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Why Can't We All Just Get Along? The Uncertain Biological Basis of Morality

Why Can't We All Just Get Along? The Uncertain Biological Basis of Morality | cognition | Scoop.it

Squaring recent research suggesting we're "naturally moral" with all the strife in the world. 

In 1999, Joshua Greene—then a philosophy graduate student at Princeton, now a psychology professor at Harvard—had a very fertile idea. He took a pretty well-known philosophical thought experiment and infused it with technology in a way that turned it into a very well-known philosophical thought experiment—easily the best-known, most-pondered such mental exercise of our time. In the process, he raised doubts, in inescapably vivid form, about the rationality of human moral judgment.

The thought experiment—called the trolley problem—has over the past few years gotten enough attention to be approaching “needs no introduction” status. But it’s not quite there, so: An out-of-control trolley is headed for five people who will surely die unless you pull a lever that diverts it onto a track where it will instead kill one person. Would you—should you—pull the lever?


Via Alessandro Cerboni
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cognition
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The Imperative of Technological Progress: Stagnation Will Lead to Disaster

The Imperative of Technological Progress: Stagnation Will Lead to Disaster | cognition | Scoop.it
It is both practically desirable and morally imperative for individuals and institutions in the so-called “developed” world to strive for a major acceleration of technological progress within the proximate future. Such technological progress can produce radical abundance and unparalleled improvements in both length and quality of life – whose possibilities Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler outlined in their 2012 book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. Moreover, major technological progress is the only way to overcome a devastating step backward in human civilization, which will occur if the protectionist tendencies and pressures of existing elites are allowed to freeze the status quo in place.

“He who moves not forward, goes backward.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If the approximate technological and economic status quo persists, massive societal disintegration looms on the horizon. A Greece-style crisis of national-government expenditures may occur as some have predicted, but would only be a symptom of a greater problem. The fundamental driver of crisis since at least September 11, 2001, and more acutely since the Great Recession and the national-government bailouts of legacy financial and manufacturing institutions, is an increasing disconnect between the powerful and everybody else. The powerful – i.e., the politically connected, including the special interests of the “private sector” – seek to protect their positions through political barriers, at the expense of individual rights, upward social mobility, and economic/technological progress. Individuals from a relatively tiny politically connected elite caused the 2008 financial crisis, lobbied for and received unprecedented bailouts and lifelines for the firms whose misbehavior exacerbated the crisis, and then have attempted to rig the political “rules of the game” to prevent themselves from being unseated from positions of wealth and influence by the dynamics of market competition. The system created by these elites has been characterized by various observers as crony capitalism, corporatism, corporate fascism, neo-mercantilism, and a neo-Medieval guild system.

Via Wildcat2030
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The End of the Internet Dream? — Backchannel

The End of the Internet Dream? - Backchannel - Medium
Blackhat’s keynote speaker says it’s up to us to make sure the Net is our liberator, not our oppressor
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Laughter as a window on the infant mind

Laughter as a window on the infant mind | cognition | Scoop.it
What makes a baby laugh? The answer might reveal a lot about the making of our minds, says Tom Stafford.
What makes babies laugh?
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Why a technologically enhanced future will be less good than we think | OUPblog

Why a technologically enhanced future will be less good than we think | OUPblog | cognition | Scoop.it

Today there are high hopes for technological progress. Techno-optimists expect massive benefits for humankind from the invention of new technologies. Peter Diamandis is the founder of the X-prize foundation whose purpose is to arrange competitions for breakthrough inventions. His aim is “a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, and nonpolluting, ubiquitous energy”. The Internet is a special focus for techno-optimists. According to the Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen “future connectivity promises a dazzling array of ‘quality of life’ improvements: things that make you healthier, safer and more engaged”. K. Eric Drexler’s preferred instrument of universal prosperity is nanotechnology. He envisages a future in which miniature robots produce “a radical abundance beyond the dreams of any king, a post-industrial material abundance that reaches the ends of the earth and lightens its burden.”


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The Work We Do While We Sleep - The New Yorker

The Work We Do While We Sleep - The New Yorker | cognition | Scoop.it
It’s strange, when you think about it, that we spend close to a third of our lives asleep. Why do we do it? While we’re sleeping, we’re vulnerable—and, at least on the outside, supremely unproductive. In a 1719 sermon, “Vigilius, or, The Awakener,” Cotton Mather called an excess of sleep “sinful” and lamented that we often sleep when we should be working. Benjamin Franklin echoed the sentiment in “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” when he quipped that “there’ll be sleeping enough in the grave.” For a long time, sleep’s apparent uselessness amused even the scientists who studied it. The Harvard sleep researcher Robert Stickgold has recalled his former collaborator J. Allan Hobson joking that the only known function of sleep was to cure sleepiness. In a 2006 review of the explanations researchers had proposed for sleep, Marcos Frank, a neuroscientist then working at the University of Pennsylvania (he is now at WSU Spokane) concluded that the evidence for sleep’s putative effects on cognition was “weak or equivocal.”

