CS009: Computers and Human Values
Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Notes, September 21st -- Roger B. Blumberg

Hans Moravec's ROBOT: Session II

"As a social problem, human values can be rated above the more tangible concerns such as those of poverty, pollution, energy, and over-population on the grounds that thes more concrete problems are all manmade, and are very largely products of human values. Further, they are not correctable on any long-term basis without effecting adaptive changes in the underlying human values involved." Roger Sperry, Science and Moral Priority: Merging Mind, Brain and Human Values (Praeger, 1985)

"A good compromise, it seems to me, is to allow anyone to perfect their biology within broad biological bounds. They could make themselves healthier, more beautiful, stronger, more intelligent and longer-lived. They could not use machinery to make themselves as powerful or as smart as robots. Those who cannot tolerate the restrictions would be offered a radical escape clause." Hans Moravec, ROBOT: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind (Oxford University Press, 1999)

Introduction: Keywords

The different perspectives on technology and human values illustrated by the the epigraphs above have been with us since the earliest days of computers -- most if not all of the prognostications in Moravec's book can be found in Asimov's 1950 book I, Robot, and clearly the concern about the relationship between science and values is as old as science itself. In today's session we'll begin with some (further) themes raised by the responses to the responses to the Robopet exercise, and move try to finish a discussion of Moravec's 6th chapter ("The Age of Mind") by the end.

For starters, here are several common themes I found in the second round of responses:

Moravec' ROBOT, chapter 4-7

"Universal Robots," the "burden of consciousness", and the Turing Test.

"The Age of Robots" and "being human"

"The Age of Mind" and the model of Chess.

For Next Time:: Finish ROBOT if you've not done so already, and then begin Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition. Come to class with a question about something in the first 50 pages.

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