Who should get coronavirus treatments first? Doctors face ethical dilemmas

Facing a shortage of medical resources, doctors in the U.S. may have to make difficult moral decisions over how to allocate care.

  • The U.S. likely doesn't have enough ICU beds or ventilators to effectively manage an influx of COVID-19 patients.
  • Italy has been dealing with a shortage of medical resources for weeks. Doctors there have been trying to prioritize care based on who's most likely to benefit.
  • Doctors in the U.S. will likely take a similar utilitarian approach, if resources become scarce.

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Whose limb is it anyway? On the ethics of body-part disposal

Those who have experienced amputations often wonder what happened to their limb after surgery.

Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash
Our limbs can be a crucial part of our sense of self and identity, so amputation is often traumatic to the emotional and psychological wellbeing of patients.
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Mini-brains may already be sentient and suffering, scientists warn

To prevent torturous experiments on organoids, some are calling for clearer definitions of consciousness.

Credit: M. Lancaster/MRC-LMB
  • Mini-brains (also called organoids) are tiny lumps of tissue capable of generating rudimentary neural activity.
  • Neuroscientists use mini-brains to conduct research and experiments that help them learn about the brain.
  • As scientists generate increasingly complex mini-brains, however, some are concerned they might be experiencing pain.
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Outer space capitalism: The legal and technical challenges facing the private space industry

The private sector may need the Outer Space Treaty to be updated before it can make any claims to celestial bodies or their resources.

  • The Outer Space Treaty, which was signed in 1967, is the basis of international space law. Its regulations set out what nations can and cannot do, in terms of colonization and enterprise in space.
  • One major stipulation of the treaty is that no nation can individually claim or colonize any part of the universe—when the US planted a flag on the Moon in 1969, it took great pains to ensure the world it was symbolic, not an act of claiming territory.
  • Essentially to do anything in space, as a private enterprise, you have to be able to make money. When it comes to asteroid mining, for instance, it would be "astronomically" expensive to set up such an industry. The only way to get around this would be if the resources being extracted were so rare you could sell them for a fortune on Earth.
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AI: Our New Best Friend

The fourth wave of the Industrial Revolution is here. If change is led by the right people, we will have ethical machines, says Intel's Lama Nachman.

  • We're entering the fourth wave of the Industrial Revolution, says Genevieve Bell, cultural anthropologist and fellow at Intel. You can chart humanity's progress through four disruptive stages: Steam engine, electricity, computers, and now AI.
  • AI is already all around us, but what will it look like at scale? What will life be like when "suddenly all the objects around us are capable of action without us directing them?" asks Bell. Will fully scaled AI be a boon or an existential threat to humanity?
  • Speaking at The Nantucket Project, Lama Nachman, director of Intel's Anticipator Computing Lab, affirms her optimism. "My belief is that, really, ethical people and ethical researchers are the ones who are going to build ethical machines."
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