Based on the Research Proposal: How Robots may make us Vegetarians
McFarland, David. Guilty robots, happy dogs: the question of alien minds. 2008. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The book “Guilty Robots, Happy Dogs” by David McFarland, compares humanity with alien minds, or as it refers to, animals and robotics. McFarland is a scientist who specializes in the field of animal behaviors, and has recently expanded towards the study of “artificial ethology” and robotics. He has written several books on animal’s behavior, and much older ones referring to animals and robotics. This more recent publication in 2008 expands upon the information he wrote in his book, “Intelligent Behavior in Animals and Robots” in 1993. This book will be a core research book for a few reasons. Primarily being the fact that he makes the correlation between other minds via animals and artificial life forms. Secondarily, it brings information from several fields of study as I am trying to do, like philosophy, biology, psychology, etc. Another reason being the fact his line of thought is following close to my questioning. For example, when he questions if we could consider a robot having a mind, or what about an animal, he asks questions like “how would we define that mind? How do we define having a mind in the first place”? Which is where I’m heading, and so I can hopefully pick up the rest of the information he has gone through and provide further insight on the subject. He also deals with the notion of human centered biases, or how we impose human characteristics upon that which isn’t human. The overall line of questioning and credibility of this individual makes this book a great starting point.
Singer, Peter. Practical ethics. 1979. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
The book “Practical Ethics” by Peter Singer, goes through many controversial social questions that were big problems during that era, and continue today. Singer is an Australian moral philosopher. Currently Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and Professor at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. His focus is in applied ethics, and approaches issues from a secular, utilitarian perspective. The utilitarian perspective he accepts for most of his career, but changes later, takes on the philosophical position that every person’s experience of satisfaction is unique. Contrasting with classical utilitarianism that defines right and ethical actions as those that maximize pleasure and minimize pain. This particular book will be another core research book because of its correlation with racial discrimination that I wanted to connect with the idea of robotic intelligence. In a way bridging this book with McFarland’s book. The book itself also widens to a lot of grander social issues, such as our personal responsibilities to the poor, whether we should view animals as nothing more than meat machines producing flesh for us to eat, the ethical nature of euthanasia and abortions, etc. One thing I do like about this book is that he is open about possible biases, and provides the philosophical view points from many angles. Even stating how some chapters are based off of his previously published works. The book itself goes through what is considered ethical, and how does one go about defining ethics, and the bias that comes along with these ideas considered ethical at one point. I think this foundation will do well to allow me to discuss that nature of animal abuse and racial/gender discrimination.
Singer, Peter. In defense of animals. 1985 New York, NY, USA: Blackwell.
The book “In defense of Animals” is also written by Peter Singer, which focuses more on the ethical nature of animal treatment rather than the overall issues that occur within humanity. Singer expands on the idea that “the greatest good of the greatest number”, in the context of utilitarianism, and how that is the only measure of good or ethical behavior. Whether this is true or not, I’m unsure, but am currently going through his thoughts. He extends this idea to other animals, arguing that the boundary between humans and “animal” is utterly arbitrary. This evidence is backed up by several anthropologists that I’ve researched on the subject of humans within the animal kingdom. He gives a few examples himself, like how there are far more differences between a great ape and an oyster than between a human and a great ape, yet the two are put together within the category of “animals”, where humans are considered some external entity outside of the animal kingdom. This relates back to the research I wanted to focus on about the human centrality of how we define ourselves, where we give ourselves these meaningless titles of significance that create barriers between ourselves and our ancestral relatives on this tiny world. This book also expands upon previous ideas in his older book, “Animal Liberation”, which I will check out to see how his thoughts changed, and what he elaborated on further. This particular book also offers a counter argument versus McFarland and his stance on the treatment of animals that fall under the category of autonomous beings (beings that have very little to no level of mindfulness/sentience).
Ford, Martin. Rise of the robots: technology and the threat of a jobless future. 2015. New York. Pereus Group.
In the book, “Rise of the Robots”, by Martin Ford, goes through the impacts of a technological future of robotic workers and the economical/social implications of such a world. Ford is the author of two books that involve the impact of a robotic/autonomous economy. He is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm, and has a computer engineering degree from the University of Michigan, and a graduate business degree from UCLA. It is noted he is one of the first 21st century authors to publish a book making strong arguments about how the advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics would eventually make most of the human workforce obsolete. This book will be great for the section I want to do on the future of human society when we dissolve the barriers of what we consider alive and sentient, or a being whose life matters, and offer a theoretical future that could happen. After moving on from studying the nature of these minds, it’s important to realize how they could also be misused because of the free market. A lot of companies are looking for easy replacements, and machines are beginning to fit the bill as they become ever more sophisticated and their efficiency completely outraces their human counterpart. The book itself provides many perspectives on this scenario, but Ford also introduces the idea that we don’t have to be afraid of robotics. That we can have a future that involves them, but not to the extent of that described dystopia.
Rowlands, Mark. The nature of consciousness. 2001. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In the book, “The Nature of Consciousness”, by Mark Rowlands, goes through the nitty gritty of how one goes about defining what existence is. Rowland is a Welsh writer and philosopher and a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Miami. He’s written over 15 books ranging from consciousness to morality to animals. This book will be a good core book when trying to define one’s mind in the field of philosophy. He goes through the modern perspectives of how consciousness is defined, the basics of what is called a phenomenal consciousness, the problems that arise with it, and possible solutions. This author’s background in philosophy takes the position of vehicle externalism, or an extended mind. This means a mind that exists outside of the body, or the other edge of philosophy that is opposite of the idea of minds being a result of neural activity and that alone. The author seems fairly biased in that regard, which has led me to other books that talk about the other side of the spectrum on consciousness involving a more biological framework. This has led me into the large debate within defining consciousness, and the conflict between neuroscientists and certain philosophers. This book in particular, even with this bias, may be beneficial in relating to the other topics addressed by Singer in terms of animal consciousness and the morality involving such consciousness. I will be comparing the ideas this book has on animal consciousness with other books that discuss the biological standpoint and if they have perspectives relating to animals. Perhaps finding an underlying correlation I can relate to the overall idea.