The Shaky Foundations of Science: An Overview of the Big Issues – James Fodor

James Fodor 2013Many people think about science in a fairly simplistic way: collect evidence, formulate a theory, test the theory. By this method, it is claimed, science can achieve objective, rational knowledge about the workings of reality. In this presentation I will question the validity of this understanding of science. I will consider some of the key controversies in philosophy of science, including the problem of induction, the theory-ladenness of observation, the nature of scientific explanation, theory choice, and scientific realism, giving an overview of some of the main questions and arguments from major thinkers like Popper, Quine, Kuhn, Hempel, and Feyerabend. I will argue that philosophy of science paints a much richer and messier picture of the relationship between science and truth than many people commonly imagine, and that a familiarity with the key issues in the philosophy of science is vital for a proper understanding of the power and limits of scientific thinking.

Slides to the presentation available here:

Ashley Barnett

Abstract: Skepticism and the Psychology of Magic – Ashley Barnett

Ashley BarnettOur brain’s simulation of the external world, our conscious experience, is often wrong. Optical illusions demonstrate how our perception of objects can be mistaken. Analogously, magic tricks are cognitive illusions that vividly illustrate how our perception and understanding of events can go awry.  Thanks to recent work by neuroscientists and psychologists we know under what circumstances magic tricks are effective and how we can get better at working out how they are done.  The psychological principles at work are general ones, so understanding them can help us be appropriately skeptical of our observations and to reduce error.

 

 

Bio

Ashley Barnett is a philosophy PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne. He teaches critical thinking and researchers how people can improve their critical thinking skills. Most recently he worked on an experimental course for IARPA, the main research body of the US intelligence community. His online course is available at www.improvingreasoning.com .  He also performs as a stage magician – see www.yourmindonmagic.com.

Abstract – Science v Pseudoscience: What’s the Difference? – Kevin Korb

Science has a certain common core, especially a reliance on empirical methods of assessing hypotheses. Pseudosciences have little in common but their negation: they are not science. They reject meaningful empirical assessment in some way or another. Popper proposed a clear demarcation criterion for Science v Rubbish: Falsifiability. However, his criterion has not stood the test of time. There are no definitive arguments
against any pseudoscience, any more than against extreme skepticism in general, but there are clear indicators of phoniness.

Slides can be found here:

 

Kevin KorbMy research is in: machine learning, artificial intelligence, philosophy of science, scientific method, Bayesian inference and reasoning, Bayesian networks, artificial life, computer simulation, epistemology, evaluation theory.

See http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~korb/ The page is out of date, but accurate as far as it goes.

http://theconversation.com/is-passing-a-turing-test-a-true-measure-of-artificial-intelligence-27801

 

http://theconversation.com/profiles/kevin-korb-115721

Abstract: Can Religion Accommodate Science and Must Science Accommodate Religion? – John Wilkins

wilkins_picIt is often said that some or all of science and religion conflict with each other, and that one must choose between them. In this talk John Wilkins will look at how science and religion interact, and show that the issues are more complex and subtle than often claimed.

What is the relationship between religion and science, if we accept that science is our best way of knowing about the natural world? Can science accommodate religion, or does religion need to adapt to science even when core beliefs are challenged? Dr Wilkins, who has written on the issue online and in print for over 25 years, will explore this issue and present a solution.

 

John Wilkins is a historian and philosopher of biology, especially evolutionary biology, and has published the standard history of the idea of species in biology. He blogs at Evolving Thoughts.

Previous Conference a Success! Science, Technology & the Future

Science, Technology & the Future was held on Nov 30 – Dec 1 2013, Melbourne Australia

What will the future be like?

Right now, the technologies that we use to understand the world are in the process of a major transformation. Almost every field of knowledge is generating vast quantities of data, requiring unprecedented computing power and intelligent algorithms to aid in interpretation. The era of Big Data has well and truly commenced. From predicting future climate, to mapping brain activity, to exploring the universe or simply searching the internet — Big Data, as the name implies, holds massive potential for future research and it’s already here. With immense promise comes great challenges — one of the foremost being how to sift through the deluge of data to garner meaningful insights and translate them into practical innovations. Working out how to advance into personalised medicine from the human genome project, or create massive simulations of the cosmos from satellite and telescope data will occupy many.  We live in extraordinarily exciting times!

