morality

The Secret Intellect of Animals, Part 2

In the second of two episodes, Christian and Joe continue their discussion of animal cognition, including animal morality, tool use, mental time travel, culture, and other strange clues to the intellectual complexity of our cousins in the animal kingdom. Afterwards, they speak to Dutch-American primatologist Frans de Waal about his book and his thoughts on the future of animal intelligence research.

The Secret Intellect of Animals, Part 1

In the 18th century, David Hume wrote that “no truth appears to me more evident than that beasts are endow’d with thought and reason as well as men.” Yet animal cognition has remained a controversial subject in science ever since. In the first of two episodes, Christian and Joe discuss the work of Dutch-American primatologist Frans de Waal, and ask the question of not just whether animals are smarter than we understand, but why the evidence of animal cognition is often so difficult for we humans to grasp.

The Ring of Gyges

Before H.G. Wells' Invisible Man and J.R.R. Tolkien's One Ring, there was the Ring of Gyges: a mythical artifact that turned the wearer invisible. Would such anonymity turn you into a law-breaking monster, or does morality extend beyond the fear of judgement and punishment? From Plato to modern psychology, Stuff to Blow Your Mind explores...

Blow Your Mind: Machines, Morality and Sexbots

As we covered in a previous episode, robots can now be programmed to deceive other robots and even humans. But did you know they can also be programmed to approximate something like guilt? Julie and I consult with Dr. Ronald Arkin of the Georgia Institute of Technology on teaching bots how to process like humans. And yes, we will also talk about sexy, sexy sexbots -- machines crafted through our ingenuity to appeal to our most basic cravings. We've all heard of the notorious Roxxxy. What does it mean to have feelings for a machine, ethically? Dr. Arkin weighs in and even goes so far as to declare Roxxxy a "bad robot." And not in the naughty sense. In the crappy sense.

With all this talk about stem cells and whether it's, in President Obama's words, "dangerous and profoundly wrong" to research human cloning, I can't help but think of the HeLa cell line that has played such a vital role in everything from eradicating polio to to early space shuttle missions. And talk about profoundly wrong -- the cells' owner was never told that her tissue was going to a medical center at Johns Hopkins for special analysis, much less the role she would unwittingly play in the future of medicine. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old black mother of five in 1950s Baltimore, Md. When she went in for a routine biopsy, the doctors discovered a tumor with most unusual cell activity: they were essentially immortal. Normally, cellular samples have a limited shelf life in a laboratory. They'll only divide a certain number of times before the chromosomes reach their Hayflick limit.