Thursday, January 25, 2024

Imagining Yourself in Another's Shoes vs. Extending Your Concern: Empirical and Ethical Differences

[new paper in draft]

The Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have others do unto you) isn't bad, exactly -- it can serve a valuable role -- but I think there's something more empirically and ethically attractive about the relatively underappreciated idea of "extension" found in the ancient Chinese philosopher Mengzi.

The fundamental idea of extension, as I interpret it, is to notice the concern one naturally has for nearby others -- whether they are relationally near (like close family members) or spatially near (like Mengzi's child about to fall into a well or Peter Singer's child you see drowning in a shallow pond) -- and, attending to relevant similarities between those nearby cases and more distant cases, to extend your concern to the more distant cases.

I see three primary advantages to extension over the Golden Rule (not that these constitute an exhaustive list of means of moral expansion!).

(1.) Developmentally and cognitively, extension is less complex. The Golden Rule, properly implemented, involves imagining yourself in another's shoes, then considering what you would want if you were them. This involves a non-trivial amount of "theory of mind" and hypothetical reasoning. You must notice how others' beliefs, desires, and other mental states relevantly differ from yours, then you must imagine yourself hypothetically having those different mental states, and then you must assess what you would want in that hypothetical case. In some cases, there might not even be a fact of the matter about what you would want. (As an extreme example, imagine applying the Golden Rule to an award-winning show poodle. Is there a fact of the matter about what you would want if you were an award winning show poodle?) Mengzian extension seems cognitively simpler: Notice that you are concerned about nearby person X and want W for them, notice that more distant person Y is relevantly similar, and come to want W for them also. This resembles ordinary generalization between relevant cases: This wine should be treated this way, therefore other similar wines should be treated similarly; such-and-such is a good way to treat this person, so such-and-such is probably also a good way to treat this other similar person.

(2.) Empirically, extension is a more promising method for expanding one's moral concern. Plausibly, it's more of a motivational leap to go from concern about self to concern about distant others (Golden Rule) than to go from concern from nearby others to similar more distant others (Mengzian Extension). When aid agencies appeal for charitable donations, they don't typically ask people to imagine what they would want if they were living in poverty. Instead, they tend to show pictures of children, drawing upon our natural concern for children and inviting us to extend that concern to the target group. Also -- as I plan to discuss in more detail in a post next month -- in the "argument contest" Fiery Cushman and I ran back in 2020, the arguments most successful in inspiring charitable donation employed Mengzian extension techniques, while appeals to "other's shoes" style reasoning did not tend to predict higher levels of donation than did the average argument.

(3.) Ethically, it's more attractive to ground concern for distant others in the extension of concern for nearby others than in hypothetical self-interest. Although there's something attractive about caring for others because you can imagine what you would want if you were them, there's also something a bit... self-centered? egoistic? ... about grounding other-concern in hypothetical self-concern. Rousseau writes: "love of men derived from love of self is the principle of human justice" (Emile, Bloom trans., p. 235). Mengzi or Confucius would never say this! In Mengzian extension, it is ethically admirable concern for nearby others that is the root of concern for more distant others. Appealingly, I think, the focus is on broadening one's admirable ethical impulses, rather than hypothetical self-interest.

[ChatGPT4's rendering of Mengzi's example of a child about to fall into a well, with a concerned onlooker; I prefer Helen De Cruz's version]

My new paper on this -- forthcoming in Daedalus -- is circulating today. As always, comments, objections, corrections, connections welcome, either as comments on this post, on social media, or by email.


According to the Golden Rule, you should do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Similarly, people are often exhorted to "imagine themselves in another's shoes." A related but contrasting approach to moral expansion traces back to the ancient Chinese philosopher Mengzi, who urges us to "extend" our concern for those nearby to more distant people. Other approaches to moral expansion involve: attending to the good consequences for oneself of caring for others, expanding one's sense of self, expanding one's sense of community, attending to others' morally relevant properties, and learning by doing. About all such approaches, we can ask three types of question: To what extent do people in fact (e.g., developmentally) broaden and deepen their care for others by these different methods? To what extent do these different methods differ in ethical merit? And how effectively do these different methods produce appropriate care?

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Weirdness of the World: Release Day and Introduction

Today is the official U.S. release day of my newest book, The Weirdness of the World!

