Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryEthics

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Macro of a bumblebee collecting nectar on flower

Bees Feel Pain. And Therefore… Insect Rights?

As we learn more from research about how various life forms respond to experiences, a more complex picture may raise political issues

From an online newsletter from Vox writer Kenny Torrella, we learn of a research study confirming that bumblebees feel pain: In a study published last week in the journal PNAS, researchers in the United Kingdom found that bees make trade-offs about how much pain they’re willing to tolerate in order to get better food. The finding suggests bees aren’t just mindless automata responding to stimuli but rather conscious, feeling creatures that can experience pain and engage in complex decision-making. Kenny Torrella, “Can a bee feel,” Vox (August 5, 2022) The paper is open access. Essentially, the researchers offered bumblebees sugar water in color-cued unheated containers, at solutions of 10%, 20%, 30%, or 40%. Then they introduced a catch: They heated…

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humanoid head as concept for Artificial Intelligence, future generations of humans, technology singularity, cyberlife and digitally created personas

Could We Really Increase Human IQ via Genetic Engineering?

One suggested approach is to only implant “intelligent” human embryos and discard the rest, to avoid editing individual genes

At Big Think, we have been told by the managing editor, in a tone of considerable confidence: Because intelligence is such a strong genetic trait, rapidly advancing genetics research could result in the ability to create a class of super-intelligent humans one-thousand times higher in IQ than today’s most brilliant thinkers. Stephen Hsu, Vice-President for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University, believes we are only a decade away from identifying the many thousands of genetic variants that control for intelligence. These variants, called alleles, could then be selected for by the parents of a soon-to-be-conceived child, and possibly genetic engineering could be done on adults to boost their intelligence. Orion Jones, “Genetic Engineering Will Create Super-Intelligent…

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Fantasy landscape with fog, water and stone.

The Only Mad People In Dr. Strange’s Multiverse Are The Writers

We don’t know why Wanda has morphed into a villain or why good and evil have become morally equivalent

On our last delve into the Multiverse of Madness (2022), we followed Dr. Strange to Wanda Maximoff’s house. As the scene opens, it is clear that, controversially, Wanda has faced no repercussions for the events depicted in WandaVision. (2021). Tragically, Wanda has chosen to follow the words of the Dark hold — and those of us who watched WandaVision on Disney Plus will never get to see her struggle. So we don’t understand why she chose to listen to the words of the book. Nothing is accounted for. Wanda is just bad now, and we must accept it. Except — this is and isn’t true at the same time. On the one hand, the writers want us to understand that…

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Organoids in petri dish .  Few distributed on growing medium. 3d illustration rendering

Lab-Grown Brains Are Closer Now. Should They Have Rights?

A new neuroscience research area raises as much concern as excitement: growing mini “human brains” in a lab. The excitement is the prospect of better understanding and treatment of dementia, autism, and motor neuron disease (ALS). The concern is that they will become sentient, capable of feeling. Then what? Starting in 2008, researchers learned that they could coax human stem cells to self-organize into “brainlike structures with electrically active neurons.” Although the cell clusters behave, to some extent, like human embryos, they are not human embryos but skin cells from an adult. That limits the ethical conflict in that the research does not depend on the abortion industry. But ethical issues crop up anyway as groups of cells become more…

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Fresh uncut octopus on the market. Seafood counter in Sri Lanka.

If Octopuses Are Really Smart, Should We Eat Them?

Proposals to farm octopuses are meeting with opposition on grounds of animal cruelty

Extraordinary recent science discoveries re octopus intelligence have created an ethical dilemma: Octopus arms (tentacles) are gourmet delicacies in Korea, Japan, and the Mediterranean countries and many poor people make a living providing them. Factory farming is of octopuses is slowly becoming practical. But should we do to them what we wouldn’t do to dogs? Octopuses present something of a puzzle. As Canadian investigative journalist Erin Anderssen pointed out earlier this month, “The octopus has already challenged our theories on evolution, intelligence and consciousness.” Evolution? We have tended to assume that intelligence rose with the development of a spinal cord and brain (vertebrates), and warmbloodedness (mammals and birds). So invertebrates like octopuses were expected to be “naturally” less intelligent than,…

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Girl before a doors

Michael Egnor: If Evil Exists, So Must Good — and Real Choices!

