Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

#64 - Munthe on the Precautionary Principle and Existential Risk

In this episode I talk to Christian Munthe. Christian is a Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He conducts research and expert consultation on ethics, value and policy issues arising in the intersection of health, science & technology, the environment and society. He is probably best-known for his work on the precautionary principle and its uses in ethical and policy debates. This was the central topic of his 2011 book The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk. We talk about the problems with the practical application of the precautionary principle and how they apply to the debate about existential risk. You can download the episode here or listen below.You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and a variety of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here). Show Notes0:00 - Introduction1:35 - What is the precautionary principle? Where did it come from?6:08 - The key elements of the precautionary principle9:35 - Precaution vs. Cost Benefit Analysis15:40 - The Problem of the Knowledge Gap in Existential Risk21:52 - How do we fill the knowledge gap?27:04 - Why can't we fill the knowledge gap in the existential risk debate?30:12 - Understanding the Black Hole Challenge35:22 - Is it a black hole or total decisional paralysis?39:14 - Why does precautionary reasoning have a 'price'?44:18 - Can we develop a normative theory of precautionary reasoning? Is there such a thing as a morally good precautionary reasoner?52:20 - [More]

#62 - Häggström on AI Motivations and Risk Denialism

In this episode I talk to Olle Häggström. Olle is a professor of mathematical statistics at Chalmers University of Technology and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA) and of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA). Olle’s main research is in probability theory and statistical mechanics, but in recent years he has broadened his research interests to focus applied statistics, philosophy, climate science, artificial intelligence and social consequences of future technologies. He is the author of Here be Dragons: Science, Technology and the Future of Humanity (OUP 2016). We talk about AI motivations, specifically the Omohundro-Bostrom theory of AI motivation and its weaknesses. We also discuss AI risk denialism.You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and a variety of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here). Show Notes0:00 - Introduction2:02 - Do we need to define AI?4:15 - The Omohundro-Bostrom theory of AI motivation7:46 - Key concepts in the Omohundro-Bostrom Theory: Final Goals vs Instrumental Goals10:50 - The Orthogonality Thesis14:47 - The Instrumental Convergence Thesis20:16 - Resource Acquisition as an Instrumental Goal22:02 - The importance of goal-content integrity25:42 - Deception as an Instrumental Goal29:17 - How the doomsaying argument works31:46 - Critiquing the theory: the problem of self-referential final goals36:20 - The problem of incoherent [More]

#61 - Yampolskiy on Machine Consciousness and AI Welfare

In this episode I talk Roman Yampolskiy. Roman is a Tenured Associate Professor in the department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science at the Speed School of Engineering, University of Louisville. He is the founding and current director of the Cyber Security Lab and an author of many books and papers on AI security and ethics, including Artificial Superintelligence: a Futuristic Approach. We talk about how you might test for machine consciousness and the first steps towards a science of AI welfare.You can listen below or download here. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple, Stitcher and a variety of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here). Show Notes0:00 - Introduction2:30 - Artificial minds versus Artificial Intelligence6:35 - Why talk about machine consciousness now when it seems far-fetched?8:55 - What is phenomenal consciousness?11:04 - Illusions as an insight into phenomenal consciousness18:22 - How to create an illusion-based test for machine consciousness23:58 - Challenges with operationalising the test31:42 - Does AI already have a minimal form of consciousness?34:08 - Objections to the proposed test and next steps37:12 - Towards a science of AI welfare40:30 - How do we currently test for animal and human welfare44:10 - Dealing with the problem of deception47:00 - How could we test for welfare in AI?52:39 - If an AI can suffer, do we have a duty not to create it?56:48 - Do people take these ideas seriously in computer science?58:08 - What [More]

Epicureanism and the Problem of Premature Death (Audio Essay)

This audio essay looks at the Epicurean philosophy of death, focusing specifically on how they addressed the problem of premature death. The Epicureans believe that premature death is not a tragedy, provided it occurs after a person has attained the right state of pleasure. If you enjoy listening to these audio essays, and the other podcast episodes, you might consider rating and/or reviewing them on your preferred podcasting service.You can listen below or download here. You can also subscribe on Apple, Stitcher or a range of other services (the RSS feed is here).I've written lots about the philosophy of death over the years. Here are some relevant links if you would like to do further reading on the topic:The Badness of Death and the Meaning of Life (index)The Lucretian Symmetry Argument (Part 1 and Part 2)Is Death Bad or Less Good? (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */ Subscribe to the [More]