As a teaser, here's the introduction:

In Praise of Weirdness

The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about:
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again, to make up nine.
Peace! the charm’s wound up.
—Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act I, scene iii

Weird often saveth
The undoomed hero if doughty his valor!
—Beowulf, X.14–15, translated by J. Lesslie Hall

The word “weird” has deep roots in old English, originally as a noun for fate or magic, later evolving toward its present use as an adjective for the uncanny or peculiar. By the 1980s, it had fruited as the choicest middle-school insult against unstylish kids like me who spent their free time playing with figurines of wizards and listening to obscure science fiction radio shows. If the “normal” is the conventional, ordinary, and readily understood, the weird is what defies that.

The world is weird -- deeply, pervasively so, weird to its core, or so I will argue in this book. Among the weirdest things about Earth is that certain complex bags of mostly water can pause to reflect on the most fundamental questions there are. We can philosophize to the limits of our comprehension and peer into the fog beyond those limits. We can contemplate the foundations of reality, and the basis of our understanding of those foundations, and the necessary conditions of the basis of our understanding of those foundations, and so on, trying always to peer behind the next curtain, even with no clear method and no great hope of a satisfying end to the inquiry. In this respect, we vastly outgeek bluebirds and kangaroos and are rightly a source of amazement to ourselves.

I will argue that careful inquiry into fundamental questions about consciousness and cosmology reveals not a set of readily comprehensible answers but instead a complex blossoming of bizarre possibilities. These possibilities compete with one another, or combine in non-obvious ways. Philosophical and cosmological inquiry teaches us that something radically contrary to common sense must be true about the fundamental structures of the mind and the world, while leaving us poorly equipped to determine where exactly the truth lies among the various weird possibilities.

We needn’t feel disappointed by this outcome. The world is richer and more interesting for escaping our understanding. How boring it would be if everything made sense!

1. My Weird Thesis

Consider three huge questions: What is the fundamental structure of the cosmos? How does human consciousness fit into it? What should we value? What I will argue in this book -- with emphasis on the first two questions but also sometimes touching on the third -- is (1) the answers to these questions are currently beyond our capacity to know, and (2) we do nonetheless know at least this: Whatever the truth is, it’s weird. Careful reflection will reveal that every viable theory on these grand topics is both bizarre and dubious. In chapter 2 (“Universal Bizarreness and Universal Dubiety”), I will call this the Universal Bizarreness thesis and the Universal Dubiety thesis. Something that seems almost too preposterous to believe must be true, but we lack the means to resolve which of the various preposterous-seeming options is in fact correct. If you’ve ever wondered why every wide-ranging, foundations-minded philosopher in the history of Earth has held bizarre metaphysical or cosmological views (I challenge you to find an exception!) -- with each philosopher holding, seemingly, a different set of bizarre views -- chapter 2 offers an explanation.

I will argue that every approach to cosmology and consciousness has implications that run strikingly contrary to mainstream “common sense” and that, partly in consequence, we ought to hold such theories only tentatively. Sometimes we can be justified in simply abandoning what we previously thought of as common sense, when we have firm scientific grounds for thinking otherwise; but questions of the sort I explore in this book test the limits of scientific inquiry. Concerning such matters, nothing is firm -- neither common sense, nor science, nor any of our other epistemic tools. The nature and value of scientific inquiry itself rely on disputable assumptions about the fundamental structure of the mind and the world, as I discuss in chapters on skepticism (chapter 4), idealism (chapter 5), and whether the external world exists (chapter 6).

On a philosopher’s time scale -- where a few decades ago is “recent” and a few decades from now is “soon” -- we live in a time of change, with cosmological theories and theories of consciousness rising and receding in popularity based mainly on broad promise and what captures researchers’ imaginations. We ought not trust that the current range of mainstream theories will closely resemble the range in a hundred years, much less the actual truth.

2. Varieties of Cosmological Weirdness

To establish that the world is cosmologically weird, maybe all that is needed is relativity theory and quantum mechanics.

