-level intelligence in the next 10 years, 20 years, 100 years, or for that matter ever? If you know researchers, you know they don’t like to prognosticate about future outcomes.
As a proponent of attaining indefinite human longevity through the progress of medical science and technology, I am frequently asked to address key questions about the effects that indefinite life extension would have on human incentives, behaviors, and societies. Here, I offer my outlook on what some of these impacts would be.
(Disclaimer – I’m not a medical doctor. For more info on these topics consult an M.D.)
I was thinking about a friend who quit smoking about 10 years ago with the help of nicotine gum. She eventually kicked the nicotine gum habit too, although she claimed that it was about as difficult to quit the gum as it was the cigarettes. She did notice that her ability to deal with anxiety was reduced after quitting the gum, and she also became more depressed. As a result, she has considered starting to chew gum again.
Moral theories often conflict with our moral intuitions; they are often counter-intuitive. Explanations, theories, or beliefs are counter-intuitive if they violate our ordinary, common-sense view. For example, it’s counter-intuitive to suppose that physical reality is illusory, although there is no way to demonstrate this isn’t the case. Similarly, it’s counter-intuitive to suppose the keyboard upon which I type is moving, although the keyboard, earth, solar system, galaxy, and entire universe move! This demonstrates that non-moral intuitions are often mistaken.
Dans le cadre de sa campagne pour le premier tour des élections, l’actuel président de la République, M. François Hollande avait fait une déclaration qui intéresse le transhumanisme. Il a en effet annoncé que, une fois élu, il proposerait de faciliter la recherche sur les cellules souches embryonnaires, sous entendu : humaine (CSEh) (L’Express, 22/02/2012).
At a post-screening discussion where I questioned the director of Eye in the Sky about the disconnect between his drone-kill movie and reality, he launched into a bunch of thought-experiment stuff of the sort I’ve tried to avoid since finishing my master’s in philosophy. Mostly I’ve avoided hanging out with torture supporters.