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Archive for the ‘ethics’ category: Page 9

Oct 25, 2020

Microbes of the Universe — Could our Solar System be rife with Pathogens?

Posted by in categories: alien life, biological, environmental, ethics, existential risks, habitats, health, space travel

In a recent study of the upper atmosphere of Venus, finding the chemical fingerprint of phosphine has led to speculation that it may be tied to airborne life high in the clouds of our sister planet [1]. We harbour similar suspicion of microbial life on Mars [2], Saturn’s moon Enceledus [3], and Europa, the icy Galilean of the Jovian system [4]. The dwarf planet Ceres of the asteroid belt could be added to that list also, with recent evidence of oceanic water [5], while more exotic variations of life may exist on Titan, which is known to be teeming with organic materials [6]. Should we be more wary of our Solar System as an environment to explore, and the potential of pathogens we may encounter?

If one rewinds 500 years, to when exploration of new worlds involved sailing the oceans, the discovery of the Americas introduced viruses which decimated the native population at that time [7]. That in itself was far from a unique event in history, of course. There have been many occurrences throughout history where travel between distant lands has resulted in the introduction of devastating plagues to one population or the other — not least the Black Death, which arrived in Europe from commercial travel with Asia in the 1300s [8]. Meanwhile, 2020 has reminded us how a novel virus can prove virtually unstoppable from spreading worldwide in a matter of months and reaching pandemic level, once introduced to our now interconnected world [9].

Indeed when the first astronauts returned from the Moon in the 60s, they had to undergo weeks of quarantine as a precaution against introducing a lunar pathogen to Earth [10]. We now know the Moon to be a sterile world, but this should not give us a false sense of security when visiting and returning from other worlds, which are far more likely to harbour microbial life. It is quite plausible to consider that any microbes which have evolved to survive in the harsh environments on other worlds could multiply out of control if introduced to a more fertile environment on Earth. The likelihood of any such foreign microbes being capable of becoming infectious pathogens to our species is difficult to measure, but one could still cause problems regardless, by undermining Earth’s ecosystem in competing with native microbial life as a runaway invasive species.

Fortunately, due to the vast distances involved in inter-planetary travel, returning astronauts would likely show symptoms of infection from any dangerous pathogen long before reaching home, as such a journey would be expected to take many months, even with more advanced propulsion technology than we use in space travel today. That is not to say they could not inadvertently return with microbial life on board — or even on the exterior of craft: Earth’s tardigrades, for example, have proven quite durable in journeys into outer space [11].

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Oct 13, 2020

Building the Brains of the Robot

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI

I am for Ethical Robots what about you?


Every time we talk to Alexa, Siri, Google, or Cortana, we are building the brains of the robot. Human machine relationships increase and robot ethics are needed for the coming age of automation, they are simply not adequate for the nuanced capabilities and behaviors we are beginning to see in today’s devices.

Sep 25, 2020

Bezos’ Blue Origin to break record with 7th reusable New Shepard rocket

Posted by in categories: ethics, space

According to Blue Origin, the launch is now set for Friday, Sept. 25 at 10 a.m. central time. You can watch the launch live here.

Boeing to Face Independent Ethics Probe Over Lunar Lander Bid

According to a press release, the New Shepard will fly 12 commercial payloads to space and back, including a demonstration of a lunar landing sensor that will test technologies for future missions to the Moon in support of NASA’s Artemis program.

Sep 22, 2020

Microsoft exclusively licenses OpenAI’s groundbreaking GPT-3 text generation model

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI

OpenAI will still let researchers use the model.


Microsoft has expanded its ongoing partnership with San Francisco-based artificial intelligence research company OpenAI with a new exclusive license on the AI firm’s groundbreaking GPT-3 language model, an auto-generating text program that’s emerged as the most sophisticated of its kind in the industry.

The two companies are already entwined through OpenAI’s ongoing Azure cloud computing contract, with Azure being the platform on which OpenAI accesses the vast computing resources it needs to train many of its models, and a major $1 billion investment Microsoft made last year to become OpenAI’s exclusive cloud provider. Now, Microsoft is issuing yet another signal of high confidence in OpenAI’s research by acquiring the rights to GPT-3.