According to relativity theory, if your twin accelerates away from you at very high speed, then returns, much less time will have passed for the traveler than for you who stayed here on Earth -- the so-called Twin Paradox. According to the most straightforward interpretation of quantum mechanics, if you observe what we ordinarily consider to be a chance event, there’s also an equally real, equally existing version of you in another “world” who shares your past but for whom the event turned out differently. (Or maybe your act of observation caused the event to turn out one way rather than the other, or maybe some other bizarre thing is true, depending on the correct interpretation of quantum mechanics, but it’s widely accepted that there are no non-bizarre interpretations.) So if you observe the chance decay of a uranium atom, for example, there’s another world branching of from this one, containing a counterpart of you who observes the atom not to have decayed. If we accept that view, then the cosmos contains a myriad of different, equally real worlds, each with different versions of you and your friends and everything you know, all splitting off from a common past.

I won’t dwell on those particular cosmological peculiarities, since they are familiar to academic readers and well handled elsewhere. However, some equally fundamental cosmological issues are typically addressed by philosophers rather than scientific cosmologists.

One is the possibility that the cosmos is nowhere near as large as we ordinarily assume -- perhaps just you and your immediate environment (chapter 4) or perhaps even just your own mind and nothing else (chapter 6). Although these possibilities might appear unlikely, they are worth considering seriously, to assess how confident we ought to be in their falsity, and on what grounds. I will argue that it’s reasonable not to entirely dismiss such skeptical possibilities. Alternatively, and more in line with mainstream physical theory, the cosmos might be infinite, which brings its own train of bizarre consequences (chapter 7).

Another possibility is that we live inside a simulated reality or a pocket universe, embedded in a much larger structure about which we know virtually nothing (chapters 4 and 5). Yet another possibility is that our experience of three-dimensional spatiality is a product of our own minds that doesn’t reflect the underlying structure of reality (chapter 5) or that our sensory experience maps only loosely onto the underlying structure of reality (chapter 9).

Still another set of questions concerns the relationship of mind to cosmos. Is conscious experience abundant in the universe, or does it require the delicate coordination of rare events (chapter 10)? Is consciousness purely a matter of having the right physical structure, or might it require something non-physical (chapter 2)? Under what conditions might a group of organisms give rise to group-level consciousness (chapter 3)? What would it take to build a conscious machine, if that is possible at all -- and what should we do if we don’t know whether we have succeeded (chapter 11)?

In each of our heads there are about as many neurons as stars in our galaxy, and each neuron is arguably more structurally complex than any star system that does not contain life. There is as much complexity and mystery inside as out.

The repeated theme: In the most fundamental matters of consciousness and cosmology, neither common sense, nor early twenty-first-century empirical science, nor armchair philosophical theorizing is entirely trustworthy. The rational response is to distribute our credence across a wide range of bizarre options.

Each chapter is meant to be separately comprehensible. Please feel free to skip ahead, reading any subset of them in any order.

3. Philosophy That Closes versus Philosophy That Opens

You are reading a philosophy book -- voluntarily, let’s suppose. Why? Some people read philosophy because they believe it reveals profound, fundamental truths about the way the world really is and the one right manner to live. Others like the beauty of grand philosophical systems. Still others like the clever back-and-forth of philosophical dispute. What I like most is none of these. I love philosophy best when it opens my mind -- when it reveals ways the world could be, possible approaches to life, lenses through which I might see and value things around me, which I might not other wise have considered.

Philosophy can aim to open or to close. Suppose you enter Philosophical Topic X imagining three viable, mutually exclusive possibilities, A, B, and C. The philosophy of closing aims to reduce the three to one. It aims to convince you that possibility A is correct and the others wrong. If it succeeds, you know the truth about Topic X: A is the answer! In contrast, the philosophy of opening aims to add new possibilities to the mix -- possibilities that you hadn’t considered before or had considered but too quickly dismissed. Instead of reducing three to one, three grows to maybe five, with new possibilities D and E. We can learn by addition as well as subtraction. We can learn that the range of viable possibilities is broader than we had assumed.

For me, the greatest philosophical thrill is realizing that something I’d long taken for granted might not be true, that some “obvious” apparent truth is in fact doubtable -- not just abstractly and hypothetically doubtable, but really, seriously, in-my-gut doubtable. The ground shifts beneath me. Where I’d thought there would be floor, there is instead open space I hadn’t previously seen. My mind spins in new, unfamiliar directions. I wonder, and the world itself seems to glow with a new wondrousness. The cosmos expands, bigger with possibility, more complex, more unfathomable. I feel small and confused, but in a good way.

