Don’t Trust Economists about the Future of Work, September 2017

paseo en kayak Here’s a short piece on who to trust to advise us about the future of work and the digital revolution. Should we trust economists or philosophers? No big surprise that I’m picking philosophers.

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The Meaning of Genius, March 2017

single party witten Here’s a link to an interesting discussion about the concept of genius with historian of ideas Darrin McMahon. It was hosted by ​Dan Schneider and is available at his criticism and literary website Cosmoetica. Next time I’m recorded on Skype I’m going to remember to pat my hair down!

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​Reflections on Chatbot, November 2016

site de rencontre marche.fr A piece on the OUPblog on chatbots – their origin in the writings of the era-making genius Alan Turing and what Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Ashley Madison have done with them. Do we prefer ersatz humanity to the real thing? Part of the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 series.

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​How Workers Can Get a Better Deal out of Uber, July 2016

useful source A piece on the OUPblog that offers a practical suggestion about how to arrive at a fairer distribution of Uber’s newly procured billions. Basically I argue that the same features of platform businesses like Uber that make them so profitable can be used by its drivers to retain more of the money paid by passengers. Let’s create worker platforms that subvert greedy platform businesses like Uber

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2018

Don’t Worry about Superintelligence, February 2016

​There’s a great line in the movie The Social Network delivered by Jesse Eisenberg, playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. An irritated lawyer asks whether Zuckerberg is giving him his “full attention”. Zuckerberg replies “You have a part of my attention. You have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at Facebook.” This way of parcelling out attention doesn’t win friends. But it does describe the way it is rational for us to collectively respond to the existential threat of superintelligent AI. As Bostrom’s book Superintelligence makes clear, there is a non-zero risk that progress in AI might generate something like Skynet, the human unfriendly superintelligence in the Terminator movies. The problem deserves a part of our collective attention – the absolute minimum amount. The rest of our attention should be directed at the more pressing threats of climate change and global hunger.

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2018

​We Must Try Harder to Stop the Drug Cheats, November 2015

A short piece on the OUPblog that argues for a tough line on those caught using banned performance-enhancing drugs. There’s more at stake here than medals for a Russian discus-thrower or two. Drug cheats threaten the experience of sport for the vast majority of its viewers.

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2018

​The Qualities Most Valued in Employees Are Changing and Not How You Think, October 2015

A blog post on the Huffington Post that examines potential roles for humans in the work places of the digital age. You should focus on the human thoughts and feelings behind the coffee sold to you by your barista. You don’t get this from a barista-bot.

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2018

​Treat Robots like Yo-Yo Ma’s Cello, September 2015

A Huffington Post blog on how we should compare the performances of humans and machines. The machines may be more efficient than us but they lack our distinctively human minds. If you are after a meaningful romantic relationship prefer a human lover to a sex-bot, no matter how well programmed the latter is. If you just don’t care, then why not buy a real doll.

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2018

​Why Techno-Optimism is Dangerous, July 2015

​Techno-optimists fool us into thinking that future with all of its technological novelties must be a blissful place. Yet attitudinal time travel – the exercise of imaginatively projecting ourselves into technologically advanced futures and technologically primitive pasts misleads us about how good or bad it will be or was to live at those times.

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2018

Why a Technologically Enhanced Future will Not be as Good as We Think, July 2015

Pours cold water on the overheated techno-fantasies of people like Peter Diamandis, K. Eric Drexler, and various Googlers. A feature of human psychology I call hedonic normalization predictably prevents future people from benefitting from their fantastic technologies in the way we imagine that we would if abruptly transported into that future.

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2018

The High Price of Long Life, January 2012

In this piece I argue that really ambitious life extension research is likely to require ethically scary clinical trials.  It provoked an interesting response.  For example, Ron Bailey, the science editor at Reason magazine challenges my claims. He suggests that the rich are keen to engage in self-experimentation.  His example of yuppies experimenting with drugs that may lengthen their telomeres is particularly interesting.  Will such experiments increase susceptibility to cancer – something that you’d expect if de Grey’s theory about telomeres and cancer is correct.  I amend my claim – rational wealthy people won’t be interested in being the first human subjects for therapies designed to dramatically extend life expectancies.

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2018

​Debate with Brad Allenby and Kyle Munkittrick at Slate about the virtues and vices of Extreme Human Enhancement, September 2011

A debate with over whether radical enhancement is feasible, prudent, or ethically defensible with the transhumanist blogger Kyle Munkittrick and Brad Allenby, an engineering professor at Arizona State University. A lot of fun!

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2018

​Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations, April 2006

Piece for students commissioned by Action Bioscience, a website of the American Institute of Biological Sciences whose purpose is to promote scientific literacy.

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