But in the past decade, and even the past year, the mystery has seemed to be abating. In a series of conversations with sleep scientists this May, I was offered a glimpse of converging lines of inquiry that are shedding light on why such a significant part of our lives is spent lying inert, with our eyes closed, not doing anything that seems particularly meaningful or relevant to, well, anything. (The meetings were facilitated by a Harvard Medical School Media Fellowship.)

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What is consciousness for? — Consciousness is a life-transforming illusion by Keith Frankish — Aeon Ideas

What is consciousness for?  — Consciousness is a life-transforming illusion by Keith Frankish — Aeon Ideas | cognition | Scoop.it
It appears, then, that the brain can do the work of perception without qualia. So, again, what is consciousness for? In his 2011 book Soul Dust, Humphrey proposes a novel idea. He argues that consciousness enriches life. It doesn’t add information; it adds interests and goals. Qualia are wonderful, magical things, and conscious creatures enjoy having them. They relish their sensations, and this relish gives them a deeper interest in their own existence.
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Ruby Wax on Neuroplasticity: "You're the Architect of Your Own Brain" | Big Think

Ruby Wax on Neuroplasticity: "You're the Architect of Your Own Brain" | Big Think | cognition | Scoop.it
Ruby Wax gave up a career in comedy to study the brain. In this video, she explains the therapeutic qualities of neuroplasticity.

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Let’s Shape AI Before AI Shapes Us

Let’s Shape AI Before AI Shapes Us | cognition | Scoop.it
It’s time to have a global conversation about how AI should be developed

Via OFFICIAL ANDREASCY
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What is life? Is death real? - Aeon Video

What is life? Is death real? - Aeon Video | cognition | Scoop.it
What is life? Is death real? How the questions that have troubled some of history’s greatest thinkers are still very hard to answer
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Hallucinating children

Hallucinating children | cognition | Scoop.it
I’ve got an article in The Observer about childhood hallucinations which are much more common than we previously imagined.
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An alternative history of the human mind

An alternative history of the human mind | cognition | Scoop.it
Nautilus has an excellent article on a theory of consciousness that is very likely wrong but so startlingly original it is widely admired: Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind.
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Why Neuroscience Needs Hackers

Why Neuroscience Needs Hackers | cognition | Scoop.it

Brain researchers are overwhelmed with data. Hackers can help.

There was a time when neuroscientists could only dream of having such a problem. Now the fantasy has come true, and they are struggling to solve it. Brilliant new exploratory devices are overwhelming the field with an avalanche of raw data about the nervous system's inner workings. The trouble is that even starting to make sense of this bonanza of information has become a superhuman challenge.

Just about every branch of science is facing a similar disruption. As laboratory-bench research migrates into the digital realm, programming is becoming an indispensable part of the process. At the same time, previously dependable sources of financial support are drying up. The result has been a painful scarcity of jobs and grants—which, in turn, is impelling far too many gifted researchers to focus on their narrow areas of specialization rather than investing time and energy into acquiring new, computer-age skills. In fields where data growth is especially out of control, such as neuroscience, the demand for computer expertise is growing as quickly as the information itself.


Via Alessandro Cerboni
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People are sending flowers and chocolate to thank personal assistant 'Amy Ingram' — what they don't realize is she's a robot

People are sending flowers and chocolate to thank personal assistant 'Amy Ingram' — what they don't realize is she's a robot | cognition | Scoop.it
Amy Ingram sets up meetings, taking away the pain of e-mail ping-pong.
FastTFriend's insight:

But shouldn't "her" Linkedin page say so?

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César Hidalgo on Why Information Grows

César visits the RSA to present a new view of the relationship between individual and collective knowledge, linking information theory, economics and biology to explain the deep evolution of social and economic systems.
In a radical rethink of what an economy is, one of WIRED magazine’s 50 People Who Could Change the World, César Hidalgo argues that it is the measure of a nation’s cultural complexity – the nexus of people, ideas and invention - rather than its GDP or per-capita income, that explains the success or failure of its economic performance. To understand the growth of economies, Hidalgo argues, we first need to understand the growth of order itself.

 

https://www.thersa.org/discover/videos/event-videos/2015/07/cesar-hidalgo-on-why-information-grows/


Via Complexity Digest
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António F Fonseca's curator insight, August 5, 8:40 AM

Yes because informatio is a byproduct of order.

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Redefining Utopia and Dystopia or Post-Apoc

Redefining Utopia and Dystopia or Post-Apoc | cognition | Scoop.it
I thought that this review by Niall Harrison at Strange Horizons of James Bradley’s Clade was pretty fascinating and extremely useful.
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Scientists Demonstrate Animal Mind-Melds

Scientists Demonstrate Animal Mind-Melds | cognition | Scoop.it
New studies say rats and monkeys whose brains are linked by electrodes can coordinate their brains to carry out tasks, often better than individuals do.

Via Sandeep Gautam
FastTFriend's insight:

"If a brain network were to commit a crime, for example, who exactly would be guilty?"