Let’s test the boundaries of the best current work in science and philosophy. Let’s launch ourselves at questions monstrously large and formidable. Let’s contemplate these questions carefully, with serious scholarly rigor, pushing against the edge of human knowledge. That is an intrinsically worthwhile activity, worth some of our time in a society generous enough to permit us such time, even if the answers elude us.

My middle-school self who used dice and thrift-shop costumes to imagine astronauts and wizards is now a middle-aged philosopher who uses twenty-first-century science and philosophy to imagine the shape of the cosmos and the magic of consciousness. Join me! If doughty our valor, mayhap the weird saveth us.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Demographic Trends in the U.S. Philosophy Major, 2001-2022 -- Including Total Majors, Second Majors, Gender, and Race

I'm preparing for an Eastern APA session on the "State of Philosophy" next Thursday, and I thought I'd share some data on philosophy major bachelor's degree completions from the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS database, which compiles data on virtually all students graduating from accredited colleges and universities in the U.S., as reported by administrators.

I examined all data from the 2000-2001 academic year (the first year in which they started recording data on second majors) through 2021-2022 (the most recent available year).

Total Numbers of Philosophy Majors: The Decline Has Stopped

First, the sharp decline in philosophy majors since 2013 has stopped:

2001:  5836
2002:  6529
2003:  7023
2004:  7707
2005:  8283
2006:  8532
2007:  8541
2008:  8778
2009:  8996
2010:  9268
2011:  9292
2012:  9362
2013:  9427
2014:  8820
2015:  8184
2016:  7489
2017:  7572
2018:  7667
2019:  8074
2020:  8209
2021:  8328
2022:  7958

(The decline between 2021 and 2022 reflects a general decline in completions of bachelor's degrees due to the pandemic that year, rather than a trend specific to philosophy.)

In general, the humanities have declined sharply since 2010, and history, English, and foreign languages and literature continue to decline.  This graph shows the trend:
[click image to enlarge and clarify]

The decline in the English major is particularly striking, from 4.5% of bachelor's degrees awarded in 2000-2001 to 1.8% in 2021-2022.  Philosophy peaked at 0.60% in 2005-2006 and has held steady at 0.39%-0.40% since 2015-2016.

Philosophy Relies on Double Majors

[Expanded and edited for clarity, Jan 15] Breaking the data down by first major vs second major, we can see that over time an increasing proportion of students have philosophy as their second major.  In some schools, the distinction between "first major" and "second major" is meaningful, with the first indicating the primary major.  In other schools the distinction is not meaningful.  In the 2021-2022 academic year, 24% of students who took a bachelor's degree in philosophy had it listed as their second major.

[click image to enlarge and clarify]

From these numbers we can estimate that philosophy students are at least moderately likely to be double majors.  While it's impossible to know what percentage of students who took philosophy as their first major also carried a second major, a ballpark estimate might assume that about half of students with philosophy plus one other major list philosophy first rather than second.  If so, then approximately half of all philosophy majors (48%) are double majors.  Overall, across all majors, only 5% of students double majored.

The ease of double majoring is likely to influence the number of students who choose philosophy as a major.

Gender Disparity Is Decreasing

NCES classifies all students as men or women, with no nonbinary category and no unclassified students.  Since the beginning of the available data in the 1980s through the mid-2010s, the percentage of women among philosophy bachelor's recipients hovered steadily between 30% and 34%, not changing even as the total percentage of women increased from 51% to 57%.  However, the last several years have seen a clear decrease in gender disparity, with women now earning 41% of philosophy degrees.

[click image to enlarge and clarify]

Black Students Remain Underrepresented in Philosophy Compared to Undergraduates Overall, and Other Race/Ethnicity Data

NCES uses the following race/ethnicity categories: U.S. nonresident, race/ethnicity unknown, Hispanic or Latino (any race), and among U.S. residents who are not Hispanic or Latino: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, White, and two or more races.  Before 2007-2008, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander was included with Asian, but inconsistently until 2010-2011.  The two-or-more races option was also introduced in the 2007-2008 academic year, again with inconsistent reporting for several years.

I've charted these categories below.  As you can see, for most categories, the percentages are similar for philosophy and for graduates overall, except that non-Hispanic White is slightly higher for philosophy and non-Hispanic Black significantly lower. In 2021-2022, non-Hispanic Black people were 14% of the U.S. population age 18-24, 10% of bachelor's degree recipients, and 6% of philosophy bachelor's recipients.

