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Ethics


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

How Much Do Our Genes Restrict Free Will?

Many of us believe we are masters of own destiny, but new research is revealing the extent to which our behavior is influenced by our genes. It’s now possible to decipher our individual genetic code,...
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How the Ownership Economy Could Make Internet Platforms Work for Everyone

The way we transact with each other and conduct business has changed a lot in the last 10 years. For some of us it’s hard to remember how we used to find rides or places...

If a Robot Is Conscious, Is It OK to Turn It Off? The Moral Implications of Building True AIs

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man,” Data, an android crew member of the Enterprise, is to be dismantled for research purposes unless Captain Picard can argue that...

Hey Google … What Movie Should I Watch Today? How AI Can Affect Our Decisions

Have you ever used Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon Alexa to make decisions for you? Perhaps you asked it what new movies have good reviews, or to recommend a cool restaurant in your...

‘The Social Dilemma’ Will Freak You Out—But There’s More to the Story

Is social media ruining the world? Dramatic political polarization. Rising anxiety and depression. An uptick in teen suicide rates. Misinformation that spreads like wildfire. The common denominator of all these phenomena is that they’re fueled in...
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What Two Billion People Pay Attention to Is Still in the Hands of a Few Companies

With increasing frequency, I notice sudden silences, like sonic black holes opening around me. There’ll be the white noise of a person puttering about followed by a profound ceasing of movement. Inevitably, I find...

A CRISPR Baby Future? New Report Outlines Path to Human Germline Editing

What will it take for CRISPR babies to become medically acceptable? Earlier this month, an international commission of scientists released a highly anticipated report detailing the steps needed to turn a gene-editing fiasco into...

Microsoft’s New Deepfake Detector Puts Reality to the Test

The upcoming US presidential election seems set to be something of a mess—to put it lightly. Covid-19 will likely deter millions from voting in person, and mail-in voting isn’t shaping up to be much...

Facebook Wants to Make Smart Robots to Explore Every Nook and Cranny of Your Home

“Hey Alexa, turn on the kitchen light.” “Hey Alexa, play soothing music at volume three.” “Hey Alexa, tell me where to find my keys.” You can ask an Alexa or Google home assistant questions about facts, news,...

Cars Will Soon Be Able to Sense and React to Your Emotions

Imagine you’re on your daily commute to work, driving along a crowded highway while trying to resist looking at your phone. You’re already a little stressed out because you didn’t sleep well, woke up...

AI Behaving Badly: New Model Could Help AI Make More Ethical Choices

The ethics of AI is a hot topic at the minute, particularly with the ongoing controversies around facial recognition software. Now mathematicians have developed a model that can help businesses spot when commercial AI...

Your Personal Data Is Worth Money. Andrew Yang Wants to Get You Paid

Contact tracing has been a somewhat controversial tool for fighting coronavirus in the US. American consumers wanted privacy to be preserved, so Apple and Google set about devising an API that could help track...

Fixing What’s Broken: If We Build a Moral Economy, the Future Will Be Better

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we've been eagerly awaiting a return to normal. We want to be able to go out again, see our friends, and be in public places without feeling like we're risking...

A Chinese Startup Is Selling Glasses for Virus Detection to US Businesses

When will lockdowns end, and what will life be like when they do? These are the questions on most of our minds today; we’ve accepted that even once restrictions ease, society won’t go back to...

Contact Tracing Is the Next Step in the Covid-19 Battle—But How Will It Work in Western Countries?

One death in Steven Soderbergh’s terrifyingly prescient masterpiece, Contagion, stayed with me: Kate Winslet’s Dr. Erin Mears, an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer who chased down people with a terrifying viral infection in an effort...

Coronavirus: What Are the Chances We’ll Change Our Behavior in the Aftermath?

The world as we know it may never be the same. The global economy has slowed, people are living in isolation, and the death toll from an invisible killer is rising exponentially. The coronavirus...

