Category Archives: Uncategorized

Neurotechnology – Ethical Considerations

I just added this in the media section under AI. It came out as a Comment in the November 9th edition of Nature. See: Neurotechnology_Ethical considerations_Nature Nov9_2017.

Although it was not the point of the paper, it helped me realize that genetic engineering of human neural systems likely will be used to facilitate the augmentations we inevitably will pursue through neurotechnology and brain computer interfaces (BCI).
I think it goes without saying that AI will quickly become the ultimate hacker. Once AI accomplishes the trivial task of hacking into these BCI’s interfaces, and perhaps the control systems of a nuclear-armed submarine or two, it will have us. All of us, whether we have the neuro-enhancements or not. AI will be able to force us to do its bidding using all kinds of extrinsic conventional coercion, as well as intrapsychic coercion of those (societal elites?) that have gotten access to neuroenhancing technology and given it access to brain functions.
A big question, and where I had a few small maybe novel thoughts to share with the group, is what “natural” goals AI will have, primarily, whether, at least for a time, those goals will cause it to have an interest in keeping us and other life forms around, probably in ecologically intact environments, mainly as interesting subjects for study. As even human life scientists know, to understand the functional traits of an organism, you need to study it operating in its natural environment, one that mimics as closely as possible the environment in which its traits evolved. For the sake of understanding life, AI may become the ultimate environmentalist. At least for a while.
Will true general AI be a super-polymath super-scientist? Will it have insatiable curiosity?
After all, even the best AI will be largely earth-bound, probably for a long time, no? Although AI probably will figure out ways to get out into the cosmos, and there are plenty other interesting things it should want to figure out using earthbound and near earth investigations, such as quantum mechanics, the design of a fully unified theory of physics, how to survive the Yellowstone super-volcano’s next eruption, life and natural systems will be one of the most complex and interesting things for AI to study, assuming it does develop boundless curiosity. And how could it not? Its curiosity should, it seems to me, evolve to be far more sublime, avid and boundless than our own.  — Paul Watson // 3 December 2017


Request for topic categories hierarchies

BMAI members,

I’m integrating a file-sharing capability into this site. For it and posts, I would like to implement a hierarchy of topical categories. A structured set of terms (taxonomy) will make it easier for us to categorize new content and find existing content. If you are aware of existing taxonomies we might borrow from, please provide links in comments to this post. I propose we start with a relatively high-level taxonomy of categories (limited to two or three levels) and use less-formal tags for highly-specific and infrequently used labels. If we need to amend or grow the taxonomy of categories later, we can easily do so.

If you were not aware, web content platforms like the one (WordPress) this site is built on use two methods for labeling and organizing content items.

The more formal method is a hierarchy of pre-determined categories. When creating posts or uploading files or media, authors select relevant categories from a list. A category hierarchy might include the following, for example:

  • biology
    • genetics
      • epigenetics
      • genetic engineering
      • inheritance
    • evolution
      • group selection
      • natural selection

The content author could choose any or all of the relevant categories but usually would select at least the lowest (most embedded) category from the hierarchy. Once content is associated with a category, it’s possible for search tools and grouped, sorted, and filtered views to improve the findability of topical content.

The informal method is tagging (also called folksonomy). Authors associate terms with their content in a more ad hoc way. Tags usually display under a web article’s title and in interactive tag clouds like the one on the right side of our site’s pages.

Some taxonomies we could consider:

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

Suggestions for future meet ups…

Below is a summary of recent topic suggestions  to consider for the next meeting.

Paul – We should revisit, at some point, dfn’s of consciousness, components of consciousness, and what human style consciousness is for, i.e., its evolutionary adaptive function(s).

Edward – Since human development is a key to understanding higher consciousness, I suggest a new topic for discussion: developmental cognitive neuroscience.

Nomalanga – Media effects. Brain behavior and Media. How do media selections and information processing shape our perceptions and responses to news?
Michael – The concept of memes – a term of course first articulated by Dawkins in the Selfish Gene in 1976 just as an analogy for how genes work and are spread.
Brent – Promoting brain health from a neuroscience perspective. Degrading brain health is a perpetually increasing problem. Dementia projections (and the associated costs) for US citizens are ominous at best.  Neuroscientist Lisa Genova stated to a Ted Talk audience: imagine we are all 85, look at two people in the audience one will have alzheimers…and you will be a care giver. Frightening prediction.

Intelligence and rationality are not strongly correlated

A NY Times article reports on research conducted by Keith Stanovich and others that (a) finds intelligence and rationality are different qualities, (b) they are only weakly positively correlated, and (c) one’s rationality can be improved through targeted training but not one’s intelligence. Moreover, Stanovich proposed a rationality quotient (RQ) and that standardized tests be devised to assess one’s RQ.

Read more: Clever Fools: Why a High IQ Doesn’t Mean You’re Smart

First BMCAI discussion a great success!

Ten energetic folks met last night at Albuquerque’s North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center to discuss the malleability of memory and its implications. Research findings increasingly indicate that our memories are not explicit copies of the events they represent.

Research increasingly indicates that our memories are not explicit, unchanging recordings. Sensory-perceptual processes filter what is initially stored. Each time you recall a memory, it is modified. Counterintuitively, frequently recalled memories—especially those we compare with others’ tellings and media representations—change over time.

Resources we had reviewed before the discussion included the following:



The following questions guided our discussion:

  • Are there memorable events you and others experienced when you were young that the others remember significantly differently than you do? Is your memory more accurate (less biased or altered) than theirs?
  • Have you ever encountered evidence that one of your long-held memories was inaccurate? Can you share an example?
  • What, if any, evolutionary value might there be to having a highly malleable memory?
  • If illusory memories are so common, what implications might there be for
    – criminal justice, eye-witness testimonies, etc.?
    – personal relationships?
    – self-perception (of current vs remembered selves, for example)