At the very least, free will is a useful illusion, leading us to be more prosocial and ethical. Because even if we are just “a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules,” we’re a vast assembly that feels like so much more. William James, as usual, said it best: “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”
The quoted blog post links to three studies on free will that is very interesting and you would do well to read (at least the original blog post and if that wasn’t enough for you the linked studies.) I generally believe in living rationally and the importance of truth in everything, but if for some people the truth is a little too hard, maybe for some delusion would be okay!!!!
A call to bring the world together…
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
Personally I think they need to read the I,Robot novels.
February 21, 2009
Great strides have been made in recent years in the development of combat robots. The US military has deployed ground robots, aerial robots, marine robots, stationary robots, and (reportedly) space robots. The robots are used for both reconnaissance and fighting, and further rapid advances in their design and capabilities can be expected in the years ahead. One consequence of these advances is that robots will gain more autonomy, which means they will have to act in uncertain situations without direct human instruction. That raises a large and thorny challenge: how do you program a robot to be an ethical warrior?