The Future of Moral Machines

The prospect of machines capable of following moral principles, let alone understanding them, seems as remote today as the word “robot” is old. Some technologists enthusiastically extrapolate from the observation that computing power doubles every 18 months to predict an imminent “technological singularity” in which a threshold for machines of superhuman intelligence will be suddenly surpassed. Many Singularitarians assume a lot, not the least of which is that intelligence is fundamentally a computational process. The techno-optimists among them also believe that such machines will be essentially friendly to human beings. I am skeptical about the Singularity, and even if “artificial intelligence” is not an oxymoron, “friendly A.I.” will require considerable scientific progress on a number of fronts.

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Challenges for a Humanoid Robot

The Star Wars character C3PO is so convincingly depicted that we may have to remind ourselves that there was no real robot behind the elegant mannequin. The passage of time has not remedied this deficiency; nor, alas, have I a blueprint to offer. I do believe, however, that it will repay us to identify some attributes a robot would need in order to count as humanoid. By clearly distinguishing among such features, and considering what our attitudes toward such a device might be, we can enrich our understanding of what it is to be human.

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Enhancing Moral Status?

The trajectory of the development of emerging enhancement technologies suggests that it is not premature to begin considering ethical issues associated with robust human enhancement—i.e. creation of people with highly augmented or highly novel capacities through technological modification of (or integration with) their biological systems. Robust human enhancement raises justice, equity and access issues; parental rights and child welfare issues; naturalness and species boundary issues; individual and social benefit and risk issues; personal choice and liberty issues; and public policy issues related to regulation and research funding.

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Doing, Feeling, Meaning and Explaining

It is “easy” to explain doing, “hard” to explain feeling. Turing has set the agenda for the easy explanation (though it will be a long time coming). I will try to explain why and how explaining feeling will not only be hard, but impossible. Explaining meaning will prove almost as hard because meaning is a hybrid of know-how and what it feels like to know how.

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Temes: An Emerging Third Replicator

All around us information seems to be multiplying at an ever increasing pace. New books are published, new designs for toasters and i-gadgets appear, new music is composed or synthesised and, perhaps above all, new content is uploaded into cyberspace. This is rather strange. We know that matter and energy cannot increase but apparently information

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Cultural Evolution: A Vehicle for Cooperative Interaction Between the Sciences and the Humanities

Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which humanity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sign to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the

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Can computer models help us to understand human creativity?

Creativity and computers: what could these possibly have to do with one another? “Nothing!,” many people would say. The two are simply incompatible.”

Well, I disagree. Computers and creativity make interesting partners with respect to two different projects. One, which interests me the most, is understanding human creativity. The other is trying to produce machine

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Qualitative Experience in Machines

Abstracted from ‘Qualitative experience in machines,’ The Digital Phoenix: How computers are changing philosophy.

1. Many people, perhaps most people, have the idea that, however problematic qualitative experience is for the case of human beings, it is a lot more so for that of machines constructed by human beings. Few philosophers doubt that human beings’

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Contemplating Singularity

Most researchers agree that there is no reason in principle why we will not eventually develop conscious machines that rival or surpass human intelligence. If we are crossing to a new era of the posthuman, how have we gotten here? And how should we understand the process?

Cultural theorists have addressed the topic of the

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On Reading 300 Works of Electronic Literature: Preliminary Reflections

In a panel discussion at the 1998 “Bookends” conference at SUNY Albany, Jacques Derrida spoke of Internet initiatives under way by his younger colleagues in France at the time. The first thing they would do, he said, is set up editorial boards, appoint in-house grant writers, and establish closed review processes – effectively replicating the

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