Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryEthics

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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…

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Surreal 3d illustration of multiple faces in a wall. Concept of post-human and transhumanism ideas.

Is Transhumanism Really a Form of Liberation?

The central transhumanist doctrine is that the body can be dispensed with. What are the consequences?

Libby Emmons, editor-in-chief at The Post Millennial, Canada’s non-Woke “young” media outlet, offered some unexpected thoughts on transhumanism, the idea that we must take charge of the evolution of our species — sometimes expressed in the idea that we can upload ourselves as digital entities and live forever. Emmons is not sure that transhumanism is really a form of liberation. She acknowledges the value of, for example, prostheses controlled by thoughts alone. But she asks us to consider what full-blown transhumanism entails: With the widespread acceptance of human augmentation, bio-tech, AI, and transgenderism, we are removing agency from the human body, and granting it entirely to the mind. But our humanity lies not in our consciousness, but in the biological…

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3d rendered medically accurate illustration of twin fetuses - week 17

There’s No Science Argument on Whether Unborn Children Are Human

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor notes that abortion activists argue that the embryo is a different species, some unclassified thing, or part of the mother — that’s politics, not science

The recent March for Life in Washington featured signs like “Save the baby humans” (featuring a whale), “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love” – Mother Theresa” and “One heart stops; many hearts break.” Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has a message for people who wonder whether the preborn child is a human being: Ever ask #Why we should believe that a human embryo is a human life? There is no question about it—from the moment of conception, a unique human being exists. Pro-abortion activists will try to say that the embryo is a different species, some unclassified thing, or part of the mother, but none of these are true. The science of sexual reproduction is as…

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Logging. Aerial drone view of deforestation environmental problem.

Aliens as Both Angels — and Bugs? Superior But Sociopathic?

A look at the puzzling 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - environment doom replaces the Cold War

Last week I reviewed the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Before watching the original, I had decided to watch the 2008 remake. I now regret my decision. Let’s talk about the 2008 movie featuring Keanu Reeves. The 2008 movie opens with essentially the same beats as the original. The spaceship lands, but it is not metal; it’s a bizarre space orb, made of different kinds of luminescent biological material. This change gives the aliens an ethereal quality. They are entities that have reached demi-god status. The writers even go to the trouble of showing the ship hovering over a cathedral, illuminating the building. The movie is practically screaming, “They’re Angels! Get it!” The alien, Klaatu, steps out…

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Powerful Personal Computer Gamer Rig with First-Person Shooter Game on Screen. Monitor Stands on the Table at Home. Cozy Room with Modern Design is Lit with Pink Neon Light.

Do AI Entities in Virtual Worlds Have Rights?

A professor of game designing argues that they do; Wesley J. Smith disagrees

Pointing to an article at The Conversation, “How to be a god: we might one day create virtual worlds with characters as intelligent as ourselves,” Wesley J. Smith offers, We have enough problems with attaining universal human rights, but activists want animals and “nature” to have human-type rights. Transhumanists and futurists also worry about guaranteeing rights for AI technologies when they attain “consciousness.” The latest example comes in The Conversation from a professor of game designing — who knew that was an academic discipline? — named Richard A. Bartle, at the University of Essex. He believes that “we may one day create virtual worlds with creatures as intelligent as ourselves.” From, “How to Be a God“: “I believe we will…

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Shaved male nape and a lot of usb cables connected to it. Concept of dependence in thinking and information

Enforce the Law With No Bias? Use Robots! Oops, Wait…

The 2008 remake of the 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, explores the concept

Since we’ve been reviewing the Matrix movies, I thought I would review another sci-fi film starring Keanu Reeves, The Day the Earth Stood Still, (2008) which was a remake of a film of the same name that came out in 1951. However, as I was watching this train wreck, even by remake standards, I thought I ought to watch the original for a little extra context. What I saw compelled me to write this review. Here’s a trailer for the original, which gives some sense of the period: Now the new version: The movie opens with a spaceship landing and the alien, Klaatu, and his robot, Gort, stepping out of the ship. Klaatu is shot and Gort destroys a few…

greatThinker

Eugenics, Transhumanism, and Artificial Intelligence

If we were to succeed at creating an ethical decision-making AI, whose ethics would it abide by?