#59 - Torres on Existential Risk, Omnicidal Agents and Superintelligence

In this episode I talk to Phil Torres. Phil is an author and researcher who primarily focuses on existential risk. He is currently a visiting researcher at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University. He has published widely on emerging technologies, terrorism, and existential risks, with articles appearing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Futures, Erkenntnis, Metaphilosophy, Foresight, Journal of Future Studies, and the Journal of Evolution and Technology. He is the author of several books, including most recently Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing: An Introduction to Existential Risks. We talk about the problem of apocalyptic terrorists, the proliferation dual-use technology and the governance problem that arises as a result. This is both a fascinating and potentially terrifying discussion.You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and a variety of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here). Show Notes0:00 – Introduction3:14 – What is existential risk? Why should we care?8:34 – The four types of agential risk/omnicidal terrorists17:51 – Are there really omnicidal terror agents?20:45 – How dual-use technology give apocalyptic terror agents the means to their desired ends27:54 – How technological civilisation is uniquely vulernable to omnicidal agents32:00 – Why not just stop creating dangerous technologies?36:47 – Making the case for mass surveillance41:08 – Why mass [More]

#58 - Neely on Augmented Reality, Ethics and Property Rights

In this episode I talk to Erica Neely. Erica is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ohio Northern University specializing in philosophy of technology and computer ethics. Her work focuses is on the ethical ramifications of emerging technologies. She has written a number of papers on 3D printing, the ethics of video games, robotics and augmented reality. We chat about the ethics of augmented reality, with a particular focus on property rights and the problems that arise when we blend virtual and physical reality together in augmented reality platforms.You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and a variety of other services (the RSS feed is here).Show Notes0:00 - Introduction1:00 - What is augmented reality (AR)?5:55 - Is augmented reality overhyped?10:36 - What are property rights?14:22 - Justice and autonomy in the protection of property rights16:47 - Are we comfortable with property rights over virtual spaces/objects?22:30 - The blending problem: why augmented reality poses a unique problem for the protection of property rights27:00 - The different modalities of augmented reality: single-sphere or multi-sphere?30:45 - Scenario 1: Single-sphere AR with private property34:28 - Scenario 2: Multi-sphere AR with private property37:30 - Other ethical problems in scenario 243:25 - Augmented reality vs imagination47:15 - Public property as contested space49:38 - Scenario 3: Multi-sphere AR with public property54:30 - [More]

Understanding Hume on Miracles (Audio Essay)

This audio essay is an Easter special. It focuses on David Hume's famous argument about miracles. First written over 250 years, Hume's essay 'Of Miracles' purports to provide an "everlasting check" against all kinds of "superstitious delusion". But is this true? Does Hume give us good reason to reject the testimonial proof provided on behalf of historical miracles? Maybe not, but he certainly provides a valuable framework for thinking critically about this issue.You can download the audio here or listen below. You can also subscribe on Apple, Stitcher and a variety of other podcatching services (the RSS feed is here).This audio essay is based on an earlier written essay (available here). If you are interested in further reading about the topic, I recommend the following essays:Hume's Argument Against Miracles (Part One)Hume's Argument Against Miracles (Part Two)Hume, Miracles and the Many Witnesses Objection #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */ Subscribe to the [More]

#56 - Turner on Rules for Robots

In this episode I talk to Jacob Turner. Jacob is a barrister and author. We chat about his new book, Robot Rules: Regulating Artificial Intelligence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), which discusses how to address legal responsibility, rights and ethics for AI.You can download here or listen below. You can also subscribe to the show on iTunes, Stitcher and a variety of other services (the RSS feed is here).Show Notes0:00 - Introduction1:33 - Why did Jacob write Robot Rules?2:47 - Do we need special legal rules for AI?6:34 - The responsibility 'gap' problem11:50 - Private law vs criminal law: why it's important to remember the distinction14:08 - Is is easy to plug the responsibility gap in private law?23:07 - Do we need to think about the criminal law responsibility gap?26:14 - Is it absurd to hold AI criminally responsible?30:24 - The problem with holding proximate humans responsible36:40 - The positive side of responsibility: lessons from the Monkey selfie case41:50 - What is legal personhood and what would it mean to grant it to an AI?48:57 - Pragmatic reasons for granting an AI legal personhood51:48 - Is this a slippery slope?56:00 - Explainability and AI: Why is this important?1:02:38 - Is there are right to explanation under EU law?1:06:16 - Is explainability something that requires a technical solution not a legal solution?1:08:32 - The danger of fetishising explainabilityRelevant LinksRobot Rules: Regulating Artificial IntelligenceWebsite for the bookJacob on [More]

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