Challenges for a Humanoid Robot

The Star Wars character C3PO is so convincingly depicted that we may have to remind ourselves that there was no real robot behind the elegant mannequin. The passage of time has not remedied this deficiency; nor, alas, have I a blueprint to offer. I do believe, however, that it will repay us to identify some attributes a robot would need in order to count as humanoid. By clearly distinguishing among such features, and considering what our attitudes toward such a device might be, we can enrich our understanding of what it is to be human.

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Enhancing Moral Status?

The trajectory of the development of emerging enhancement technologies suggests that it is not premature to begin considering ethical issues associated with robust human enhancement—i.e. creation of people with highly augmented or highly novel capacities through technological modification of (or integration with) their biological systems. Robust human enhancement raises justice, equity and access issues; parental rights and child welfare issues; naturalness and species boundary issues; individual and social benefit and risk issues; personal choice and liberty issues; and public policy issues related to regulation and research funding.

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The Case for Animal Rights

Some nonhuman animals resemble normal humans in morally relevant ways. In particular, they bring the mystery of a unified psychological presence to the world. Like us, they possess a variety of sensory, cognitive, conative, and volitional capacities. They see and hear, believe and desire, remember and anticipate, plan and intend. Moreover, what happens to them matters to them. Physical pleasure and pain—these they share with us. But also fear and contentment, anger and loneliness, frustration and satisfaction, cunning and imprudence.

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A Story in Two Parts, With An Ending Yet To Be Written

The word “culture” is sometimes recruited as a proxy for “race” in common parlance, and the familiar story of race predisposes us to understand the differences between European and Asian populations in biological, rather than cultural, terms. Culture is a significant shaper of human cognition, motivation, and emotion. The story of race as a biological thing that humans either have or are is not only inaccurate, but also it serves to distort our understanding of human nature. Another way of saying this is that human difference really matters — but not in the way most people think it does.

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Doing, Feeling, Meaning and Explaining

It is “easy” to explain doing, “hard” to explain feeling. Turing has set the agenda for the easy explanation (though it will be a long time coming). I will try to explain why and how explaining feeling will not only be hard, but impossible. Explaining meaning will prove almost as hard because meaning is a hybrid of know-how and what it feels like to know how.

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The Political Economy of Personhood

To speak in the same breath of personhood and political economy sounds odd because of the seemingly obvious radical difference between the two worlds of their application. On the one hand, a straightforward moral term from everyday life referring to the status of our fellow humans; on the other hand, a technical theory with roots in 18th-century French and British philosophical thought about the interrelation between economic production, society, and the state. What could these two possibly have to do with each other?

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Are Women Human?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that could provide specifically for the formation of trade unions and “periodic holiday with pay”, might have mustered the specificity to mention women sometime, other than through “motherhood,” which is more bowed to than provided for. If women were human in this document, would domestic violence, sexual violation from birth to death, including in prostitution and pornography, and systematic sexual objectification and denigration of women and girls simply be left out of the explicit language?

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Taking Life: Animals

from Practical Ethics, Third Edition, by Peter Singer Copyright © 2011 Peter Singer Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press.

Is meat eating justified by the fact that millions of animals would never exist should no one care to eat them?

In Social Rights and Duties, a collection of essays and lectures published in

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Humans, Disabilities, and the Humanities?

Bioethics is much too important to be left to bioethicists.

At the outset of his 2006 book, Choosing Children: Genes, Disability, and Design, Jonathan Glover asks:

Progress in genetics and in reproductive technologies gives us growing power to reduce the incidence of disabilities and disorders. Should we welcome this power, or should we fear its

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Human Language—Human Consciousness

The apparent differences between humans and apes are not biologically fixed, but they are biologically and culturally instantiated. Differences in maternal care patterns, which human and bonobo infants experience from the moment of birth forward, are responsible for the many of the behavioral distinctions that later emerge between the species. They are culturally instantiated and are open to change at any time. From these caregiver patterns emerge the different styles of human/ape consciousness.

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