In his article for the Digital Journal, Saratendu Sethi argues that to build a sustainable global supply chain requires the humanization of AI. This technological revolution, he says, includes “truly autonomous and self-correcting supply chains” that will replace the flawed capital-driven decision making of humans. Sethi defines this utilitarian mission of serving the “greater good” through what he calls a “sustainable, ethical and responsible world that puts equity for all at the center.” His motive of helping everyone while protecting the environment is commendable, yet the larger question remains, whose ethic will drive the logic used by this AI? When resources are limited, how will this AI decide who gets food and who gets medicine? Based on my own study, Sethi’s…

neon city
Neon night in a futuristic city. Photorealistic 3D illustration. Wallpaper in a cyberpunk style. Empty street with neon lights reflecting in a water. Beautiful night cityscape. Grunge urban landscape.

With Transhumanism, What Happens to Human Rights?

The transhumanist accepts suffering for the individual if suffering can advance the evolution of the species toward immortality and singularity

The 2018 Netflix series, Altered Carbon, depicts a future society where people hope to live forever by digitizing their consciousness and storing it in a “cortical stack.” This technological marvel is then inserted into any number of interchangeable bodies when the old “sleve” dies. But what you and I may watch for entertainment is for many scientists, philosophers, and theologians a life’s mission. This dream of life without end through technology is called transhumanism. Transhumanism (Humanity+ or hereafter H+) is a 20th– century endeavor grounded in rational humanism that trusts technological advances to answer two key questions of human existence: “What does it mean to be human?” and “What is the future of humanity?” For the transhumanist, these two questions…

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Crab close up, Cuba

How Could We Know If an Octopus or Lobster Felt Pain?

Researchers found that, when it comes to awareness, octopuses were the stars, followed by lobsters, crayfish, crabs, etc.

Some researchers, commissioned to find out, offered their wrap-up thoughts at Phys.org recently. They started applying the same standards to octopuses as are applied to mammals that are lab animals. Specifically, they used eight criteria for determining sentience — in the sense that, if you did the same thing to a dog and got the same reaction, would you assume it was pain? The results have been interesting: We found the strongest evidence for sentience in cephalopods. Octopuses were the stars. With around 170 million brain cells, they have higher brain-to-body ratios than most reptiles and fish. This allows octopuses to perform remarkable feats of learning and memory. Octopuses also behave in ways that point strongly to experiences of pain.…

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Information censorship - Typewriter locked with a chain

Are Media Gag Orders Fair in an Internet World?

Editor Michael Cook says no, based on the Pell sex abuse case Down Under. New ways must be found to ensure that a jury is not prejudiced

This article by editor Michael Cook tackles the problem of media gag orders in an internet world. Australian media outlets were recently fined A$1.1 million for contempt of court for publishing information that was widely available elsewhere concerning the trial of George, Cardinal Pell on charges of sexual molestation. Significantly, they could not publish information that cast doubt on the fairness of the trial, that they were in a better position to understand than foreign media would be. Cook suggests new approaches going forward. The article first appeared at MercatorNet on June 9, 2021 under the title “They’re still picking up the pieces after the Cardinal Pell fiasco.” A media pygmy, MercatorNet spends much of its time complaining about the mainstream media…

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embryo silhouette in woman hand

Political Website’s Christmas Gift to Readers: Promoting Abortion

FiveThirtyEight asked readers to share their abortion stories and got something it hadn’t bargained on: Many were glad it didn’t happen
If you want to understand the mindset of the abortion lobby, note that this plea for accounts of killing of children in the womb appeared on Twitter on Christmas Day. Read More ›
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3d rendering of Human cell or Embryonic stem cell microscope background.

Are the Brain Cells in a Dish That Learned Pong Conscious?

