No free will for Christof

Christof3Christof Koch and I see eye to eye on a few things. For one, we’re both Mac-heads. (Although I have no Apple logos anywhere on mybody). For another, he used to be a neuromorphic engineer: building analog neurons out of silicon. A couple of nights ago I came across a podcast talk by Koch and found we had something else in common… neither of us see any evidence for the existence of free will. Read More …

300Mb of soul

CapricaSo I finally got around to watching Caprica, the spin-off pilot from the mostly-wonderful Battlestar Galactica. As a scientist, I’m usually pretty happy to just let the science-fiction bits of such programs wash over me: to just suspend disbelief and treat them as fantasy. With Battlestarthis was particularly easy to do, as so little of the science was really explained. But with Caprica, the way they said you could create a virtual human personality was so plausible, well-explained, and—in my view—so completely wrong, that I thought it worth putting something on the record. Read More …

Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and the World Together Again, by Andy Clark

Being There by Andy ClarkOf all the books I’ve ever read that related to artificial intelligence, robotics, cognitive science, neural networks, and the brain, I’m pretty sure this is my favorite. Usually, for me, these books are about filling in the blanks in terms of how other researchers see the world. I get frustrated because I feel that their assumptions are wrong, their view is too narrow, or they lack imagination. I need to know about their view, but it’s not one I share. Read More …

Feeling robots’ pain

The packbot: one of iRobot's products for the military.A few weeks ago, the British press was abuzz with stories about robot rights. A collection of roboticists and philosophers got together to debate the issue at the Dana Center in London as a result of a quasi-governmental report published towards the end of last year. This sparked a discussion on the influential BBC radio program Today: a show that is thought to have the ears of the political class running the UK. Read More …