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?
In large groups money increases trust and co-operation between people, but in small groups it makes people less trustworthy, a study shows.
Participants of between two to 32 individuals were able to help anonymous counterparts by giving them a gift, based solely on trust that the good deed would be returned by another stranger in the futureIn this setting small groups were more likely to help each other than the larger groupsIn the next setting, a token was added as an incentive to exchange goods. The token had no cash valueLarger groups were more likely to help each other when tokens had been added, but the previous generosity of smaller groups suffered
Our technologies are becoming more powerful with each passing year — and with an eerie regularity. This has led some to believe that we're hurtling towards a sort of nexus point, the so-called Singularity.
"Using NEST, the team, led by Markus Diesmann in collaboration with Abigail Morrison both now with the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at J-lich, succeeded in simulating a network consisting of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses. To realize this feat, the program recruited 82,944 processors of the K Computer. The process took 40 minutes, to complete the simulation of 1 second of neuronal network activity in real, biological, time."
Artists have an implicit understanding of a universal biological principle: "people have limited attentional resources."
In the last two decades of the 20th century, the Nobel Prize winning author Eric Kandel notes in his book, The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious on Art, Mind and Brain, a new science of mind emerged "from the convergence of cognitive psychology and brain science" - neuroaesthetics.
People cheat all the time. But why, exactly, do they decide to do it in the first place?
Most perniciously, cheating can become self-reinforcing. When we cheat, we have a tendency to rationalize the behavior. We can’t change the past, so we change our attitude and justify our actions. But that adjustment, while it may make us feel better, also makes us more likely to cheat again: we cheat, we rationalize it, we accept it, and we cheat once more. Recent research from Harvard University suggests that, in both hypothetical scenarios and real-world tasks, people who behave dishonestly are more likely to become morally disengaged from their environment and to forget moral rules, such as honor codes. Cheating, it seems, can cause a self-justifying temporary block on ethical information.
"We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals," according to John Hawks -University of Wisconsin anthropologist. "Five thousand years is such a small sliver of time - it's 100 to 200 generations ago. That's how long it's been since some of these genes originated, and today they are in 30 or 40 percent of people because they've had such an advantage. It's like 'invasion of the body snatchers.'What's really amazing about humans," Hawks continued, "that is not true with most other species, is that for a long time we were just a little ape species in one corner of Africa, and weren't genetically sampling anything like the potential we have now."
In a finding that countered a common theory that human evolution has slowed to a crawl or even stopped in modern humans, a study examining data from an international genomics project describes the past 40,000 years as a time of supercharged evolutionary change, driven by exponential population growth and cultural shifts. The findings may lead to a very broad rethinking of human evolution, especially in the view that modern culture has essentially relaxed the need for physical genetic changes in humans to improve survival.
"Satel and Lilienfeld take aim at functional MRI scans that have been used by researchers and media to claim that specific brain areas represent the seats of love, hate and other human experiences. At best, the authors say, these scans detect a fraction of brain activity that occurs when people perform mental tasks. Such brain measures can neither fully predict nor explain people’s thoughts and feelings, they assert."