Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryEthics

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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…

Chimpanzees Uganda Alain Houle CC By 4 0

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…

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Common Earthworm (Lumbricus Terrestris)

Evolutionary Psychologist Argues That Worms Feel Pain. But How?

Wait. Barash’s hypothesis overlooks the fact that suffering is more than an alarm system. An alarm could be going off in an empty building

A web site for fans of earthworms tackled the question recently: Yes, it is now accepted that worms feel pain – and that includes when they are cut in half. They do not anticipate pain or feel pain as an emotional response, however. They simply move in response to pain as a reflex response. They may curl up or move away, for example, from painful or negative stimuli. Aimen Mirza, “Do worms feel pain? (Can Earthworms Sense Painful Stimuli?)” at WORMMY (October 12, 2021) Possibly in line with the growing support for panpsychism in science, University of Washington evolutionary psychology professor David P. Barash, asks us to consider that worms do indeed feel pain in a deeper sense than an…

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Brain surgery

What Would Head or Partial Brain Transplants Do To Consciousness?

Researchers had some success swapping rodent heads (though there’s a catch) but no luck with monkeys. And then animal lovers weighed in…

Science writer Max G. Levy, profiling Brandy Schillace’s book, Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher (2021), reminds us of the strange case of neurosurgeon Dr. Robert White (1926–2010) and his quest to develop human head transplants — or, as he liked to put it, body transplants. A new body for your old head… an offbeat form of immortality. White started with rhesus monkeys. At Case Western Reserve University, starting in 1970, he attempted many such transplants. Only one attempt succeeded (sort of). Without the usual spinal connections and thus without access to a body, the monkey head lived only nine days. Another such monkey head transplant was reported in 2016 — carried out by Xiaoping Ren at Harbin Medical University, China…

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Robot arm with a human skull

Lead Us Not Into the Uncanny Valley …

Robert Marks and Gretchen Huizinga discuss whether future developments in artificial intelligence will lead to a better future or a worse one

This is the fourth and final segment of the the recent podcast, “What Does It Mean to Be Human in an Age of Artificial Intelligence?”, featuring Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks and veteran podcaster Gretchen Huizinga. In the first segment, they discussed what AI can and can’t do. In the second segment, they discussed “How did all the AI hype get started?” Then, in the third part, the discussion turned to “Straight talk about killer robots/a>” because Dr. Marks is the author of The Case for Killer Robots. And now we come at last to the Uncanny Valley, where too much AI and robotics risks making everything weird. The entire interview was originally published by Christian think tank,…

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crab on beach

Researchers Ask—Serious Question — Do Crabs Have Emotions?

Recent research has created some unexpected ethical problems for the seafood industry

At one time, the question of whether crabs or squid had emotions would seem ridiculous. Dogs and cats have emotions but squid and crabs don’t. Right? But in recent decades, it has become evident that there is no straightforward evolutionary path to “smartness.” What about the ability to experience pain or emotion as a dog or cat would? “A London School of Economics (LSE) report commissioned by the U.K. government found there is strong enough evidence to conclude that decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs are sentient,” says York University Professor and philosopher Kristin Andrews, the York Research Chair in Animal Minds, who is working with the LSE team. Andrews co-wrote an article published today in the journal Science, “The question…

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Hinduism religious ceremony puja flowers and candle on river Ganges water, India

Understanding the Hindu View of Free Will and Evil

Arjuna Gallagher points out that concepts of reincarnation and karma make both problems look very different in the Hindu tradition

In last week’s Mind Matters News podcast, “Hinduism, Metaphysics, and Free Will,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor again interviews Arjuna Gallagher, a Hindu in New Zealand. (The earlier podcast was Hinduism, Reincarnation, and the Mind–Body Problem.) Gallagher hosts a YouTube channel called Theology Unleashed, which has featured many guests discussing the spiritual dimension of our lives — philosopher David Bentley Hart, neuroscientist Mark Solms, atheist Matt Dillahunty… a variety of voices on the spiritual life. Gallagher has also produced a documentary, The Persecuted Saints You’ve Never Heard Of about the persecution of Orthodox Christian monks. https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-178-Arjuna-Gallagher-Episode-2-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript, notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow: Michael Egnor: In our last session, we talked a little bit about the evolutionary argument against…

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AI Cyberpunk Konzept: Transhuman / Cyborg Kopf mit Sonnenbrille; Neon beleuchtet + leuchtend | 3D Render Illustration [4K]

Why the Imago Dei (Image of God) Shuts the Door on Transhumanism

As the belief that technology promises us a glorious post-human future advances among scholar who profess Christianity, we must ask some hard questions

Transhumanist ideology is advancing among scholars who profess Christianity so the question must be asked, is the dream of a post-human (Human+) existence compatible with the Christian faith? More specifically, is transhumanism (H+) compatible with the doctrine of Adam and Eve as the first humans created in the “image of God” (imago Dei)? The answer is no. The biblical doctrine that God’s image exists in every human person — and also in humanity as a whole — shuts the door to transhumanism. We can see this if we look at what the Bible teaches about anthropology, ethics, and salvation in Christ alone. Anthropology: Who does the Bible say that we are? First, the transhumanist history of human origins and Human+…

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Sculptor artist creating a bust sculpture with clay

Firefly Episode 7: Jayne Can’t Live With Himself As a Hero

Jayne Cobb, otherwise dumb muscle, once helped many people — inadvertently — and is stuck with deadly consequences when the truth emerges

After the strong “Stagecoach” rebound of Episode 6, Episode 7 focuses on Jayne Cobb. Up to now, the dumb muscle has mainly been comic relief. But when Mal and his crew stop by a planet to retrieve some smuggled cargo — under the pretense of ordering a shipment of mud used to make ceramic parts — we learn a little more about the big man’s past. As the crew exits the Serenity to pick up the goods, they come across a giant mud statue… of Jayne. He has no idea why the statue is there but, come to think of it, he’s been acting nervous throughout the mission. Years ago, we learn, things went south at a job he was…

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Mayapur temple , ISKON headquarter.

