The Argument Against Terraforming Mars
When it comes to the ethics of actions, such as the decision to terraform Mars, we should ask: What sort of person would do that—a virtuous or vicious one?Photograph by Kees Veenenbos / Science Photo Library In Kim Stanley Robinson’s science-fiction Mars Trilogy, human colonists “terraform” Mars, turning the rocky red planet into a lush […]
The Moral Importance of Understanding Consciousness
As we get better and better ideas of what is conscious and what is not, they might change the kinds of experiments we will be able to comfortably and ethically perform.“The Scream” (1893) by Edvard Munch Debating whether other beings are conscious can sometimes feel like an unimportant academic exercise. But it’s not. The conclusion […]
It’s Time to Retire the “Trolley Problem”
In the 1960s, the moral philosopher Philippa Foot devised a thought experiment that would revolutionize her field. This ethical puzzle, today known as the “trolley problem,” has become so influential—not just in philosophy but also in neuroscience, behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, and meme culture—that it’s garnered its own tongue-in-cheek sub-discipline, called “trolleyology.” That body of […]
Will Humans Be Able to Control Computers That Are Smarter Than Us?
The ominous eye of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey If humans go on to create artificial intelligence, will it present a significant danger to us? Several technical luminaries have been open and clear with respect to this possibility: Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has equated it to “summoning the demon”; Stephen Hawking warns […]