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AI: Unlocking the Post-Human – David Pearce & James Hughes

A discussion between David Pearce and James Hughes moderated by Adam Ford exploring the ethical and philosophical landscapes of AI, human enhancement and the future of emerging technologies affording higher states of well-being.

Pearce and Hughes discuss the implications of transforming human experience via leveraging biotech and cybernetics, as well as requirements for AI to achieve sentience – including a Zombie AI adaptation to the Knowledge Argument thought experiment. They also interrogate the ethics, the hazards associated with biological technological interventions, the deep philosophical quandaries surrounding the nature of well-being – and the ongoing journey of discovering what well-being is (whilst avoiding value lock-in).

Additionally, their conversation considers artificial intelligence, reflecting on its recent capability gains. They explore the potential of tomorrow’s transformative AI technologies, probing whether these advances will serve as catalysts for good or vectors of risk. The dialogue scrutinizes different ethical stances, including moral realism, existentialism and moral anti-realism and how they might play out in making moral progress, achieving ethical transformative AI and a post-human condition. It will also consider indirect normativity and it’s potential to shape seed AI and navigate the philosophical nuances of what value and well-being are and the need for equitable distribution of enabling technologies to prevent exacerbating social disparities.

David Pearce

David Pearce, a philosopher known for his work on the Hedonistic Imperative and The Abolitionist Project, advocates for the use of biotechnology to abolish suffering and enhance well-being. His ideas center around the notion of ‘paradise engineering,’ aiming to redesign the living world so that sentient beings possess gradients of bliss, free from pain and suffering.

James Hughes, a sociologist and the executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology (IEET), and author of Citizen Cyborg, specializes in bioethics and policy regarding human enhancement technologies. His approach integrates concerns about social justice with the potential benefits of technological advancements. He emphasizes the importance of democratic governance in the deployment of enhancement technologies and is a proponent of techno-progressivism, which supports the use of technology to enhance human capacities while advocating for policies that ensure these benefits are accessible to all.

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