Robots to be taught how to feel pain

While we’re working to insulate ourselves from pain, we’re also working to make robots feel it. Makes for some interesting ethical scenarios about both human and machine pain.

An artificial nervous system aimed at teaching robots how to feel pain is being developed by German researchers.

Source: Robots to be taught how to feel pain

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Ellul, Technique & Confronting the Technological Society

Had occasion to direct a student to Jacques Ellul’s work the other day to look at his idea of la technique seen as ‘the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.’* In the process of doing that, I came across these two links.

Source: Confronting the Technological Society

With the conclusion of that piece ending with the following:

Neither of these two options — wholeheartedly embracing the technological imperative or shunning it with anti-civilizational escapism à la Rousseau — is a fitting response to the warning of The Technological Society. We ought instead to take Ellul’s book, placed in the context of his larger work, as an appeal to walk a middle path between unrestrained technophilia and reactionary technophobia, a path we see only if we refocus on human ends, which are familial, communal, political, and ecclesial. This requires that we are willing to admit that among our vast array of technical means many fail to serve us well, that progress on this path has often little to do with innovation, and that control over our means is not simply given but something we must struggle for by confronting them with these higher than technical ends.

See also:

Source: Ellul and Technique | | The International Jacques Ellul Society

* Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, trans. John Wilkinson (New York: Vintage Books, 1964), xxv.

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Free e-Book on quest for longevity

9780226020938With my ongoing interest in the area of bioethics and transhumanism an email mentioning this free eBook from the University of Chicago Press piqued my interest today. Will load it up on the eReader and have a skim through it.

“The Longevity Seekers: Science, Business, and the Fountain of Youth” by Ted Anton.
The book details are here and the eBook is available for month from here.

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Nonprofit WP: WordPress Guide for Nonprofits

This looks like a helpful site with advice for setting up the WordPress content management system. It’s aimed at non-profits, but some useful basic information there.

Source: Nonprofit WP: WordPress Guide for Nonprofits

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Reading the landscape…

Interesting article that came across my desk today.

David Pritchett explores how we can ‘read’ the cultural landscape and become more educated about the ‘invisible structures’ that exclude people from the land and from the wider permaculture movement.

See: Settlers in the Land: Decolonising Permaculture | Permaculture Magazine

Another article that might be useful for students to engage with and critique in the Laidlaw College Indigenous Theology programme.

See: Indigenous Theology | Laidlaw College

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Higher Education links – cleaning out the Bookmark bar

Clearing out a bunch of things that has been sitting in the Bookmarks bar of my web browser.

Here’s a bunch of links to some interesting higher education posts I saved during the last 6 months.

Posted in eLearning/Distance, Finishing the PhD, Postgraduate, Teaching/Education | Leave a comment

The 101 Best Websites for ESL Students in 2016

Useful set of web sites the connect with English as Second Language students that I’ll be forwarding onto my student support staff.

Source: The 101 Best Websites for ESL Students in 2016

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How to Read A Book

Useful to improving the number of books you can read, as well as what you get out of them.

Source: How to Read A Book

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The Radicalization of Luke Skywalker: A Jedi’s Path to Jihad

I pointed something similar out to my students in the BibPop course a few years back when a number wanted to write about religion and Star Wars. Most of them couldn’t see it though.

See: The Radicalization of Luke Skywalker: A Jedi’s Path to Jihad | Decider | Where To Stream Movies & Shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, HBO Go

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Discovering the need for ethics

A really interesting article by biochemist Jennifer Doudna about how she became aware of the ethical dimensions of developing a method for genome-editing and how it affected her. Moves from just ‘doing’ science, to the need to ethical reflection as part of that – as well as the ability to communicate the implications of the science being done.

I am excited about the potential for genome engineering to have a positive impact on human life, and on our basic understanding of biological systems. Colleagues continue to e-mail me regularly about their work using CRISPR–Cas9 in different organisms — whether they are trying to create pest-resistant lettuce, fungal strains that have reduced pathogenicity or all sorts of human cell modifications that could one day eliminate diseases such as muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell anaemia.

But I also think that today’s scientists could be better prepared to think about and shape the societal, ethical and ecological consequences of their work. Providing biology students with some training about how to discuss science with non-scientists — an education that I have never formally been given — could be transformative. At the very least, it would make future researchers feel better equipped for the task. Knowing how to craft a compelling ‘elevator pitch’ to describe a study’s aims or how to gauge the motives of reporters and ensure that they convey accurate information in a news story could prove enormously valuable at some unexpected point in every researcher’s life.

See: Genome-editing revolution: My whirlwind year with CRISPR

Posted in Bioethics/Biotech, Ethics, Ethics | Leave a comment