April 4, 2012

My twitter round-up for the Moral Brain conference

Here's the complete list of my tweets from the recently concluded Moral Brain conference at New York University:
At the Moral Brain conference at NYU.

Currently listening to James Blair's talk on care-based morality problems and its relation to psychopathic traits

Three lectures in and it's clear that the burgeoning field of moral neuroscience is being driven by fMRI data.

Blair: Psychopaths have a busted amygdala causing them to respond in a less averse way to fear, sadness, and pain

Hell of a turnout at the #moralbrain conference, btw. An organizer told me that over 100 people had to be turned away.

Blair: There is nothing related to psychopathy and IQ

Someone needs to do a study into why philosophers and neuroscientists are universally clueless when it comes to the use of the microphone.

Up next: Walter Sinott-Armstrong: "Is There One Moral Brain?"

Sinnott-Armstrong: We need to study the various components of morality separately; not a united thing

Sinnott-Armstrong: Morality, as broken down into different components, is more properly understood as a diadic relationship

Sinnett-Armstrong: No brain mechanism is both common to all moral judgments of wrongs and also distinctive of moral judgments of wrongs.

Sinnett-Armstrong's argument strengthens the case for consequentialist ethics

Day One of #moralbrain is complete. Tomorrow's talks will also focus on the parts of the brain involved in moral sentiment and cognition.

Jonathan Haidt currently talking about intuition and reasoning

Haidt: Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second

Haidt: "Can" is more persuasive on reasoning than "must"

Haidt: It's not that we like equality, it's that we hate alpha males and bullying

Haidt: Our evolved trick: ability to forge a team and circle around things we value

Haidt: Moral foundations: Loyalty, authority, and sanctity

Haidt: Moral capital = social capital plus institutions and norms that preserve it

Haidt: Law works to the extent that it is a quasi-religious practice

Haidt: Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, practices, identities, institutions, technologies...

...and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.

Happening now: Panel discussion on applying the neuroscience of morality

Bloom: Serial rapists have the highest sense of self-esteem of any group

Sinnott-Armstrong: Behavioral therapy for psychopaths actually makes their condition *worse*

The hardest working people at the #moralbrain conference: the 2 people conveying the entire thing in sign language.

Greene: Oxytocin could be used to improve social bonding and interaction

Sinnott-Armstrong: "I'm not so sure that lots of empathy is a good thing." Says it can lead to poor decisions and conclusions

Bloom: Paradoxically, heightened levels of oxytocin can *increase* tribalistic tendencies due to tighter lock-in of the in-group

Bloom: Hugs and back rubs can increase oxytocin production

Here's what the panel looks like #moralbrain http://ow.ly/i/xzQa

Washington Square Park last night http://ow.ly/i/xzQs

On the #moralbrain panel: Wendell Wallach (mod), Paul Bloom, Joshua Knobe, Molly Crockett, Joshua Green, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.

Bloom: "People think steroids are bad...because they're bad."

Book: Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu: Unfit for the Future: The need for moral enhancement.

And now presenting: Ingmar Persson

Persson: It is easier for us to harm each other than to benefit each other

Persson: Tech increases our powers of action and ability to cause ultimate harm, making life forever impossible on Earth

Persson: Terrorists are more likely to use nuclear weapons than states, no fear of reprisal

Persson: Our moral psychology has evolved to make us fit for life in small, close-nit societies with limited tech

Persson: We have a bias for the near future; and exhibit parochial altruism.

Persson: We have an incapacity to feel proportionate sympathy with large number of sufferers

Persson: The act-omission doctrine: harming is harder to justify than failing to benefit #moralbrain #trolly

Man, the Trolly Problem has come up time and time again at #moralbrain http://ow.ly/1JEcJZ #neuroethics

Persson: We need moral enhancement to counteract all these problems and prevent us from causing ultimate harm

Day 3 of #moralbrain conference; James Hughes now presenting on benefits and risks of virtue enhancement.

Hughes: Supressing vice is enhancing virtue. Moral enhancement makes us more responsible.

Hughes: Supressing immoral sentiments, reinforcing reasonable sentiments

Hughes: We need to retain capacity for "discriminating wisdom."

Hughes: Moral enhancement could cause risks to cognitive liberty: lack of privacy, overt control, ownership, norms, addiction, inequality.

Erik Parens now presenting: the 2nd wave: talking ABOUT moral enhancement

Parens: 1st wave of enhancement debate: Enthusiasts & Critics.

Parens: 2nd wave debate: what enhancements are worthy of the name?

Parens: No one wants Soma, it would diminish options, negatively impact on our freedom

Parens: We should reject a pill that creates love as it would separate us from how the world really works

Parens: We should approve a pill that creates love as it would facilitate meaningful activities

Now presenting: Joshua Knobe: Seeing a person as a body.

Knobe is a pioneer in experimental philosophy

Knobe: A body contains a mind which is capable of both intentional and phenomenal states

Knobe: Do corporations exhibit both intentional and phenomenal states? At best, just the former

Knobe: The more we think of an entity as having a body (higher salience) the more we think of them as having phenomenal states

Knobe: The higher bodily salience, decrease in attribution of intentional states

Knobe: This is a kind of animalization of people based on degree of bodily salience

Anna Pacholczyk presenting: What is moral enhancement? Shades of 'moral'

Pacholczyk: Anger and outrage can be very useful things

Anna Pacholczyk: Determing pro-social traits can be tricky

John Shook: Is ethical theory relevant to neuroethical evaluations of moral enhancement?

