Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Ethical Design of Intelligent Robots

By Sunidhi Ramesh

The main dome of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT).
(Image courtesy of Wikimedia.)
The morning of February 1, 2018, MIT President L. Rafael Reif sent an email addressed to the entire institute community. In it was an announcement introducing the world to a new era of innovation—the MIT Intelligence Quest, or MIT IQ.

Formulated to “advance the science and engineering of both human and machine intelligence,” the project aims “to discover the foundations of human intelligence and drive the development of technological tools that can positively influence virtually every aspect of society.” The kicker? MIT IQ not only exists to develop these futuristic technologies, but it also seeks to “investigate the social and ethical implications of advanced analytical and predictive tools.”

In other words, one of the most famous and highly ranked universities in the world has dedicated itself to preemptively consider the consequences of the future of technology while simultaneously developing that same technology in hopes of making a “better world.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

One Track Moral Enhancement

By Nada Gligorov

Nada Gligorov is an associate professor in the Bioethics Program of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is also faculty for the Clarkson University-Icahn School of Medicine Bioethics Masters Program. The primary focus of Nada’s scholarly work is the examination of the interaction between commonsense and scientific theories. Most recently, she authored of a monograph titled Neuroethics and the Scientific Revision of Common Sense (Studies in Brain and Mind, Springer). In 2014, Nada founded the Working Papers in Ethics and Moral Psychology speaker series–a working group where speakers are invited to present well-developed, as yet unpublished work.

Within the debate on neuroenhancement, cognitive and moral enhancements have been discussed as two different kinds of improvements achievable by different biomedical means. Pharmacological means that improve memory, attention, decision-making, or wakefulness have been accorded the status of “cognitive enhancers,” while attempts to improve empathy or diminish aggression have been categorized as “moral enhancements.” According to Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu (2008; 2012), cognitive enhancement could outstrip our natural abilities to improve commonsense morality. The view of commonsense morality as static motivates Persson and Savulescu (2008) to establish two distinct tracts of enhancement and to argue that cognitive enhancement needs to be coupled with moral enhancement to prevent the negative impact of rapid scientific progress that might be precipitated by the use of cognitive enhancers. To argue that cognitive enhancement might lead to improvements both in science and in commonsense morality, I will propose that commonsense morality is a folk theory with features similar to a scientific theory.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting Summary: Ethics of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology

By Ian Stevens

Ian is a 4th year undergraduate student at Northern Arizona University. He is majoring in Biomedical Sciences with minors in Psychological Sciences and Philosophy to pursue interdisciplinary research on how medicine, neuroscience, and philosophy connect. 

At the 2017 International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting, an array of neuroscientists, physicians, philosophers, and lawyers gathered to discuss the ethical implications of neuroscientific research in addiction, neurotechnology, and the judicial system. A panel consisting of Dr. Frederic Gilbert with the University of Washington, Dr. Merlin Bittlinger, with the Universitätsmedizin Berlin РCharité, and Dr. Anna Wexler with the University of Pennsylvania presented their research on the ethics of neurotechnologies.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Anniversary of the First Neuroethics Conference (No, Not That One)

By Jonathan D. Moreno

Jonathan D. Moreno is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he is a Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professor. At Penn he is also Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, of History and Sociology of Science, and of Philosophy.  His latest book is Impromptu Man: J.L. Moreno and the Origins of Psychodrama, Encounter Culture, and the Social Network (2014), which Amazon called a “#1 hot new release.”  Among his previous books are The Body Politic, which was named a Best Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, Mind Wars (2012), and Undue Risk (2000).

The 15th anniversary of what is widely viewed as the first neuroethics conference, “Neuroethics: Mapping the Field” was celebrated in 2017. The meeting was held in San Francisco, organized by the University of California and Stanford, and sponsored by the Dana Foundation. Cerebrum, the journal that is published by the foundation, celebrated the anniversary by publishing short memoirs by some of the speakers, including my own. The feature was dubbed “The First Neuroethics Meeting.”

Except that it wasn’t. The first conference that was recognizably about neuroethics was held in Washington, D.C. under the auspices of a conservative think tank, and its 20th anniversary is in 2018.