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Ethics


Analysis and insight on future ethics. Stay updated as Singularity Hub discusses the most important trends related to ethics.

Technology and Compassion: A Conversation With the Dalai Lama

From how we get around to how we spend our time to how we manage our health, technology is changing our lives—not to mention economies, governments, and cities around the world. Tech has brought...

New Evidence That the World Really Is Getting Better

If you allow your perception of humanity to be shaped by the news, it is easy to lose sight of the narrative of human progress. Struggling democracies, suicide epidemics, climate change, and acts of...

Is It Moral to Seek Immortality? A Discussion at the Vatican

Earlier this month, I participated in a discussion/debate at the Vatican on the topic of “The Morality of Immortality.” The discussion was moderated by CNN medical anchor Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and included Rabbi Dr. Edward...

Google’s Duplex Raises the Question: Should Robots Sound Robotic?

By now, you’ve probably seen Google’s new Duplex software, which promises to call people on your behalf to book appointments for haircuts and the like. As yet, it only exists in demo form, but...

Holograms Can Now Program Brain Activity—Are Fake Experiences Next?

Optogenetics, neuroscience’s hottest mind-control tool, just got a major update. Projecting 3D-light holograms—yes, holograms!—directly onto a mouse’s cortex, engineers at UC Berkeley instantaneously gained control of dozens of neurons at once. That’s not the impressive part....

Will Europe’s Looming Tech Rules Prove to Be a Template for the World?

There was a time when people bought most of the software on their computer, but this is, of course, now ancient history. Some software you still buy, but much of today’s most-used software is...

This New Startup Will Use CRISPR as a Search Engine to Hunt Down Diseases

By now, you’ve heard of CRISPR—the bacterial self-defense mechanism that can be used to modify the genome. From “biohackers” building the hype by injecting themselves with CRISPR—and later regretting it—to the more measured, successful...

New Malicious AI Report Outlines Biggest Threats of the Next 5 Years

Everyone’s talking about deep fakes: audio-visual imitations of people, generated by increasingly powerful neural networks, that will soon be indistinguishable from the real thing. Politicians are regularly laid low by scandals that arise from...

Are ‘You’ Just Inside Your Skin or Is Your Smartphone Part of You?

In November 2017, a gunman entered a church in Sutherland Springs in Texas, where he killed 26 people and wounded 20 others. He escaped in his car, with police and residents in hot pursuit,...

How ‘Cultural Evolution’ Can Give Us the Tools to Build Global-Scale Resilience

There’s an unsettling premise at the heart of Joe Brewer’s life’s work. Brewer is a change strategist dedicated to ensuring a thriving global civilization exists 100 years from now—and he believes this is becoming less...

The Quest to Transform End-of-Life Medical Care Into a More Human Experience

In an interview at Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine in San Diego, Shoshana Ungerleider spoke about the taboo topic we all eventually confront—death. Ungerleider is an expert in the field of end-of-life care and is working...

The Power to Upgrade Our Own Biology Is in Sight—But Is Society Ready for Human Enhancement?

Upgrading our biology may sound like science fiction, but attempts to improve humanity actually date back thousands of years. Every day, we enhance ourselves through seemingly mundane activities such as exercising, meditating, or consuming...

The 10 Grand Challenges Facing Robotics in the Next Decade

Robotics research has been making great strides in recent years, but there are still many hurdles to the machines becoming a ubiquitous presence in our lives. The journal Science Robotics has now identified 10...
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How Neuroscience Is Beginning to Rewire the Brain From the Inside Out

In an interview at Exponential Medicine in San Diego, Singularity University faculty and speaker Dr. Divya Chander takes a look at how emerging technologies are letting us peer inside the human brain like never before. As an anesthesiologist...

Will Artificial Intelligence Become Conscious?

Forget about today’s modest incremental advances in artificial intelligence, such as the increasing abilities of cars to drive themselves. Waiting in the wings might be a groundbreaking development: a machine that is aware of...