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Sep 15, 2020

The human story of how ventilators came to breathe for us

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, ethics

Medical Ethics and “Futility” (Note: Listen here function)


We breathe about 12 to 20 times a minute, without having to think. Inhale: and air flows through the mouth and nose, into the trachea. The bronchi stem out like a wishbone, and keep branching, dividing and dividing, and finally feeding out into the tiny air sacs of alveoli. Capillaries – blood vessels thinner than hairs – twine around each alveolus. Both the air sac and the blood vessel are tiny, delicate, one cell thick: portals where blood (the atmosphere of the body) meets air (atmosphere of the world). Oxygen passes from air to blood; carbon dioxide, from blood to air. Then, the exhale pushes that carbon dioxide back out the mouth and nose. Capillaries channel newly oxygenated blood back to the heart. That oxygen fuels the body. That’s why we breathe.

Today, these basics of human respiration and metabolism feel obvious – and ventilators, the machines that breathe for sick people, do, too. We have so many medical devices, so of course we’d need, and have, machines that help us to breathe. But there’s a strange, and deeply human, story behind how we learned to breathe for each other. It starts long ago, when we didn’t understand breathing at all. When the body’s failure to breathe was incomprehensible, incurable, and fatal. When we had no way of knowing how badly we needed ventilators to keep people alive through those moments of vulnerability, lest those moments be their last.

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Sep 10, 2020

Postdocs in crisis: science cannot risk losing the next generation

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, ethics, science

The pandemic has worsened the plight of postdoctoral researchers. Funders need to be offering more than moral support.

Sep 9, 2020

Unity in Knowledge: From Ethics and Islam to Exponential Technology and Robotics

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, ethics, mathematics, physics, robotics/AI, transhumanism

Discussing STEM, the future, and transhumanism with an islamic scholar / scientist.


Ira Pastor, ideaXme life sciences ambassador interviews Imam Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan, PhD, MSc, MA, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and Research Consultant at the Tony Blair Institute For Global Change.

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Sep 3, 2020

Artificial Emotional Intelligence (Emotion AI) – What It Is and Why It Matters

Posted by in categories: education, ethics, health, robotics/AI, transportation

A pioneer in Emotion AI, Rana el Kaliouby, Ph.D., is on a mission to humanize technology before it dehumanizes us.

At LiveWorx 2020, Rana joined us to share insights from years of research and collaboration with MIT’s Advanced Vehicle Technology group.

Part demo and part presentation, Rana breaks down the facial patterns that cameras can pick up from a tired or rested driver, and observations from the first ever large-scale study looking at driver behavior over time.

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Aug 29, 2020

Google offers to help others with the tricky ethics of AI

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI

Services to include spotting racial bias, developing guidelines around AI projects.

Aug 28, 2020

The Peer Review Crisis

Posted by in categories: chemistry, education, ethics

With moral purity inserted as a component to the internal processes for all academic publications, it will henceforth become impossible to pursue the vital schema of conjecture and refutation.


Shocked that one of their own could express a heterodox opinion on the value of de rigueur equity, diversity and inclusion policies, chemistry professors around the world immediately demanded the paper be retracted. Mob justice was swift. In an open letter to “our community” days after publication, the publisher of Angewandte Chemie announced it had suspended the two senior editors who handled the article, and permanently removed from its list of experts the two peer reviewers involved. The article was also expunged from its website. The publisher then pledged to assemble a “diverse group of external advisers” to thoroughly root out “the potential for discrimination and foster diversity at all levels” of the journal.

Not to be outdone, Brock’s provost also disowned Hudlicky in a press statement, calling his views “utterly at odds with the values” of the university; the school then drew attention to its own efforts to purge unconscious bias from its ranks and to further the goals of “accessibility, reconciliation and decolonization.” (None of which have anything to do with synthetic organic chemistry, by the way.) Brock’s knee-jerk criticism of Hudlicky is now also under review, following a formal complaint by another professor that the provost’s statement violates the school’s commitment to freedom of expression.

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