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Ethics


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

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...

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. Ray is my friend and...

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...

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