Descartes was wrong: ‘a person is a person through other persons’

According to Ubuntu philosophy, which has its origins in ancient Africa, a newborn baby is not a person. People are born without ‘ena’, or selfhood, and instead must acquire it through interactions and experiences over time. So the ‘self’/‘other’ distinction that’s axiomatic in Western philosophy is much blurrier in Ubuntu thought. As the Kenyan-born philosopher …

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Are ‘you’ just inside your skin or is your smartphone part of you?

In November 2017, a gunman entered a church in Sutherland Springs in Texas, where he killed 26 people and wounded 20 others. He escaped in his car, with police and residents in hot pursuit, before losing control of the vehicle and flipping it into a ditch. When the police got to the car, he was …

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Is artificial-womb technology a tool for women’s liberation?

While some women experience pregnancy and childbirth as joyful, natural and fulfilling, others find themselves recoiling in horror at the physical demands of carrying and sustaining a child in their womb, and even more so at the potential brutality of giving birth. Some might view the blood, sweat and tears as a necessary and unavoidable …

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If machines want to make art, will humans understand it?

Assuming that the emergence of consciousness in artificial minds is possible, those minds will feel the urge to create art. But will we be able to understand it? To answer this question, we need to consider two subquestions: when does the machine become an author of an artwork? And how can we form an understanding …

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Ancient animistic beliefs live on in our intimacy with tech

When Alexa replied to my question about the weather by tacking on ‘Have a nice day,’ I immediately shot back ‘You too,’ and then stared into space, slightly embarrassed. I also found myself spontaneously shouting words of encouragement to ‘Robbie’ my Roomba vacuum as I saw him passing down the hallway. And recently in Berkeley, …

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How Confucius loses face in China’s new surveillance regime

While conceived of and functioning differently in diverse contexts, ‘face’ describes a phenomenon that exists in every human society. Its most basic sense concerns the public presentation and perception of the self. Someone who has face possesses something of positive social value that arises from social approval of a person’s status, action or state of …

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Robogamis are the real heirs of terminators and transformers

Ask anyone what image comes to mind when you say the word ‘robot’, and there’s no doubt you’ll receive responses inspired by popular culture. For example, the liquid metal, shape-shifting T-1000 from the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991); or Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots and the main character in the Transformers (2014-) films. …

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First-Ever Wearable AI Device for Hearing Impairment – Best of Innovation CES

credit: cover photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash   First-Ever Wearable AI Device for Hearing ImpairmentWins CES 2020 Best of Innovation Award   OrCam Hear combines lip reading with simultaneous voice source separation  OrCam Technologies, a leader in personal, AI-driven innovations, will preview its breakthrough assistive technology device for hearing impairment – the wearable OrCam Hear – at the 2020 …

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How do you teach a car that a snowman won’t walk across the road?

Picture yourself driving down a city street. You go around a curve, and suddenly see something in the middle of the road ahead. What should you do? Of course, the answer depends on what that ‘something’ is. A torn paper bag, a lost shoe, or a tumbleweed? You can drive right over it without a …

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Photo by Getty Images

Cheers! How the physics of fizz contributes to human happiness

Cover Photo by Getty Images Think of the last time you had something to celebrate. If you toasted the happy occasion, your drink was probably alcoholic – and bubbly. Have you ever wondered why it’s so enjoyable to imbibe a glass of something that sets off a series of microexplosions in your mouth? A glass …

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