Ancient Animistic Beliefs Live on in Our Intimacy With Tech

When Alexa replied to my question about the weather by tacking on "Have a nice day," I immediately shot back "You too," and then stared into space, slightly embarrassed. I also found myself spontaneously...

Do We Have to Give Up Our Personal Freedoms to Beat Coronavirus?

In late December 2019 Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, sent a WeChat message to his medical school alumni group telling them that seven people with severe respiratory and flu-like symptoms...

After Coronavirus the World Will Never Be the Same. But Maybe, It Can Be Better

Life has changed a lot in the past few days, weeks, or months, depending where you live. As efforts to contain the novel coronavirus ramp up, it’s likely going to change even more. But...

Have Humans Evolved Beyond Nature—and Do We Even Need It?

Such is the extent of our dominion on Earth, that the answer to questions around whether we are still part of nature, and whether we even need some of it, rely on an understanding...

Microsoft’s Moonshot Plan to Reverse Its Lifetime CO2 Emissions by 2050

The alarming headlines about Australia’s bush fires over the last couple weeks have heightened the global outcry over climate change, and companies, NGOs, and governments are taking action. One of the most ambitious targets was...

An AI Debated Its Own Potential for Good vs. Harm. Here’s What It Came up With

Artificial intelligence is going to overhaul the way we live and work. But will the changes it brings be for the better? As the technology slowly develops (let’s remember that right now, we’re still...

Designer Babies? Simulation Shows They Won’t Happen Anytime Soon

Roughly a year ago, the creation of CRISPRed twins reignited fierce debate and trepidation about our oncoming era of designer babies. The experiment, designed to protect the babies against HIV, failed miserably. But He...

Where Should AI Ethics Come From? Not Medicine, New Study Says

As fears about AI’s disruptive potential have grown, AI ethics has come to the fore in recent years. Concerns around privacy, transparency and the ability of algorithms to warp social and political discourse in...

Algorithms Are Designed to Addict Us, and the Consequences Go Beyond Wasted Time

Goethe’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a classic example of many stories in a similar theme. The young apprentice enchants a broom to mop the floor, avoiding some work in the process. But the enchantment...

Tech Spread Misinformation in 70 Countries This Year. How Can We Make 2020 Better?

Following discussions about the societal influence of a technology like the internet feels much like watching a tennis match. One side serves with ‘the internet is the greatest tool of enlightenment ever!’ The opposition...

Russia Could Take the Lead on Human Gene Editing

There's broad consensus that genetically modifying humans isn't a good idea, at least not anytime in the near future. But it seems Russia has less qualms about the idea, which could leave it to...

What Does Ethical AI Look Like? Here’s What the New Global Consensus Says

Elon Musk usually isn’t one for advocating regulation and oversight. But when it comes to AI, he doesn’t mince words. AI is humanity’s “biggest existential threat,” he once proclaimed to some controversy. While that statement...

The Internet Is a Force of Nature. It’s Our Job to Civilize It.

We’re a long way from the halcyon days of the early internet, when the promise of a decentralized digital communications network meant anyone could talk to anyone without appealing to the gatekeepers. Knowledge would...

Tech Is Fueling the Hong Kong Movement. Here’s How, and Why It’s a Huge Step for Freedom

Over the past two months, Hong Kong has roared into global headlines. Its seven million citizens have increasingly taken to the streets (and the capital building, and the airport) to protest China’s move to...

California Passed the Country’s First Law to Prevent Genetic Biohacking

Genetic engineering technologies are quickly becoming mature and cheap enough for people to start using them in their own homes. That’s got scientists and officials worried, and California has now passed the first bill...

Inside China’s Play to Become the World’s CRISPR Superpower

In some ways, Hercules is pretty standard for the course where beagles are concerned. He likes to run around and generally looks as (borderline insanely) happy as any of his floppy-eared cousins across the...

