Polemical but entertaining and instructive exchange between Patricia Churchland and Colin McGinn about understanding the brain and the mind.
Month: May 2014
Hang in there!
Did Schopenhauer say, “Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed”? No, but Peanuts did. The “outsourcing of erudition” makes you wonder how much we know thanks to Google etc. but also how much of it is just wrong.
Anorexia, brain activity, and hormones in the womb.
Anorexia visible with brain scans and womb hormones ‘lead to anorexia’. These two articles are of interest with respect to the mind-body problem and the question of how much is up to you. Are the brains of persons with eating disorders different because they have eating disorders, or do they have eating disorders because their brains are different? Or is this a confused question because there is only the brain? And is your brain programmed in the womb?
Neuroscience and ethics
Using our brains. Amy Gutmann explains why ethics should be integrated into neuroscience research early and thoroughly. “Too often in our nation’s past, ethical lapses in research have had tragic consequences and derailed scientific progress. … Ethics in science must not come to the fore for the first time after something has gone wrong.”
The math of killing, letting die, and … murder
More on robot ethics. Should your robot car be programmed to sacrifice your life to save two other lives?
Is that ethical? There’s an app for that
Making an ethical decision? Use this app. The disclaimer on Santa Clara University’s new mobile app is forbidding: “In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website/app.” As the Chronicle of Higher Education puts it, “The Ethical Decision Making app is an attempt to bring applied ethics into 21st century. It is not so much a Magic 8_Ball as a pocket Socrates, which is to say the app asks more questions than it answers.”
Does trolleyology promote violence?
Lawmakers blame philosophy for recent spate of trolley deaths. Humor! And yet maybe we should think about the propriety of flippantly talking about flipping the switch in life-and-death cases.
Ethics for robot cars
The robot car of tomorrow might be programmed to hit you. Imagine an autonomous car — a robot car that has been programmed to drive itself. It can collect and process more information and do so much faster than a human driver can. Now suppose that car is in a situation in which a collision is unavoidable. The only options are for it to collide with a motorcyclist wearing a helmet or a motorcyclist without a helmet. Which option should it be programmed to take? What would rational, ethical “crash optimization” require?
Who should get to study philosophy?
In “Why teach Plato to plumbers?,” Scott Samuelson writes: “Once, when I told a guy on a plane that I taught philosophy at a community college, he responded, ‘So you teach Plato to plumbers?’ Yes, indeed. But I also teach Plato to nurses’ aides, soldiers, ex-cons, preschool music teachers, janitors, Sudanese refugees, prospective wind-turbine technicians, and any number of other students who feel like they need a diploma as an entry ticket to our economic carnival.” So why teach them Plato? “My answer is that we should strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees.”