Geoffrey Harpham, Director, National Humanities Center
When I stumbled upon the future, I was actually looking for the past.
In the 1990s, I was trying to write a book about why the concept of language had so dominated the intellectual history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At some point, it occurred to me
Continue reading In Praise of Pleasure
The prospect of machines capable of following moral principles, let alone understanding them, seems as remote today as the word “robot” is old. Some technologists enthusiastically extrapolate from the observation that computing power doubles every 18 months to predict an imminent “technological singularity” in which a threshold for machines of superhuman intelligence will be suddenly surpassed. Many Singularitarians assume a lot, not the least of which is that intelligence is fundamentally a computational process. The techno-optimists among them also believe that such machines will be essentially friendly to human beings. I am skeptical about the Singularity, and even if “artificial intelligence” is not an oxymoron, “friendly A.I.” will require considerable scientific progress on a number of fronts.
Continue reading The Future of Moral Machines
This is a précis of an argument that I developed in an article called “Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?” The article was published in 2009 and may be found on my web set at http://philosophy.wisc.edu/sober/recent.html. An expanded version of the argument is the first chapter of a book that I’m publishing at the end
Continue reading Common Ancestry and Natural Selection in Darwin’s Origin
Although humanism itself has often been controversial, until recently there has been a fair amount of consensus about the denotation of “human” among practitioners and critics. This consensus has been notably durable. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the first three senses of “human” distinguish “mankind” from animals, from “mere objects or events,” and from
Continue reading Humans and Humanists (and Scientists)