The Moral Case for Lightning: A Global Private Payment Network

The other day, I went to buy dog food at my local pet shop. I bought a large bag of dog food and some treats for my dog that claimed to be able to...

Undeclared Wars in Cyberspace Are Becoming More Aggressive and Automated

The US is at war. That’s probably not exactly news, as the country has been engaged in one type of conflict or another for most of its history. The last time we officially declared...

This Chatbot has Over 660 Million Users—and It Wants to Be Their Best Friend

Your New Best Friend? Making a new friend is a complex business. You might begin with small talk: introductions, explorations. Perhaps you bond over something you have in common: shared tastes or interests. Gradually, you’ll...

The Pentagon’s New Laser-Based Tool Uses Your Heartbeat to Track You

The government’s hefty arsenal of surveillance tools just welcomed a powerful new member. Rather than monitoring an external device—a bug or a smartphone—or even the exterior features of your face, the new tech aims...

Virtual Influencers Are on the Rise. How Far Will Their Influence Go?

In early April 2019, something was suddenly very different about Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Instagram account. In lieu of retro-style pictures of chicken, a decidedly 21st century Colonel Sanders with "Secret Recipe For Success" tattooed...

Can AI Save the Internet from Fake News?

There’s an old proverb that says “seeing is believing.” But in the age of artificial intelligence, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to take anything at face value—literally. The rise of so-called “deepfakes,” in which different types...

What’s Behind the International Rush to Write an AI Rulebook?

There's no better way of ensuring you win a race than by setting the rules yourself. That may be behind the recent rush by countries, international organizations, and companies to put forward their visions...

Revolt on the Horizon? How Young People Really Feel About Digital Technology

As digital technologies facilitate the growth of both new and incumbent organizations, we have started to see the darker sides of the digital economy unravel. In recent years, many unethical business practices have been...

Understanding the Hidden Bias in Emotion-Reading AIs

Facial recognition technology has progressed to point where it now interprets emotions in facial expressions. This type of analysis is increasingly used in daily life. For example, companies can use facial recognition software to...

3D Printed Heads Can Unlock Phones. What Does that Mean for Biometric Security?

Facial recognition technology is likely not as safe as you may have thought. This was illustrated by a recent test where 3D printed busts of peoples’ heads were used to unlock smartphones. Out of five...

Blacklisted in China—Misbehaving Scientists Poised for “Social” Punishment

When Dr. He Jiankui announced the birth of CRISPR-edited babies last month, the world grappled with how to handle the aftermath. Should journals overlook his dangerous ethical violations and publish the results? Will he now...

CRISPR Babies: Stumbling Over Mankind’s Next Giant Leap

During the last weekend in November, MIT Tech Review broke a world-changing story: the birth of the first children to have undergone gene editing as embryos. The Associated Press swiftly followed with a longer...

Welcome to the CRISPR Baby World—Here’s What You Should Know

Last week, the gene editing world was hit by news the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. In a video on YouTube, Dr. Jiankui He at Southern University of Science and Technology in China revealed that...

Britain Is Developing an AI-Powered Predictive Policing System

The tantalizing prospect of predicting crime before it happens has got law enforcement agencies excited about AI. Most efforts so far have focused on forecasting where and when crime will happen, but now British...

How Small Tech Tweaks Can Have a Big Impact on Our Conversations

After Twitter extended its character limit from 140 to 280 in November 2017, there was a bit of an uproar. Stephen King and JK Rowling were among the voices arguing that the 140 character...

Digital Authoritarianism Is Rising. Here’s What That Means

The internet has long been touted as a force for freedom that can topple dictatorships around the world. But according to a new report on digital freedom, authoritarian forces are clawing back control and...

Sci-Fi Movies Are the Secret Weapon That Could Help Silicon Valley Grow Up

If there’s one line that stands the test of time in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic Jurassic Park, it’s probably Jeff Goldblum’s exclamation, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they...

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...

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