The Paradox of Free Will
Sep 30, 2015
The more I think about free will, the more confused I get. The whole concept just seems incoherent and meaningless. It's not just that we don't have free will; it's that the very idea of free will is nonsense.
By the way, I'm using Jerry Coyne's definition of free will as "could have done otherwise." In other words, determinism rules out free will. So now I want to suggest a simple conundrum that seems to rule out the possibility of anyone having free will at all.
Key Question about Robot Sex – Can it be Consensual?
Sep 18, 2015
Robots seems to dredge up all our worst fears - if it's not battle droids trying to kill us, it's sex robots stealing our very hearts! And as you might expect, there is a high-profile organization already at work out there to save us. It's the "Campaign Against Sex Robots," and they say sex with robots is just bad.
Well, the unique thing about robot sex is the question of whether it's consensual. Yes, it's bad to have sex with somebody when it's not consensual. And then there's the question of why a true AI machine, with self-interest and a mind of its own, would ever want to have sex with a human being at all.
Imminent Battle Droids Are Still Not AI
Jul 29, 2015
Wow, there was a huge International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, and on that occasion some thousand or so AI experts signed an open letter opposing autonomous weapons like battle droids. All the big names are in on it, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. So now everyone's all scared about AI again!
Someone would have to be a real party pooper to point out the problem, but here goes. I can't resist saying it again: That's not AI! That's just slick software programming. It isn't qualitatively different from your old PC or your current smartphone.
Lawrence Krauss Won’t Worry, but Most People Should – a Little
May 27, 2015
Lawrence Krauss wrote a brief thing about AI for this year's Edge question that was reposted on the IEET site, and it's breezy as you might expect from someone who is derided for his lack of philosophical subtlety. He says, "What, me worry?"
Personally, I'm not worried about the stereotypical AI apocalypse, but there's another AI threat that is more mundane and realistic, more gradual and starting to happen already. It's our growing dependence on software and the growing power of large corporations to control us through our helper machines.
Quick Paradox: You Can’t be Grateful to Be Alive
May 8, 2015
How about another philosophical puzzle? Last time I claimed that zombies can't want to stop being zombies. Today's proposition is that you can't be grateful to your parents for giving birth to you. Also, God-believers can't really thank God for creating them. Such a sense of gratitude just doesn't make logical sense.
See, in order to feel gratitude, you must exist in a particular state, and then you must benefit from someone's help in moving to a better state. Thus, you see improvement, and that's where the feeling of gratitude comes from. Again, you must see improvement, and then you feel gratitude to the person who caused your improvement. But this model breaks down when we talk about being created.
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