Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Teleological Theories of Mental Content

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[Revised entry by Karen Neander and Peter Schulte on December 23, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Consider, for example, the thought that blossoms are forming. On a representational theory of thought, this involves a representation of blossoms forming. A theory of mental content aims to tell us, among other things, why this representation has this content, and so why it is a thought about blossoms forming, rather than about the sun shining, pigs flying, or nothing at all. In general, a theory of mental content tries to explain why mental states, events or processes (or, assuming a representational theory of them, the mental...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

87 - AI and the Value Alignment Problem

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How do we make sure that an AI does the right thing? How could we do this when we ourselves don't even agree on what the right thing might be? In this episode, I talk to Iason Gabriel about these questions. Iason is a political theorist and ethicist currently working as a Research Scientist at DeepMind. His research focuses on the moral questions raised by artificial intelligence. His recent work addresses the challenge of value alignment, responsible innovation, and human rights. He has also been a prominent contributor to the debate about the ethics of effective altruism.You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here). Show Notes:Topics discussed include:What is the value alignment problem?Why is it so important that we get value alignment right?Different ways of conceiving the problemHow different AI architectures affect the problemWhy there can be no purely technical solution to the value alignment problemSix potential solutions to the value alignment problemWhy we need to deal with value pluralism and uncertaintyHow political theory can help to resolve the problem Relevant LinksIason on Twitter"Artificial Intelligence, Values and Alignment" by Iason"Effective Altruism and its Critics" by IasonMy blog series on the above article"Social Choice Ethics in Artificial Intelligence" by Seth Baum #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */ Subscribe to the newsletter

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Student Loan Forgiveness 1: The Anger Argument Against It

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Long ago, when I was a student, people often took out loans to pay for college. While these loans could be substantial, most found them manageable. Over the years, the cost of college has increased dramatically, and student loans have become increasingly burdensome. There is also the issue of predatorial for-profit schools—which is an issue in itself. Because of this debt burden, there have been proposals to address the student loan problem. Some have even proposed forgiving or cancelling student loans. This proposal has generated some hostile responses, although Roxane Gay has advanced some well-reasoned arguments in its defense. I paid my loans long ago, so my concern with this matter is a matter of ethics rather than pure self-interest. In this essay and those to follow I will consider the ethics of student loan forgiveness and provide some logical assessment of various relevant arguments. As Gay noted in the New York Times, Damon Linker tweeted that “I think Dems are wildly underestimating the intensity of anger college loan cancellation is going to provoke. Those with college debt will be thrilled, of course. But lots and lots of people who didn’t go to college or who worked to pay off their debts? Gonna be bad.” I think Linker is right. Even if there is not genuine grassroots anger at student loan forgiveness, many Republicans and the right-wing media will endeavor to generate rage against this notion. But is there any merit to the anger argument? Put a bit simply, the anger argument against student loan forgiveness would be that because federal student loan forgiveness would make many people angry, then it would be incorrect to do it. This is obviously the appeal to anger fallacy; a fallacy in which anger is substituted for evidence/reasons when making an argument. Formally, the fallacy looks like this:   Premise 1: X would make people angry. Conclusion: X is wrong or incorrect.   This is bad logic because the fact that something makes people angry. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

The Hydrogen Hoax: Confessions of a Former Hydrogenist

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 The "hydrogen economy" is like a zombie: no matter how many times it is slain, it keeps coming at you. Like a Hollywood zombie movie, hydrogen seems to exert a tremendous fascination because it is being sold to people as a way to keep doing everything we have been doing without any need for sacrifices or for changing our ways. Unfortunately, the reality is not a movie, and the reverse is also true. Hydrogen is a pie in the sky that delays the real innovation that would make it possible to phase out fossil fuels from the world's energy mix.  (image source) This is a re-worked and updated version of a post that I published in 2007, in Italian, during one more of the periodic returns of the "hydrogen economy," a fashionable idea that leads nowhere. For more technical information on the hydrogen scam, see the exhaustive treatment by Antonio Turiel in three posts on his blog "Crash Oil", in Spanish, "The Hydrogen Fever" One, two, and Three Confessions of a Former HydrogenistPosted by Ugo Bardi Quite a few years ago (maybe too many) I was involved in research on the hydrogen economy. It was in 1981 when I arrived in Berkeley, in California, to do a post-doc stage at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. At that time, the worst of the first major oil crisis was over, with the highest historical values of prices had been in 1979. The oil prices were going down, but the shock was still felt, and everywhere in the US and in the world it was a flourishing of research projects dedicated to new forms of energy.In Berkeley, I worked for more than two years on fuel cells; the technology that was to be used to transform hydrogen into electricity and that was - and still is - essential to the concept of "hydrogen-based economy" (The idea was already well known in the 1980s, Rifkin didn't invent anything with his 2002 book). It was an interesting field, even fascinating, but very difficult. The idea was to study the "core" of the device, the. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Epistemic Epidemiology: Election Fraud

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While this is being written Trump and his fellows have lost 59 court cases relating to the election. It is, as always, worth noting that Trump’s kraken legal team generally have not alleged widespread fraud in their court cases—for the obvious reason that there are consequences for lying to a judge. After Fox News and other right-wing media outlets started attacking voting technology company Smartmatic, the company responded with legal notices. This resulted in a surreal event on Fox, with a news segment being aired that debunked the election fraud lies made by its own hosts. One infers that Fox lawyers know it would be a disaster if they had to go to court—again, a place where lies about election fraud can have real consequences. Forbes has a clear summary of the failed claims Trump and his fellows attempted to use to overturn the election for those who want a recap of the particular untruths. Even Trump’s own Attorney General has disagreed with him, stating that there is no widespread election fraud. The electoral college has met and what remains is Biden’s inauguration. Despite all this, Trump and his supporters still claim that there was widespread voter fraud, and that Trump won the election. Anyone who disagrees with them is dismissed as deceived or a traitor and there seems to be no evidence that will convince them that their claims are not true. This suggests the possibility of an epistemic epidemic. That is, there could be millions of people with extremely defective or even diseased belief forming systems. As with any disease, this is not a condemnation of these people—but a recognition of a serious condition that needs treatment. It is also worth considering that there is also an ethical epidemic. That is, there is a widespread moral disease or condition affecting many people. Those who are lying about the election would be suffering from an ethical rather than epistemic defect—they do not believe what they are saying but are lying to achieve some gain. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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