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Archive for the ‘ethics’ category

Apr 14, 2018

Experts Sign Open Letter Slamming Europe’s Proposal to Recognize Robots as Legal Persons

Posted by in categories: ethics, law, robotics/AI

Over 150 experts in AI, robotics, commerce, law, and ethics from 14 countries have signed an open letter denouncing the European Parliament’s proposal to grant personhood status to intelligent machines. The EU says the measure will make it easier to figure out who’s liable when robots screw up or go rogue, but critics say it’s too early to consider robots as persons—and that the law will let manufacturers off the liability hook.

This all started last year when the European Parliament proposed the creation of a specific legal status for robots:

so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently.

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Apr 13, 2018

Does Facebook Use AI To Predict Your Future Actions For Advertisers?

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI, transportation

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted in March, Facebook has been attempting to make a moral stand for your privacy, distancing itself from the unscrupulous practices of the U.K. political consultancy. “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do,” wrote Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, just a few weeks before founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hit Capitol Hill to make similar reassurances, telling lawmakers, “Across the board, we have a responsibility to not just build tools, but to make sure those tools are used for good.” But in reality, a confidential Facebook document reviewed by The Intercept shows that the two companies are far more similar than the social network would like you to believe.

The recent document, described as “confidential,” outlines a new advertising service that expands how the social network sells corporations’ access to its users and their lives: Instead of merely offering advertisers the ability to target people based on demographics and consumer preferences, Facebook instead offers the ability to target them based on how they will behave, what they will buy, and what they will think. These capabilities are the fruits of a self-improving, artificial intelligence-powered prediction engine, first unveiled by Facebook in 2016 and dubbed “FBLearner Flow.”

One slide in the document touts Facebook’s ability to “predict future behavior,” allowing companies to target people on the basis of decisions they haven’t even made yet. This would, potentially, give third parties the opportunity to alter a consumer’s anticipated course. Here, Facebook explains how it can comb through its entire user base of over 2 billion individuals and produce millions of people who are “at risk” of jumping ship from one brand to a competitor. These individuals could then be targeted aggressively with advertising that could pre-empt and change their decision entirely — something Facebook calls “improved marketing efficiency.” This isn’t Facebook showing you Chevy ads because you’ve been reading about Ford all week — old hat in the online marketing world — rather Facebook using facts of your life to predict that in the near future, you’re going to get sick of your car. Facebook’s name for this service: “loyalty prediction.”

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Apr 11, 2018

The Life Extension is “Just a Fear of Death” Argument

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, ethics, life extension

This is a fairly common response to the discussion of extending healthy human lifespans. The idea that fear of dying is the only thing that motivates the advocates, supporters, and scientists working on rejuvenation biotechnology and ending age-related diseases.


These days, war is not really portrayed in a very good light. When we think about war, we think about genocide, mass murder, and slaughter, and we call for an end to it. The popular sentiment is that war is bad and we should just do away with it. However, once upon a time, things were rather different, and soldiers fighting wars were not seen as victims of mindless violence. Losing your life in battle was considered glorious and noble, and your family would be proud of you for fighting in the name of your country, your God, or whatever. People who were afraid of dying and refused to fight were regarded as cowards, most certainly not as pacifists of a strong moral fiber, and were possibly executed; being a conscientious objector was not yet a thing, and human rights weren’t either.

This is sheer madness to us, but back in the day, it was entirely normal. Most of us will probably think people must have been crazy to let themselves be fooled into believing such nonsense, but that’s the power of propaganda for you.

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Apr 8, 2018

Of Hives, Ethics, Morals, and the Singularity

Posted by in categories: employment, ethics, Ray Kurzweil, robotics/AI, singularity

AUSTIN — At SXSW 2018, artificial intelligence (AI) was everywhere, even in the sessions that were not specifically about the subject. AI has captured the attention of people well outside the technology space, and the implications of the technology are far-reaching, changing industries, eliminating many human jobs, and changing the nature of work for most of us going forward. I expect that an AI bot could write this article within 10 years — and likely much sooner — simply by ingesting all the information from the sessions I attended, coupled with an ability to research related information on the internet much better than I could.