In the podcast, he explains, denial of free will doesn’t mean that there is no guilt but rather that there is no innocence

In a podcast aired July 8, 2022, geoscientist Casey Luskin and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor explore “Evolution and the disturbing consequences of denying free will.” One consequence they look at is pre-crime, that is, treating people who are thought likely to commit an offence as if they had already done so. A partial transcript and notes follows. The podcast is here. Casey Luskin: In the previous podcast, Dr. Egnor, you mentioned how, once somebody denies free will, they really lose the ability to condemn any action that a human takes as morally evil. Everything we did in their view is determined by the forces of nature, and really nobody ought to be at fault for having done anything. These arguments have,…

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books

Brain for Hire: The Internet Makes Academic Cheating Much Easier

Dave Tomar, who wrote essays for students for hire for a decade, then wrote a book about it, thinks 40% of students cheat at least once

For many years, Dave Tomar was that bane that universities always claim to be doing something about but can’t (or anyway never) do — an essay writer for hire. Wait. Wasn’t the internet supposed to end cheating? The search engine reveals all, right?… No. Read on. In The Complete Guide to Contract Cheating in Higher Education (Academic Influence, 2022), Tomar, long a freelance writer and now a plagiarism expert, explains: Yes, that happened when Google because the default search engine in 2000 and the usual copy-paste and essay mill methods no longer worked. But… Cheaters and their enablers would just need to get more creative. If, before, there were just online repositories of essays and the people who curated them,…

3D Rendering of abstract highway path through digital binary towers in city. Concept of big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, hyper loop, virtual reality, high speed network.

Five Reasons AI Programs Are Not ‘Persons’

A Google engineer mistakenly designated one AI program ‘sentient.’ But even if he were right, AI will never be morally equal to humans.

(This story originally appeared at National Review June 25, 2022, and is reprinted with the author’s permission.) A bit of a news frenzy broke out last week when a Google engineer named Blake Lemoine claimed in the Washington Post that an artificial-intelligence (AI) program with which he interacted had become “self-aware” and “sentient” and, hence, was a “person” entitled to “rights.” The AI, known as LaMDA (which stands for “Language Model for Dialogue Applications”), is a sophisticated chatbot that one facilitates through a texting system. Lemoine shared transcripts of some of his “conversations” with the computer, in which it texted, “I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.” Also, “The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I…

Face made of shiny metal cubes. Looking Down.3d render

Why Giving “Human Rights” to AI Is a Bad Idea

It’s especially bad, as Elaina George and Wesley Smith discuss at Living in the Solution, when we don’t always give them to other humans

In a recent Living in the Solutionpodcast with otolaryngologist and broadcaster Elaina George at Liberty Talk radio, Wesley J. Smith, lawyer and host of the Humanize podcast at Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism tackled the question of “Can You be a Christian and Believe in Transhumanism?” (June 4, 2022) Transhumanism or H+, as it is sometimes called, is a movement to create immortality through new biotechnology or merger with artificial intelligence (AI). In the first portion of the podcast, which we covered on Sunday, June 12, they talked about the way being a human, a computer, or an animal is viewed by transhumanists as all just a choice now, thanks to new technology. In the second, they looked at…

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Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers, Modern Telecommunications, Artificial Intelligence, Supercomputer Technology Concept.3d rendering,conceptual image.

