Monday, October 31, 2011

Is the United States Conscious?

Eric Schwitzgebel writes, "It would be bizarre to suppose that the United States has a stream of conscious experience distinct from the streams of conscious experience of the people who compose it. I hope you'll agree. (By "the United States" here, I mean the large, vague-boundaried group of compatriots who sometimes act in a coordinated manner.) Yet it's unclear by what materialist standard the U.S. lacks consciousness. Nations, it would seem, represent and self-represent. They respond (semi-) intelligently and self-protectively, in a coordinated way, to opportunities and threats. They gather, store, and manipulate information. They show skillful attunement to environmental inputs in warring and spying on each other. Their subparts (people and larger subgroups of people) are massively informationally connected and mutually dependent, including in incredibly fancy self-regulating feedback loops. These are the kinds of capacities and structures that materialists typically regard as the heart of mentality. Nations do all these things via the behavior of their subparts, of course; but on materialist views individual people also do what they do via the behavior of their subparts. A planet-sized alien who squints might see individual Americans as so many buzzing pieces of a diffuse body consuming bananas and automobiles, invading Iraq, exuding waste."

An interesting idea. Read more at The Splintered Mind.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Women in the Philosophy of Mind

Over that the Philosophy of Brains blog Berit Brogaard posted "More on the current climate for women in philosophy of mind (empirically informed or not)." This is partly in response to philosopher Rebecca Kukla's post at Leiter Reports on the climate for women in the subdisciplines and partly to Sarife Tekin's attempt to clarify the nature of an empirically informed philosophy of mind.

After an interesting discussion about whether we should distinguish something called an "empirically informed philosophy mind" Brogaard writes, "My impression is that none of the sub-disciplines of philosophy are great for women. The fact that there are 20 percent women in the top 50 philosophy departments, about 10 percent female contributions to philosophy volumes and countless male-only conferences is a pretty good indicator that the climate for women isn't great and isn't improving. So when you ask women the questions formulated by Rebecca over at Leiter Reports, women will naturally report that things aren't great. It probably doesn't matter which sub-discipline you ask the questions about. Things aren't great for women in any sub-discipline (that I have worked in, anyway)."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2011 Loebner Prize

No AI system won the Loebner Prize this year but the chatbot Rosette did take home the bronze medal.

The Loebner Competition functions much like the Turing Test. Judges hold blind conversations with either a computer or a human. To win a computer must fool a judge into thinking that it is human. This hasn't happened yet, though a number of AI systems have scored rather high.

In 2008 NKU computer science alum Fred Roberts and his team at Artificial Solutions earned a bronze metal with Elbot, a chatbot. - 2011 Loebner Prize

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Neuroscience And Justice

Michael Gazzaniga talks about neuroscience and its impact on the law and our notion of justice. Watch the video or read the transcript.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is Self-Knowledge Overrated?

Jonah Lehrer reviews the new book by Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow.

"One of the most refreshing things about “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is his deep sense of modesty: he is that rare guru who doesn’t promise to change your life. In fact, Kahneman admits that his decades of groundbreaking research have failed to significantly improve his own mental performance. “My intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy”—a tendency to underestimate how long it will take to complete a task—“as it was before I made a study of these issues,” he writes. As a result, his goals for his work are charmingly narrow: he merely hopes to “enrich the vocabulary that people use” when they talk about the mind.

"This new book will certainly accomplish that—Kahneman has given us a new set of labels for our shortcomings. But his greatest legacy, perhaps, is also his bleakest: By categorizing our cognitive flaws, documenting not just our errors but also their embarrassing predictability, he has revealed the hollowness of a very ancient aspiration. Knowing thyself is not enough. Not even close."

Can You See What I See?

Alva Noë talks about brain reading and our understanding of the mind. Scientists seem to have been able to reconstruct what is going on in your brain when you are watching a film clip. Is this reading the brain?   Noë argues that "we cannot find out what you are thinking or feeling or experiencing by 'reading' your brain." We only find out about what your are thinking or feeling or experiencing by knowing you, 

Brain reading, then, is more like reading a person's facial expression than it is like a direct encounter with the soul. And brain reading is something we can do not because the brain is the seat of consciousness, but precisely because it is not.

Can You See What I See? - Alva Noë - Life - The Atlantic

Noel Sharkey talks about the Loebner contest...

Noel Sharkey talks about the Loebner contest. Machines are pitted against humans every year for the Loebner prize to find out which AI program can best imitate a human being.

Would artificial intelligence outsmart me? I needn't have worried

Paul Boghossian on Moral Relativism

The philosopher Paul Boghossian talks about moral relativism in a podcast from Philosophy Bites. Is all morality relative to the codes of individuals or cultures? What does it mean? Is this a plausible view? Listen to Paul Boghossian on Moral Relativism.

Read Paul Boghossian's article 'The Maze of Moral Relativism' from the New York Times.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Philosophy News

We'll use this blog to post news and information about philosophy.