Speakers include:

  • Peter Doherty (Nobel Laureate) – Immunologist; named Australian of the Year in 1997 and is listed as an Australian National Treasure,

  • David Pearce – Philosopher and Founder of the World Transhumanist Association who promotes the idea that there exists a strong ethical imperative for humans to work towards the ultimate goal of removing suffering in all sentient life

  • Marcus Hutter – mathematical formalization of Universal Intelligence – known for ‘Universal Intelligence’ a mathematical formalization of general intelligence

  • Scott Watkins – Team Lead of the Organic Photovoltaics project at CSIRO – developing cheaper and faster ways to manufacture flexible solar coatings for many substrates

  • Tim van Gelder – CEO & Founder of Austhink Consulting – worked on augmenting human rationality though refining computer aided design tools like Argument Mapping

  • Drew Berry – 3D Digital Biomedical Visualization at WEHI – has won numerous awards for his amazing biomedical animations

  • Peter Ellerton – director of the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project

With leading scientists and technologists from various disciplines gathered to speak about the future of science and technology, the conference was  a battleground for the science that matters to anyone with a stake in the future. Our society continues to grapple with the ethical implications of developments in science and technology — we aim to bring clarity. At the conference we discussed the promise and perils of machine intelligence, materials science, the future of augmented reality and medicine, and much more.

The Nov 30 – Dec 1 conference took place in a time of great change, and unprecedented risks to global safety and prosperity. Some of these changes may threaten our survival — but let us take solace that great change brings great opportunities. We have the societal framework to deal with increasingly complex problems, harnessing the accumulated weight of thousands of individuals in fields as narrow as a nanotube and as overlapping as the world wide web. Let us take the opportunity to future-proof our efforts and find sustainable and resilient ways forward.

 

multiple selves

A Conference on Philosophy of Science & Epistemology

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Few could predict just how fast and dramatic the social, economic and political impacts of computer technology have been in out lifetimes.

This Summer, leading scientists, inventors and philosophers will gather in Melbourne to discuss philosophy of science & epistemology.
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Previous conferences 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013 each drew over a hundred local, interstate and international enthusiasts to hear first-rate speakers from a range of fields. In 2014, we have again assembled a stellar line-up – Including Tim van Gelder, Philosopher and Founder of WTA David Pearce, Kevin Korb, John Wilkins, Neil Thomason and many others.

The conference will explore the important philosophical dimensions of Science.
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There’s simply no better way to glimpse the future of these exciting technologies.

This conference is brought to you by Humanity+ & Science, Technology & the Future

Humanity+ explores how society might use and profit from a variety of creative and innovative thought.

Join in an exciting weekend as we explore the surprising future. See you there!

Speaker: David Pearce

David Pearce

David Pearce

David Pearce will be speaking at  Science, Technology & the Future on Nov 30 – Dec 1st 2013 in Melbourne Australia  – he is a British utilitarian philosopher who believes and promotes the idea that there exists a strong ethical imperative for humans to work towards the abolition of suffering in all sentient life. His book-length internet manifesto The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, pharmacology, and neurosurgery could potentially converge to eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience among human and non-human animals, replacing suffering with gradients of well-being, a project he refers to as “paradise engineering”. A transhumanist and a vegan, Pearce believes that we (or our future posthuman descendants) have a responsibility not only to avoid cruelty to animals within human society but also to alleviate the suffering of animals in the wild.

Pearce is the owner of BLTC Research, a website that was set up by Pearce in 1995. Based in Kemptown, Brighton, UK, the site publishes online texts in support of the biochemical and biotechnological methods by which its proponents believe sentient suffering could be abolished in future generations.

In 1998, Pearce co-founded the World Transhumanist Association (WTA) with Nick Bostrom, an Oxford philosopher. The association, which later changed its name to Humanity+, advocates transhumanism — an ideology and movement which has emerged to support the recognition and protection of the right of citizens either to maintain or modify their own minds and bodies so as to guarantee them the freedom of choice and informed consent of using human enhancement technologies on themselves and their children.