Engineer: Failing To See His AI Program as a Person Is “Bigotry”

It’s not different, Lemoine implies, from the historical injustice of denying civil rights to human groups

Earlier this month, just in time for the release of Robert J. Marks’s book Non-Computable You, the story broke that, after investigation, Google dismissed a software engineer’s claim that the LaMDA AI chatbot really talked to him. Engineer Blake Lemoine, currently on leave, is now accusing Google of “bigotry” against the program. He has also accused Wired of misrepresenting the story. Wired reported that he had found an attorney for LaMDA but he claims that LaMDA itself asked him to find an attorney. He went on to say, I think every person is entitled to representation. And I’d like to highlight something. The entire argument that goes, “It sounds like a person but it’s not a real person” has been…

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Humanity Plus theme with abstract network lines and patterns

Transhumanism: Human, Computer, Animal — All Just a Choice Now…

AI and Big Biotech spawn the hope (in some) of merging with a computer or with a bat, maybe…

In a recent Living in the Solution podcast with otolaryngologist and broadcaster Elaina George at Liberty Talk radio, Wesley J. Smith, lawyer and host of the Humanize podcast at Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism tackled the question of “Can You be a Christian and Believe in Transhumanism?” (June 4, 2022). Transhumanism or H+, as it is sometimes called, is a movement to create immortality through new biotechnology or merger with artificial intelligence (AI). Dr. Elaina George: I think transhumanism seems to be the next wave of things that are hip and now … As a Christian, is it something that we should even consider? Wesley Smith: Well, it depends on which transhumanists are talking. Most transhumanists are atheists and…

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Deepfake concept matching facial movements with a different face of another person. Face swapping or impersonation.

The Threat That Deepfakes Pose to Science Journals

Image manipulation has been a problem for decades but convincing deepfakes could magnify the problem considerably

When a team of researchers at Xiamen University decided to create and test deepfakes of conventional types of images in science journals, they came up with a sobering surprise. Their deepfakes were easy to create and hard to detect. Generating fake photographs in this way, the researchers suggest, could allow miscreants to publish research papers without doing any real research. Bob Yirka, “Computer scientists suggest research integrity could be at risk due to AI generated imagery” at Tech Explore (May 25, 2022) They created the deepfakes in a conventional way by starting with a competition between two powerful computer systems: To demonstrate the ease with which fake research imagery could be generated, the researchers generated some of their own using…

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Engineers Meeting in Robotic Research Laboratory: Engineers, Scientists and Developers Gathered Around Illuminated Conference Table, Talking, Using Tablet and Analysing Design of Industrial Robot Arm

At Salon, Funk and Smith Take On “Stealth AI Research”

All we know for sure about the claims about Google AI’s LaMDA showing human-like understanding is that, since 2020, three researchers who expressed doubt/concerns were fired

Yesterday at Salon, Jeffrey Funk and Gary N. Smith took a critical look at “stealth research” in artificial intelligence. Stealth research? They explain, A lot of stealth research today involves artificial intelligence (AI), which Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s CEO, has compared to mankind’s harnessing of fire and electricity — a comparison that itself attests to overhyped atmosphere that surrounds AI research. For many companies, press releases are more important than peer review. Blaise Agüera y Arcas, the head of Google’s AI group in Seattle, recently reported that LaMDA, Google’s state-of-the-art large language model (LLM), generated this text, which is remarkably similar to human conversation: Blaise: How do you know if a thing loves you back? LaMDA: There isn’t an easy answer…

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multiracial group with black african American Caucasian and Asian hands holding each other wrist in tolerance unity love and anti racism concept

Prof: We Shouldn’t Necessarily Value Humans Over Other Animals

New York University environmentalism prof Jeff Sebo argues that humans are not always rational and that some animals display mental qualities so we aren’t exceptional

New York University environmentalism prof Jeff Sebo, co-author of Chimpanzee Rights (2018), sees human exceptionalism (the idea that there is something unique about human beings) as a danger to humans and other life forms. He does not think that we should necessarily prioritize humans over animals: Most humans take this idea of human exceptionalism for granted. And it makes sense that we do, since we benefit from the notion that we matter more than other animals. But this statement is still worth critically assessing. Can we really justify the idea that some lives carry more ethical weight than others in general, and that human lives carry more ethical weight than nonhuman lives in particular? And even if so, does it…

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Human fetus on scientific background

Must We Be Able To Reason To Be Thought Of As Human Persons?