Scientists Call Out Ethical Concerns for the Future of Neurotechnology

For some die-hard tech evangelists, using neural interfaces to merge with AI is the inevitable next step in humankind's evolution. But a group of 27 neuroscientists, ethicists, and machine learning experts have highlighted the...

3 Dangerous Ideas From Ray Kurzweil

Recently, I interviewed my friend Ray Kurzweil at the Googleplex for a 90-minute webinar on disruptive and dangerous ideas, a prelude to my fireside chat with Ray at Abundance 360 this January. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaOfLtoaKqw] Ray is my friend...

Does Regulating Artificial Intelligence Save Humanity or Just Stifle Innovation?

Some people are afraid that heavily armed artificially intelligent robots might take over the world, enslaving humanity—or perhaps exterminating us. These people, including tech-industry billionaire Elon Musk and eminent physicist Stephen Hawking, say artificial...

How Technology Is Driving Us Toward Peak Globalization

At some point in the future—and in some ways we are already seeing this—the amount of physical stuff moving around the world will peak and begin to decline. By “stuff,” I am referring to...

Will Privacy Survive the Future?

Technological progress has radically transformed our concept of privacy. How we share information and display our identities has changed as we’ve migrated to the digital world. As the Guardian states, “We now carry with us...
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Do We Have the Right to Edit the Genes of an Entire Species?

Scientists can now more cheaply and efficiently edit animal and human DNA using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system. But should we edit species, and if so, to what extent? An interesting way to consider this question...

What Are the Ethical Consequences of Immortality Technology?

Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it’s now the subject of serious investment—both intellectual and financial—by philosophers, scientists and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already...

The Biggest Facial Recognition System in the World Is Rolling Out in China

Facial recognition is set to have a significant impact on our society as a whole. While many consumers are familiar with the concept because of the many smartphone apps that let them add various filters,...

Should Self-Driving Cars Make Ethical Decisions Like We Do?

An enduring problem with self-driving cars has been how to program them to make ethical decisions in unavoidable crashes. A new study has found it’s actually surprisingly easy to model how humans make them,...

What These Lifelike Androids Can Teach Us About Being Human

For Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, one of the most interesting things about androids is the changing questions they pose us, their creators, as they evolve. Does it, for example, do something to the concept of...

Neural Implant Tech Raises the Specter of Brainjacking

The human mind is already pretty open to manipulation—just ask anyone who works in advertising. But neural implant technology could potentially open up a direct digital link to our innermost thoughts that could be...

Beyond Politics: Innovating for a Sustainable Future

Singularity University is dismayed by the Trump administration’s choice to withdraw from the Paris Accord. Climate change is one of the greatest risks to humankind, and the decisions we make over the next few...

Society Is Destroying and Rebuilding Itself for the Networked Age

When the dust settled from last summer’s failed Turkish coup d’etat, where a faction of Turkey’s armed forces attempted an overthrow of the sitting government and President Recap Tayyip Erdogan, a bizarre—yet distinct—signature of...

How Robots Will Win Your Trust

What images come to mind when you think of robots? The lifelike replicas of Blade Runner? A favorite video game character or perhaps Aldebaran and SoftBank's quirky robot named Pepper? Although researchers have made astounding advances...

4 New Human Rights for When Our Brains Are Hooked Up to Computers

The human-machine mind meld is just around the corner if you believe the buzz coming out of Silicon Valley these days. But neuroethicists worry the technology poses a threat to the last bastion of...

Neuroscientists Can Now Read Your Dreams With a Simple Brain Scan

Like islands jutting out of a smooth ocean surface, dreams puncture our sleep with disjointed episodes of consciousness. How states of awareness emerge from a sleeping brain has long baffled scientists and philosophers alike. For...
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Star Trek or Mad Max? Why What Happens in the Future Is Up to Us

Is humanity headed toward a Star Trek-like utopia or a Mad Max-inspired dystopia? This is one of the big questions Vivek Wadhwa examines in his new book, co-authored with Alex Salkever, The Driver in the...

The Brain: A Radical Rethink Is Needed to Understand It

Understanding the human brain is arguably the greatest challenge of modern science. The leading approach for most of the past 200 years has been to link its functions to different brain regions or even...