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Sandeep Gautam's curator insight, July 13, 10:49 AM

Wiring brains together. 

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Is consciousness an engineering problem? – Michael Graziano – Aeon

Is consciousness an engineering problem? – Michael Graziano – Aeon | cognition | Scoop.it
We could build an artificial brain that believes itself to be conscious. Does that mean we have solved the hard problem?
FastTFriend's insight:

"The theory explains why the robot refuses to believe the theory. And now we have something that begins to sound spooky. We have a machine that insists it’s no mere machine. It operates by processing information while insisting that it doesn’t. It says it has consciousness and describes it in the same ways that we humans do. And it arrives at that conclusion by introspection – by a layer of cognitive machinery that accesses internal models. The machine is captive to its internal models, so it can’t arrive at any other conclusions."

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Metaphor map charts the images that structure our thinking

Metaphor map charts the images that structure our thinking | cognition | Scoop.it
Metaphor is not the sole preserve of Shakespearean scholarship or high literary endeavour but has governed how we think about and describe our daily lives for centuries, according to researchers at Glasgow University.

Experts have now created the world’s first online Metaphor Map, which contains more than 14,000 metaphorical connections sourced from 4m pieces of lexical data, some of which date back to 700AD.

While it is impossible to pinpoint the oldest use of metaphor in English, because some may have been adopted from earlier languages such as Germanic, the map reveals that the still popular link between sheep and timidity dates back to Old English. Likewise, we do not always recognise modern use of metaphor: for example, the word “comprehend” comes from Latin, where it meant to physically grasp an object.

The three-year-long project to map the use of metaphor across the entire history of the English language, undertaken by researchers at the School of Critical Studies, was based on data contained in the Historical Thesaurus of English, which spans 13 centuries.

Dr Wendy Anderson, the project’s principal investigator, said that the findings supported the view that metaphor is pervasive in language and is also a major mechanism of meaning-change.

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Art shaped by science “is the new avant-garde”, physicists are told

Art shaped by science “is the new avant-garde”, physicists are told | cognition | Scoop.it
Artists are beginning to think like scientists and scientists like artists as aesthetics is being redefined, Professor Arthur I. Miller argued at an event on “Physics in Public Spaces” held at the IOP’s London centre on 23 June

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Will head transplants create an entirely new person?

Will head transplants create an entirely new person? | cognition | Scoop.it
The world’s first full head transplant could take place as soon as 2017 if the controversial plans by Italian neuroscientist Dr Sergio Canavero come to pass. Wheelchair-bound Valery Spiridonov, who has the muscle-wasting Werdnig Hoffman disease, has volunteered to have his head transplanted onto a healthy body in a day-long operation.

The proposed surgery is highly controversial and its feasibility has been questioned by experts. But Dr Canavero’s plans also raise complex philosophical and ethical issues. A natural question is whether a living person with Spridinov’s head and someone else’s body would be the same person as Spridinov. In interviews, Spridinov has made it clear that he sees the proposed procedure as a way for him to live on with a new and healthy body.
A different perspective would be that Spridinov is a head-donor rather than the recipient of a new body. He is donating his head to someone else who will live the rest of his life with Spridinov’s head but won’t be the same person as Spridinov. On this account, Spridinov is signing his own death warrant by volunteering for the surgery.

Via Wildcat2030
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Exclusive: Oliver Sacks, Antonio Damasio and Others Debate Christof Koch on the Nature of Consciousness

Exclusive: Oliver Sacks, Antonio Damasio and Others Debate Christof Koch on the Nature of Consciousness | cognition | Scoop.it
A few neurologists and brain scientists are proposing that the secret underlying all conscious activity must lie with the way cells respond to stimuli they receive from their environment. In a response to this suggestion, Christof Koch asserts that much more is required for a full theory of consciousness

Via Sandeep Gautam
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Sandeep Gautam's curator insight, June 19, 7:30 AM

I am on Koch's side!

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What are the ethics of alien contact? – Lizzie Wade – Aeon

What are the ethics of alien contact? – Lizzie Wade – Aeon | cognition | Scoop.it
When we meet aliens, it won’t be a friendly encounter nor a conquest: it will be a gold rush. Can we make sure it’s ethical?
FastTFriend's insight:

If, on the other hand, we discover microbial or otherwise non-sentient life within our own solar system – logistics will be on our side. We’d be able to visit within a reasonable period of time (as far as space travel goes), and I hope we’d want to. If the life we find resembles plants, their complexity will wow us. Most likely we’ll find simple single-celled microbes or maybe – maybe – something like sponges or tubeworms. In terms of encounter, we’d be making all the decisions about how to proceed.

…This makes defining an ethics of contact necessary now, before we have to put it into practice. 

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Science Has Fucking Amazing News for People Who Curse

Science Has Fucking Amazing News for People Who Curse | cognition | Scoop.it
WTF FTW!
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But what we consider profanity changes as language evolves. If a word loses its shock appeal, it probably loses its ameliorative power.

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