Interestingly enough, as Ray Kurzweil pointed out in his talk here, the term “artificial intelligence” was coined at a summer workshop at Dartmouth in 1956 attended by computing pioneers such as Marvin Minsky and Claude Shannon, at a time when computers still ran on vacuum tubes and computers in the world numbered in the hundreds.

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Mar 16, 2018

The Transhumanist Test of Faith

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, ethics, human trajectories, moore's law, singularity, transhumanism

This piece originally appeared at the Institute for Emerging and Evolutionary Technologies website. It is dedicated to Leon Festinger.

Transhumanism is more often regarded as a faith by its detractors than its supporters. For my own part, I have long argued that the signature themes of transhumanism – especially the preoccupation with intellectual immortality and physical resurrection – bear the marks of Abrahamic theology. Indeed, without that theological backdrop, transhumanism’s zeal for mind uploading and cryonics looks simply bizarre. However, in this context, transhumanists can reasonably argue that they are scientifically delivering on those original theological promissory notes. Nevertheless, there remains the potentially pejorative sense of ‘faith’ lurking in what might be called transhumanism’s sense of eschatology – that is, its account of when, how and to whom those promissory notes will be delivered.

History shows that any humanly conceived idea is eventually realized in some form. Most of these ideas are realized fairly shortly after conception and in more or less the manner intended by their conceiver. However, many of the most important ideas – the ones that profoundly alter humanity’s self-understanding — are only realized much later and typically in a context quite alien to those who originally conceived them. Norbert Wiener famously observed that the possibility of an artificial intelligence was first raised in Talmudic discussions of the Biblical Golem. One of the goals of medieval alchemy was the creation of life from non-living materials. As for space travel and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, they became staples of speculative thought starting with the European Renaissance’s unprecedented confidence in the power of human ingenuity. But in all these cases, the ideas have taken 500‑2000 years to be realized – and many have yet to fully satisfy the ambitions of their conceivers.

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Mar 2, 2018

The Military Wants Genetically-Modified Sea Creatures to Snitch on Enemy Ships

Posted by in categories: ethics, genetics, military

Critics of the militarization of marine life say the problem with a new DARPA program is moral, not practical.

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Feb 10, 2018

What does China’s monkey breakthrough mean for human cloning?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, ethics

The creation of monkey clones is a big breakthrough, but making a copy of an adult is still not possible and the ethics of cloning remain unchanged.

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Jan 7, 2018

Mirror neuron activity predicts people’s decision-making in moral dilemmas, study finds

Posted by in categories: ethics, neuroscience

It is wartime. You and your fellow refugees are hiding from enemy soldiers, when a baby begins to cry. You cover her mouth to block the sound. If you remove your hand, her crying will draw the attention of the soldiers, who will kill everyone. If you smother the child, you’ll save yourself and the others.

If you were in that situation, which was dramatized in the final episode of the ’70s and ’80s TV series “M.A.S.H.,” what would you do?

The results of a new UCLA study suggest that scientists could make a good guess based on how the responds when watch someone else experience pain. The study found that those responses predict whether people will be inclined to avoid causing harm to others when facing .

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Dec 27, 2017

What’s Love got to do with Education?

Posted by in categories: complex systems, education, ethics, evolution, futurism, health, homo sapiens, human trajectories, innovation, philosophy, sustainability

[This article is drawn from Ch. 8: “Pedagogical Love: An Evolutionary Force” in Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures.]

“There is nothing more important in this world than radical love” as Paolo Freire told Joe Kincheloe over dinner.

- Joe Kincheloe. Reading, Writing and Cognition. 2006.

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Dec 6, 2017

Raising the Profile of Women Futurists

Posted by in categories: ethics, futurism, human trajectories, philosophy, sex, sustainability, transparency

An Interview with Jennifer Gidley

by Tracey Follows, Founder/Director of the Female Futures Bureau

Jennifer Gidley is a former President of the World Futures Studies Federation (2009−2017), a UNESCO and UN partner and global peak body for futures studies scholarship, she led a network of hundreds of world leading futures scholars and researchers from around the globe. An adjunct Professor at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS in Sydney, futurist, author, psychologist and educator, Jennifer is a prolific author of dozens of academic papers, serves on several academic boards, and most recently authored Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures (Springer, 2016) & The Future: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2017).

Tracey: I spoke to Jennifer about her perspective on Female Futures.

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