Are These Giant Neurons the Seat Of Consciousness in the Brain?

The towering trees with their sprawling branches in the redwood forests have always reminded me of neurons in the brain. Like trees, each neuron extends out tortuous, delicate branches in a quest to make contact...

Natural Selection Is About to Be Overpowered by the First-Ever Mammalian Gene Drive

The year is 2050. The place, New Zealand. Technological advances have dramatically changed the lives of the island’s human inhabitants, but on first blush, its animals remain untouched. Except for one curious thing: all invasive...

The Ethical Conundrums Technology Confronted Us With This Year

New advances in technology constantly push humanity into uncharted territory. Sometimes this territory brings us questions we might not have imagined needing answers so soon, like, "Is editing the DNA of human embryos moral?" Other questions are more familiar, only with...

Break Out of Your Echo Chamber: Technology Arranges Lunch With Someone New

On average, Americans spend 50 minutes a day on Facebook. That’s a lot of online socializing. It’s also about the same amount of time workers take for their lunch break. Yet there’s not nearly...

Can Virtual Reality Sidestep the Paradox of Time Travel?

Most physicists agree that time travel into the past is impossible, but what if virtual reality (VR) could provide a workaround? Doron Friedman is the director of the Advanced Virtuality Lab (AVL) at the Interdisciplinary...

Is Radical Life Extension Good for Society?

It’s no longer a radical question. The aging literature is replete with treatments that could prolong lifespan by 20-40%, at least in lab animals. Interventions such as caloric restriction, rapamycin and metformin have been studied...
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If You Upload Your Mind to the Cloud—Would You Still Be You?

From time to time, the Singularity Hub editorial team unearths a gem from the archives and wants to share it all over again. It's usually a piece that was popular back then and we...

Now Is the Time to Ban Terminator-Like Robots

The United States has on its Aegis-class cruisers a defense system that can track and destroy anti-ship missiles and aircraft. Israel has developed a drone, the Harpy, that can detect and automatically destroy radar...
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Ray Kurzweil: We Can Control AI Before It Controls Us

Over time, technology offers solutions to old problems while creating new issues in the process. The more powerful the technology, the greater its potential to do good and harm. Artificial intelligence is no exception,...

If Machines Can Think, Do They Deserve Civil Rights?

Over the past century, we have made massive strides in the rights revolution. These include rights for women, children, the LGBT community, animals, and so much more. Exploring the future, we must ask ourselves:...

Your Conscious Brain Directs Your Actions Less Than You Think

Think your deliberate, guiding, conscious thoughts are in charge of your actions? Think again. In a provocative paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a team led by Dr. Ezequiel Morsella at San Francisco State University came...

How AI Will Redefine Love

Artificial intelligence is beginning to disrupt entire industries from finance to medicine. Yet the most revolutionary application has yet to arrive—and it’s an existential one. As thinking machines become more integrated into our lives, we...

We Might Live in a Virtual Universe — But It Doesn’t Really Matter

You might have heard the news: Our world could be a clever computer simulation that creates the impression of living in a real world. Elon Musk brought up this topic a few weeks ago....

Is the Brain’s Awareness of the World All or Nothing?

We often think of consciousness as binary: you’re either fully aware of something, or you’re not. Yet according to a team of cognitive neuroscientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, conscious awareness is gradual....

If We Don’t Own Our Genes, What Protects Study Subjects in Genetic Research?

On February 25, the White House hosted a forum on the National Institute of Health’s Precision Medicine Initiative. This is an ambitious research study that aims to develop targeted drugs and treatments that would...

As Technology Barrels Ahead—Will Ethics Get Left in the Dust?

The battle between the FBI and Apple over the unlocking of a terrorist’s iPhone will likely require Congress to create new legislation. That’s because there really aren’t any existing laws which encompass technologies such...

Denying Death: Is Radically Longer Life Good for Society?

It’s no longer a radical question. The aging literature is replete with treatments that could prolong lifespan by 20-40%, at least in lab animals. Interventions such as caloric restriction, rapamycin and metformin have been studied...

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