Big think: Will AI ever achieve true understanding?

If you ask your maps app to find "restaurants that aren't McDonald's," you won't like the result.

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  • The Chinese Room thought experiment is designed to show how understanding something cannot be reduced to an "input-process-output" model.
  • Artificial intelligence today is becoming increasingly sophisticated thanks to learning algorithms but still fails to demonstrate true understanding.
  • All humans demonstrate computational habits when we first learn a new skill, until this somehow becomes understanding.
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Are lab–grown embryos and human hybrids ethical?

This spring, a U.S. and Chinese team announced that it had successfully grown, for the first time, embryos that included both human and monkey cells.

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In Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel “Brave New World," people aren't born from a mother's womb. Instead, embryos are grown in artificial wombs until they are brought into the world, a process called ectogenesis.
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The power of conformity: How good people do evil things

Many people believe that in the face of profound evil, they would have the courage to speak up. It might be harder than we think.

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  • After World War II, many psychologists wanted to address the question of how it was that people could go along with the evil deeds of fascist regimes.
  • Solomon Asch's experiment alarmingly showed just how easily we conform and how susceptible we are to group influence.
  • People often will not only sacrifice truth and reason to conformity but also their own health and sense of right and wrong.
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The nomological argument for the existence of God

Regularities, which we associate with laws of nature, require an explanation.

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  • The nomological argument for the existence of God comes from the Greek nomos or "law," because it's based on the laws of nature.
  • There are pragmatic, aesthetic, and moral reasons for regularities to exist in nature.
  • The best explanation may be the existence of a personal God rather than mindless laws or chance.
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The foundations of mathematics are unproven

Philosopher and logician Kurt Gödel upended our understanding of mathematics and truth.

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  • In 1900, mathematician David Hilbert laid down 23 problems for the mathematics world to solve, the biggest of which was how to prove mathematics itself.
  • Far from solving the issue, Kurt Gödel showed just how groundless the axioms of mathematics are.
  • Gödel's theorem does not devalue mathematics but reveals that some truths are unprovable.
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