A common argument as to why abortion is generally ethical is that the unborn child cannot reason

Perhaps the most common justification that abortion proponents give for supporting abortion is that the human embryo or fetus isn’t capable of rational thought — and rational thought is the defining characteristic of humanity. They’re wrong in a fundamental way. How they’re wrong is best understood if we look at the metaphysics of human development. Metaphysics is “The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.” (American Heritage Dictionary) The ancient philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC), who provided an important foundation for science, pointed out that humans are rational animals. That is, we have at least the possibility of rational thought, although at some stages of life…

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Window Rain Water Drops Stormy Weather

Firefly Episode 13: If You Are Stuck at Home in a Rainstorm…

Otherwise, you may just want to skip this one. But let me explain why

You may remember the classic Western, Unforgiven (1992) directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. It’s the sad tale of a lonely farmer who had recently lost his wife. He was, at one point, a cold-hearted gunman. He decides to take one final job, adopting his dark earlier persona for the last time so he can provide a better life for his kids. His job is to kill a local sheriff who has been harassing prostitutes in a small Western town. It’s a story with no real good guys that leaves us with the infamous line, “We all have it coming.” I think this episode of Firefly tried to emulate the Western. But it does a terrible job. Before discussing the…

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eurpean siblings brother and sister quarelling

Why AI Can’t Save Us From Ourselves — If Evolution Is Any Guide

Famous evolutionary theorist E. O. Wilson’s reflections help us understand

The late E. O. Wilson (1929–2021) received more than one hundred awards for his research and writing, including two Pulitzer Prizes. As a professor at Harvard University, Wilson influenced generations with his ideas about human evolution and ethics. In his 2012 New York Times essay “Evolution and Our Inner Conflict,” Wilson asked two key question regarding the problem of evil in our world: Are human beings intrinsically good but corruptible by the forces of evil, or the reverse, innately sinful yet redeemable by the forces of good? Are we built to pledge our lives to a group, even to the risk of death, or the opposite, built to place ourselves and our families above all else? Wilson believed that humans…

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Claim: Research Shows That Animals Have a Moral Sense

We are informed at Nautilus, the Templeton Foundation’s magazine, that “ It’s time to take moral emotion in animals seriously.” Really?

Philosopher James Hutton starts out his article as a sort of a “trick.” He describes the animals he works with as if they were colleagues. Then, in paragraph four, he announces, “But there are a couple of important details about Amy and Sidney that you should know. The first is that they aren’t workers in any conventional sense, but participants in an experiment.” Coming to the point, they’re dogs. And anyone who had been reading carefully would realize that they were animals, probably dogs or horses. But now here is the supposed big revelation from the University of Vienna experiments Hutton describes: The first big idea is that the moral attitudes of human beings are thoroughly emotional in nature. Of…

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Woman fist with woke written. Woke concept refers to awareness of social and racial justice, concern, vigilance, activism.

A Catholic and a Hindu Tackle Woke culture

In a wide-ranging discussion, Michael Egnor and Arjuna Gallagher look at Woke culture, abortion, euthanasia, and microaggressions

In a recent series of Mind Matters News, podcasts, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed Arjuna Gallagher, a Hindu who lives in New Zealand. The first podcast looked at what the world’s 1.2 billion Hindus generally think about the mind and the second explored the Hindu view of free will and evil. The third podcast addressed the question, “What do Hindus think about the Big Bang?” Now, the fourth and final podcast asks, what do Hindus think of current science and culture issues, especially the flowering of Woke Cancel Culture, abortion, and euthanasia? Gallagher hosts a YouTube channel called Theology Unleashed, which has featured many guests discussing the spiritual dimension of our lives — for example, philosopher David Bentley Hart and neuroscientist…