In 2002 Pearce co-founded the Abolitionist Society with Pablo Stafforini, Sean Henderson, and Jaime Savage, in order to help promote the idea of abolitionism of suffering and to discuss the implications involved with a wider range of audience.

Pearce sits on the board of Elsevier’s journal Medical Hypotheses and holds a position at the advisory board of Lifeboat Foundation.[10] He runs a web hosting company.

The Hedonistic Imperative

The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life.

pearce david interview with adam fordThe abolitionist project is hugely ambitious but technically feasible. It is also instrumentally rational and morally urgent. The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved because they served the fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. They will be replaced by a different sort of neural architecture – a motivational system based on heritable gradients of bliss. States of sublime well-being are destined to become the genetically pre-programmed norm of mental health. It is predicted that the world’s last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable event.

Two hundred years ago, powerful synthetic pain-killers and surgical anesthetics were unknown. The notion that physical pain could be banished from most people’s lives would have seemed absurd. Today most of us in the technically advanced nations take its routine absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as psychological pain, too, could ever be banished is equally counter-intuitive. The feasibility of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of social policy and ethical choice.

This manifesto combines far-fetched utopian advocacy with cold-headed scientific prediction. The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how nanotechnology and genetic engineering will eliminate aversive experience from the living world. Over the next thousand years or so, the biological substrates of suffering will be eradicated completely. “Physical” and “mental” pain alike are destined to disappear into evolutionary history. The biochemistry of everyday discontents will be genetically phased out too. Malaise will be replaced by the biochemistry of bliss. Matter and energy will be sculpted into life-loving super-beings animated by gradients of well-being. The states of mind of our descendants are likely to be incomprehensibly diverse by comparison with today. Yet all will share at least one common feature: a sublime and all-pervasive happiness.

This feeling of absolute well-being will surpass anything contemporary human neurochemistry can imagine, let alone sustain. The story gets better. Post-human states of magical joy will be biologically refined, multiplied and intensified indefinitely. Notions of what now passes for tolerably good mental health are likely to be superseded. They will be written off as mood-congruent pathologies of the primordial Darwinian psyche. Such ugly thoughts and feelings will be diagnosed as typical of the tragic lives of emotional primitives from the previous era. In time, the deliberate re-creation of today’s state-spectrum of normal waking and dreaming consciousness may be outlawed as cruel and immoral.

Such speculations may currently sound fantastical. Yet the ideas behind this manifesto may one day be regarded as intellectually trite – albeit today morally urgent. For as the genetic revolution in reproductive medicine unfolds, what might once have been the stuff of millennialist fantasy is set to become a scientifically feasible research program. Its adoption or rejection will become, ultimately, a social policy issue. Passively or actively, we will have to choose just how much unpleasantness we wish to create or conserve – if any – in eras to come. David Pearce - the Hedonistic Imperative Chapter 1 - The Naturalisation of Heaven

Prophetic Narratives: Will Humanity’s Successors Also Be Our Descendants?

David Pearce spoke at Humanity+ @San Francisco in 2012 – Accelerating technological progress leads some futurists to predict the imminent end of the transhuman era and the dawn of posthuman superintelligence. But what is superintelligence? How does intelligence relate to sentience? What are the Explanatory Gap, Moravec’s Paradox, and the Binding Problem? Will nonbiological machines ever be more than zombies? This talk explores three different narratives for the major evolutionary transition in prospect. In the first narrative, biological humans will rewrite our genetic source code, recursively self-edit our own minds, and bootstrap our way to full-spectrum superintelligence. Mastery of our reward circuitry will deliver life based on information-sensitive gradients of bliss. In the second, Kurzweilian narrative, cybernetic brain implants will enable humans to fuse our minds with artificial intelligence; and also allow humans to scan, digitize and “upload” ourselves into a less perishable substrate. In digital nirvana, the distinction between biological and nonbiological machines will effectively disappear. In the third scenario, most closely associated with mathematician I.J. Good, is a combination of Moore’s law and the advent of recursively self-improving software-based minds will culminate in an ultra-rapid Intelligence Explosion and an era of nonbiological superintelligence. Posthuman superintelligence may or may not be human-friendly. How strong is the supporting evidence for each of these prophecies?