Shook: Neuroethics will always be on its way to some newer ethics

Shook: For every moral person there is a specific moral brain in action

Now presenting: Bill Kabasenche

Kabasenche: Virtue is a state that decides; Aristotelian

Kabasenche: emotions are not just causes of actions they also determine the identity of actions - Bob Roberts

Kabasenche: taking a pill for moral enhancement is no less authentic than the other things we do to achieve same ends

Kabasenche: Moral enhancements as aids for moral formation

Molly Crockett: Moral enhancement? Evidence and challenges

Crockett: Oxytocin: a moral molecule?

Crockett: Oxytocin can be administered through nasal spray, increases sense of trust

Crockett: BUT, oxytocin has a way of illiciting feelings of envy and schadenfreude in certain contexts

Crockett: Oxytocin also increases sense of ethnocentrism, in-group preference

Crockett: Bartz et al "social effects of oxytocin on humans"

Crockett: Now on to serotonin: illicits sense of wanting to avoid harming of others

Crockett: Humans are conditionally cooperative (you scratch my back...)

Crockett: Unconditional cooperation = "sucker!"

Crockett: Oxytocin and serotonin do a lot more than just these things, so we can't use them for this kind of specificity

Crockett: oxytocin and serotonin are too blunt and untargeted as a means for moral enhancement

Crockett: Good thing about them, though, is their impermanent nature

Crockett: Non-pharma interventions for moral enhancement: changing beliefs, brain (incl meditation)

Now presenting: Wendell Wallach

Wallach: We risk pathologizing human nature

Wallach: Moral enhancement is in many ways just cognitive enhancement

Wallach: Propranolol: can reduce racial bias, sense of guilt, helps encode memory

Wallach: The is no moral compass in the brain to be modified

Wallach: The entire human organism is a moral instructional mechanism

Self-control is increasingly being seen as a moral enhancement

Conversation now about religion as moral enhancement

I'm so loving the #moralbrain conference. A total headsplosion of ideas.

Now presenting: Patrick Hopkins

Hopkins: Hypermorality could cause crippling, debilitating effects on agency

Hopkins: Moral disease: cluster characteristics, personal health, public health, paradigmatic, prospect for moral disease

Hopkins: Concern: by pathologizing immorality we strip the individual of responsibility.

Now speaking: Geoffrey Miller: Modifying childhood behaviors

Now up Matthew Liao: Parental love pills

Liao: Can we induce parental love? Oxytocin?

Liao: Oxytocin can be found in mother's milk

Liao: Oxytocin impacts on empathy, closeness, and trust

Liao: One of the mechanisms of oxytocin's effects is its ability to reduce anxiety

Liao: why a parental love pill? estrangement, resentment, step-children, adopted children

Liao: Issue of authenticity: spontaneity, experiential, ownership, induced parental love as self-alienation

Liao: Pugmire: "emotion becomes narcissistic when the focus shifts from its object to its subjective experience"

Liao: We treat ourselves as mere means when we bypass our beliefs; self-instrumentalization

Liao: The scope of our duties to children may be even more extensive than common sense morality supposes

Up next: William Casebeer of DARPA: Neuroethics and national security

Casebeer: Wants to immunize soldiers from acquiring PTSD

Up next: Fabrice Jotterand: Enhancing criminal brains?

Jotterand: Psychopathy affects 1-2% of general population (3-5% of businessmen)

Jotterand: Not all psychopaths are criminals

Jotterand: Difficult to detect psychopaths, many of them are charming

Jotterand: Psychpathy defined as severe emotional dysfunction esp. Lack of empathy

Jotterand: Psychopathhs completely unable to recognize anger and fear in individuals

Jotterand: Psychopathy also defined by anti-social behaviors

Jotterand: Neuroscience is helping to identify parts of the brain that are deficient leading to psychopathy

Jotterand: Sertraline considered as anti-psychotic, including other SSRI's

Jotterand: This is not moral enhancement, it's about altering behavior

Maxwell Mehlman now presenting on #moralenhancement and the law

Mehlman: If a "morality pill" could be developed, would people (esp. criminals) be compelled to take it?

Mehlman: if it's deemed a public health and safety issue, could be pushed by gov't

Mehlman: Could a morality pill be seen as a kind of vaccination and given to kids?

Mehlman: Would we discriminate against people who do not take morality pills?

Mehlman: If you're on the morality pill, are you held to a higher standard of care? More accountable?

Mehlman: If you're not taking morality pill, could you be deemed criminally negligent if something bad happens?

James Giordano now up on neuromorality: implications for human ecology, global relations, and national security policy

Giordano: Neuro-ecology: studies and interventions of cognitions, emotions, and behaviors engaged in decisions and actions

Giordano: The brain is an opportunistic target for multiple level assessment and manipulative actions #moralbrain

The #moralbrain conference is now over, one of the best conferences I've ever attended, very strong cast of speakers

1 comment:

James Millard said...

Interesting stuff! I see that the abstracts for these talks are available on the Center for Bioethics' site, but do you know if there are any plans to make them available in video/powerpoint form?