Shocking but true: students prefer jolt of pain than being made to sit and think | Science | The Guardian

Shocking but true: students prefer jolt of pain than being made to sit and think | Science | The Guardian.

“It was not so much how hard people found the challenge, but how far they would go to avoid it that left researchers gobsmacked. The task? To sit in a chair and do nothing but think.


So unbearable did some find it that they took up the safe but alarming opportunity to give themselves mild electric shocks in an attempt to break the tedium.


Two-thirds of men pressed a button to deliver a painful jolt during a 15-minute spell of solitude. One man – an outlier – found thinking so disagreeable he opted for a shock 190 times.”


UK : computer-generated images of child sex abuse to be illegal

A good discussion topic for ethics.


Drawings and computer-generated images of child sex abuse would be made illegal under proposals announced by Justice Minister Maria Eagle.

Owners of such images would face up to three years in prison under the plans.

The Obscene Publications Act makes it illegal to sell or distribute photos of child abuse but it is legal to own drawings and computer-generated images.

Ms Eagle said the proposed move would “help close a loophole that we believe paedophiles are using”.

The plans are part of the government’s response to a public consultation exercise carried out last year.

The government has acknowledged that paedophiles may be circumventing the law by using computer technology to manipulate real photographs or videos of abuse into drawings or cartoons.

AI to pass Turing test?

I am somewhat doubtful whether this project will succeed, but let’s wait and see what it can do …

PORTLAND, Ore. — Passing the Turing test–the holy grail of artificial intelligence (AI), whereby a human conversing with a computer can’t tell it’s not human–may now be possible in a limited way with the world’s fastest supercomputer (IBM’s Blue Gene), according to AI experts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. RPI is aiming to pass AI’s final exam this fall, by pairing the most powerful university-based supercomputing system in the world with a new multimedia group designing a holodeck, a la Star Trek.

The many worlds theory answers the probability objection

Parallel universes really do exist, according to a mathematical discovery by Oxford scientists described by one expert as “one of the most important developments in the history of science”.

The parallel universe theory, first proposed in 1950 by the US physicist Hugh Everett, helps explain mysteries of quantum mechanics that have baffled scientists for decades, it is claimed.

In Everett’s “many worlds” universe, every time a new physical possibility is explored, the universe splits. Given a number of possible alternative outcomes, each one is played out – in its own universe.

The Oxford team, led by Dr David Deutsch, showed mathematically that the bush-like branching structure created by the universe splitting into parallel versions of itself can explain the probabilistic nature of quantum outcomes.

Utilitarians have brain damage

Not really. Rather, some people with damage to the prefrontal cortex seem more likely to make impartial utilitarian moral judgments that many normal people find difficult to accept, like killing a single person in order to save a larger number of people. This is very interesting research.

"Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgements"

Michael Koenigs et. el. (including Damasion)

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Geoffrey Warnock on philosophy

Philosophers is a very nice coffee-table book of photos of philosophers from Steve Pyke. Each philosopher also provides an answer to the question: “What does philosophy mean to you?” Geoffrey Warnock’s answer is a nice one:

To be clear-headed rather than confused; lucid rather than obscure; rational rather than otherwise; and to be neither more, nor less, sure of things than is justifiable by argument or evidence. That
is worth trying for.

Indeed. But can we live up to this ideal?

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[明報2007.1.5] 美國西雅圖兒科醫院應一名6歲女孩的父母要求,為他們患有嚴重腦病的女兒做手術及注射荷爾蒙,令她永遠長不大。事件去年10月曝光後引發爭議,有人指摘女童父母為了方便照顧不惜製造科學怪人,冒犯女童尊嚴。女孩父母則表示這是令女兒活得最好的方法。See also:

With advances in medical technology, there are more and more complicated ethical questions to deal with. Given that the child has severe cognitive problems with little potential to develop further, the main issue is what course of action is in the best interest of the child. If stunting her growth leads to a better quality of life for the child, then this should be morally permissible.

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