Interviews

Alleivating Suffering & achieving Hedonic Zero / Altruism

The Naturalisation of Heaven – The Lotus Eaters – Happiness & Motivation

The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life. This project is ambitious but technically feasible. It is also instrumentally rational and ethically mandatory. The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved only because they once served the fitness of our genes. They will be replaced by a different sort of neural architecture. States of sublime well-being are destined to become the genetically pre-programmed norm of mental health. The world’s last aversive experience will be a precisely dateable event.David Pearce
I predict we will abolish suffering throughout the living world. Our descendants will be animated by gradients of genetically pre-programmed well-being that are orders of magnitude richer than today’s peak experiences.
– p.114 Ethics Matters by Peter and Charlotte Vardy – SCM Press, 2012David Pearce
Video Interviews

For more video interviews please Subscribe to Adam Ford’s YouTube Channel

genomic-bodhisattva

Genomic Bodhisattva interview at H+ Magazine

Maria Entraigues on Anti-Aging and the SENS Research Foundation

Interview conducted in 2012 with Maria Entraigues at the eXtreme Futurist Festival in Los Angeles 2012.
Maria Entraigues is the Global Outreach Coordinator for SENS Research Foundation. As the outreach coordinator for the SENS Research Foundation, Entraigues has represented the Foundation internationally at conferences and in the media, and has explained and promoted the Foundation’s goals of eradicating the diseases and disabilities of aging through innovative biotechnologies, including presentations at conferences internationally. Entraigues is also one of “The 300 Members of Methuselah Foundation”, a group of people committed to help the advancement of technologies to eradicate the needless suffering of age-related disease and extend healthy human life.

The SENS Foundation (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Foundation) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization co-founded by Michael Kope, Aubrey de Grey, Jeff Hall, Sarah Marr and Kevin Perrott, which is based in Mountain View, California, United States. Its activities include SENS-based research programs and public relations work for the acceptance of and interest in scientific rejuvenation research. Before the Foundation was launched in March 2009, the SENS research program was mainly pursued by the Methuselah Foundation, co-founded by Aubrey de Grey and David Gobel.

 

Technological Singularity Panel – Vernor Vinge, David Brin, Phil Osborn, Mitch Wagner

Panelists: David Brin, Phil Osborn, Vernor Vinge, Mitch Wagner. Filmed at Los Con 39 #loscon
On November 24, 2012 at LAX Marriott Hotel, Los Angeles, California.

aleph.se/Trans/Global/Singularity

The technological singularity is a hypothetical event related to the advent of artificial general intelligence (also known as “strong AI”). Such a computer, computer network, or robot would theoretically be capable of recursive self-improvement (redesigning itself), or of designing and building computers or robots better than itself. Repetitions of this cycle would likely result in a runaway effect – an intelligence explosion – where smart machines design successive generations of increasingly powerful machines, creating intelligence far exceeding human intellectual capacity and control. Because the capabilities of such a superintelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is the point beyond which events may become unpredictable or even unfathomable to human intelligence.

The term technological singularity was popularized by mathematician, computer scientist and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain–computer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity.

Guest of Honor: Vernor Vinge
Artist Guest of Honor: Alan White
Fan Guests of Honor: Lloyd Penney & Yvonne Penney
Costume Guest of Art: Mela Hoyt-Heydon

Panel on the Singularity at Loscon

Utopia in Exile – Interview with David Brin

IEET fellow, scientist, best-selling author and tech-futurist, David Brin, sits down with Adam Ford to talk about thought experiments, the technological singularity, rationality, ethics, transhumanism, fiction / non-fiction and futurism.

His novels include Earth, The Postman (filmed in 1997) and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. A leading commentator and speaker on modern trends, his nonfiction book The Transparent Society won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association. Brin’s newest novel EXISTENCE explores the ultimate question: billions of planets are ripe for life. So where is Everybody? David’s main thread: how will we shape the days and years ahead—and how will tomorrow shape us?