Human-derived organoids learned faster than AI and always outperformed mouse-derived organoids in terms of volley length, raising troubling questions

Recently, science media were abuzz with a remarkable story about minibrains (mouse and human brain cells in a dish) learning to play the video game Pong: Scientists have successfully taught a collection of human brain cells in a petri dish how to play the video game “Pong” — kind of. Researchers at the biotechnology startup Cortical Labs have created “mini-brains“ consisting of 800,000 to one million living human brain cells in a petri dish, New Scientist reports. The cells are placed on top of a microelectrode array that analyzes the neural activity. “We think it’s fair to call them cyborg brains,” Brett Kagan, chief scientific officer at Cortical Labs and research lead of the project, told New Scientist. Tony Tran,…

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A free-living dung beetle sits in the forest

When Your Oppressors Are Giant Beetles — Sci-fi Saturday

“Résistance” (2016, animated) by Alex Chauvet et al. (uploaded at DUST November 19, 2021, 6:36 min) Dominated by an Insect’s totalitarian regime, the staff of a restaurant organizes a plot to knock down the established order. Review: Picture a very upper crust French restaurant staffed by humans, whose patrons are giant beetles with temperaments to match. The beetles are very well executed. The sight of the beetles guzzling mini glasses of champagne is not one to miss, so it’s not surprising the film clocked over 150k viewers in fewer than ten days. But yes, the humans are unhappy with all the grossness. They are plotting in the kitchen. And it doesn’t help that one of the drunken beetles starts pawing…

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Flag of China and clock

Gingrich at COSM: China Is the Greatest Threat to Global Freedom

Newt Gingrich fears America will lose to China. George Gilder argues that thinking that way is self-defeating and stupid

At COSM 2021, philosopher of technology George Gilder and political analyst Newt Gingrich sparred over U.S.–China relations. Gilder and Gingrich, a former U.S. Congressman, exemplify the two predominant views on China today. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author Gingrich says the U.S. should decouple from China, while economist and author Gilder sees collaboration with China as our best — and only — option. Gingrich: Optimism about a more open China is waning In his opening remarks, Gingrich recalled that he was once an optimist that Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping’s opening up strategy would usher in a more democratic China because Communism was incompatible with a free market economy. But, Gingrich, who has been a history…

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Brick through Window.

15. Debate: How Can a Cause and Effect Occur at the Same Time?

In the broken window analogy, the brick becomes a cause simultaneously with the shattered glass becoming an effect

In the “Does God exist?” debate at Theology Unleashed between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), a questioner asks, are singularities really a part of science? Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of…

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new life, 2d echo

How a Theory of the Soul Drives Abortion Activism

Descartes’ theory that the soul and the body are utterly distinct, while mostly rejected in philosophy, is still part of popular culture

Every now and then, it’s useful to look at the philosophical underpinnings of current thought and what implications they have for engineering ethics. In a recent post on the website of the journal First Things, professor of biblical and religious studies Carl Trueman noted that Cartesian dualism — a way of looking at the human person promulgated by René Descartes (1596-1650) — is enjoying a comeback in the popular mind, although modern philosophy has long since discarded it as an inadequate model. (This article by Karl D. Stephan originally appeared at Engineering Ethics Blog (October 11, 2021) under the title “Against Cartesian Dualism,” and is reprinted with permission.) If you know anything about Descartes, you will probably recall his most famous saying: “I think,…

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Pinocchio

14: Debate: Is Morality a Mere Emotion That We Project On Others?

Theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty continue their conversation about basic issues at Theology Unleashed

In the “Does God exist?” debate at Theology Unleashed between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), a questioner asks, what underlies morality? Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). Then, turning to…

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Compassion and Religion: Darwin’s Unscratchable Itches

If one’s research is in a hole as deep as evolutionary psychology is when accounting for compassion, why not stop digging?

Last Sunday, I pointed to a chapter I wrote in The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos (2021) on evolutionary psychology, best understood as the psychology we have derived from our not-quite-human ancestors. “Not-quite-human ancestors”? Well, if you believe in conventional evolution theory at all, you must suppose that we have not-quite-human ancestors. Thus, to understand the origin of traits like giving to the Heart & Stroke Fund or subscribing to popular science magazines, we must get back to a point before any such institutions could have existed but there was some sort of dim potential. But we can’t really do that because, as noted last Sunday, there is no such…