What Do the World’s 1.2 Billion Hindus Think About the Mind?

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviews Hindu Arjuna Gallagher on the similarities and differences between that tradition and Western theism

In our most recent Mind Matters News podcast, “Hinduism, Reincarnation, and the Mind–Body Problem,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviews Arjuna Gallagher, a Hindu in New Zealand. Gallagher hosts a YouTube channel called Theology Unleashed, which features an array of guests who have something to say about the spiritual dimension of our lives — philosopher David Bentley Hart, neuroscientist Mark Solms, atheist Matt Dillahunty… a variety of voices that can help us understand the intellectual climate in which we live. Gallagher has also produced a documentary, The Persecuted Saints You’ve Never Heard Of.about the persecution of Orthodox Christian monks. https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-177-Arjuna-Gallagher-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Michael Egnor: I don’t know a lot about Hinduism, and I…

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warhead on transport stand, against a rocket. Weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, a bomb.

What Would a Real-World Nuclear Attack Be Like?

We know some of what it would be like from the records and reconstruction of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima

Since 1992, I’ve made annual visits to one of the most tranquil places I know, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory 11,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean. After calibrating my atmospheric instruments, every evening I photograph the sunset while thinking about the horrors of nuclear war. That’s because I’m standing behind the old Atomic Energy Commission Building, from where nuclear tests over the Pacific were once photographed. The origin of those tests occurred 38 minutes before sunrise on July 16, 1945, when the pitch-black sky over New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) desert was instantaneously transformed into a blinding white glare. Scientists and technicians observed this phenomenon from miles away through welder’s glass to protect their eyes. What they saw…

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Texture of multi-colored sweet marshmallows. Marshmallows candy for background.

Can Waiting for a Marshmallow Predict a Child’s Future?

Believing so was all the rage in recent decades but later research didn’t back up the idea

You’ve maybe heard of Stanford University’s “marshmallow experiment,” right? A child’s future can be predicted, we were told by psychologist Walter Mischel (1930–2018), by whether the child can delay gratification: Walter Mischel’s pioneering research at Bing in the late 1960s and early 1970s famously explored what enabled preschool-aged children to forgo immediate gratification in exchange for a larger but delayed reward… This research identified some of the key cognitive skills, strategies, plans and mindsets that enable self-control. If the children focused on the “hot” qualities of the temptations (e.g., “The marshmallows are sweet, chewy, yummy”), they soon rang the bell to bring the researcher back. If they focused on their abstract “cool” features (“The marshmallows are puffy and round like…

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Abstract planets and space background

Future Technologies — Zoom! … or Doom?

Astrophysicist Adam Frank sees a new role for us as galaxy gods as exhilarating but others aren’t so sure

Astrophysicist Adam Frank asks us to consider where we are on the Kardashev Scale for evaluating civilizations in the galaxy — or, at least, evaluating our own progress: Originally proposed in 1964 by Nikolai Kardashev (1932–2019) and later modified in 1973 by Carl Sagan (1934–1996), the scale measures a civilization’s technological advances from 1 to 3 (or maybe 5) by how much energy it can call upon to do things. Currently, we are not even a Type 1 on that scale and Frank offers some thoughts on that, asking, in particular, whether such advances are universal in the galaxy anyway: The classification scheme Kardashev used was not based on social systems of ethics because these are things that we can…

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Laser Cannon Incapacitates Enemy Satellite In Space

Firefly Episode 3: Should Some People Be Left To Die?

After the space crew rescues the survivor of a pirate attack, Captain Mal faces off against The Shepherd on whether God can save even that man.

Episode 3 begins with a friendly game of basketball… or something like it. Simon, a doctor who has joined the Firefly crew, notes that there appear to be no rules to the game as he watches from the balcony. The game is interrupted by a “proximity alert” and the crew discovers a wrecked ship floating in space. The captain decides to check it out and they quickly discover that the ship has been attacked by the infamous Reavers. We’d seen their ship once in episode one, and we’d heard some ominous descriptions of what they do to their prisoners: “If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And,…

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Concept of asteroid mining in space for rare raw materials

Firefly Episode 2: When Captain Mal Gets a Pang of Conscience…

In the 2002 series, he decides to return stolen goods when he learns of the plight of those from whom they are stolen — with fearsome consequences

Last time, we discussed the first episode of the 2002 Firefly series because Disney is thinking about ruining it with another season. In case you were wondering, this review contains spoilers. In Episode 2, we find Captain Malcolm getting to know his passengers. The doctor’s sister River is suffering flashbacks from her time in the “labs.” Despite being a doctor, her brother Simon has no idea what’s wrong her. She keeps repeating the phrase, “Hands are blue, two by two.” After a bar brawl, the crew lands a job. It’s an old-fashioned train heist. Malcolm and Zoe, his partner in crime, land on the train and steal the goods by latching them to their ship and lifting them into the…