[as usual, click the figures to expand and clarify]

I interpret the sharp increase in multi-racial students as reflecting reporting issues and an increasing willingness of students to identify as multi-racial.

It's also worth noting that although philosophy majors are approximately as likely to be Hispanic/Latino as graduates overall, Hispanic/Latino students are underrepresented among bachelor's degree recipients relative to the U.S. population age 18-24 (17% vs 23%). Non-Hispanic American Indian / Alaska Native students are also underrepresented among overall graduates (0.46% vs. 0.84% of the population age 18-24), and maybe particularly so in philosophy (0.37% vs 0.46% in the most recent year).

Friday, January 05, 2024

Credence-Weighted Robot Rights?

You're a firefighter in the year 2050 or 2100. You can rescue either one human, who is definitely conscious, or two futuristic robots, who might or might not be conscious. What do you do?

[Illustration by Nicolas Demers, from my newest book, The Weirdness of the World, to be released Jan 16 and available for pre-order now.]

Suppose you think there's a 75% chance that the robots have conscious lives as rich as those of human beings (or, alternatively, that they have whatever else it takes to have "full moral status" equivalent to that of a human). And suppose you think there's a 25% chance that the robots are the moral equivalent of toasters, that is, mere empty machines with no significant capacity for conscious thought or feeling.

Arguably, if you save the robots and let the human die, you maximize the total expected number of humanlike lives saved (.75 * 2 + .25 * 0 = 1.5 expected lives saved, vs. one life for sure if you save the human). Decision-theoretically, it looks similar to choosing an action with a 75% chance of saving two people over an action that will save one person for sure. Applying similar reasoning, if the credences are flipped (25% chance the robots are conscious, 75% they're not), you save the human.

Generalizing: Whatever concern you have for an ordinary human, or whatever you would give on their behalf, multiply that concern by your credence or degree of belief that the robot has human-like consciousness (or alternatively your credence that it has whatever features justify moral consideration similar to that of a human). If you'd give $5 to a human beggar, give $3 to a robot beggar in the same situation, if you think it's 60% likely the robot has human-like consciousness. If an oversubscribed local elementary school has a lottery for admission and resident human children each get a 50% chance of admission, resident robot children of disputable consciousness would get a proportionately reduced chance.

Call this approach credence-weighted robot rights.

I see a least three problems with credence-weighted robot rights:

(1.) Credence-weighted robot rights entail that robots will inevitably be treated as inferior, until we are 100% confident that they are our equals.

Of course it's reasonable to treat robots as inferior to humans now. We should save the person, not the robot, in the fire. And of course if we ever create robots who are beyond all reasonable doubt our equals, we should treat them as such. I'm hypothesizing instead a tricky in-between case -- a period during which it's reasonably disputable whether or not our machines deserve full moral status as our equals, a period during which liberals about robot consciousness and robot rights regard robots as our fully-conscious moral peers, while conservatives about robot consciousness and robot rights regard them as mindless machines to be deployed and discarded however we wish.

If we choose a 75% chance of rescuing two people over a sure-fire rescue of one person, we are not treating the unrescued person as inferior. Each person's life is worth just as much in our calculus as that of the others. But if we rescue five humans rather than six robots we regard as 80% likely to be conscious, we are treating the robots as inferior -- even though, by our own admission, they are probably not. It seems unfortunate and less than ethically ideal to always treat as inferiors entities we regard as probably our equals.

(2.) Credence-weighted robot rights would engender chaos if people have highly variable opinions. If individual firefighters make the choices based on their personal opinions, then one firefighter might save the two robots while another saves the one human, and each might find the other's decision abhorrent. Stationwide policies might be adopted, but any one policy would be controversial, and robots might face very different treatment in different regions. If individual judges or police were to apply the law differently based on their different individual credences, or on the variable and hard-to-detect credences of those accused of offences against robots, that would be unfair both to the robots and to the offenders, since the penalty would vary depending on who happened to be the officer or judge or whether they travel in social circles with relatively high vs. low opinions of robot consciousness. So presumably there would have to be some regularization by jurisdiction. But still, different jurisdictions might have very different laws concerning the demolition or neglectful destruction of a robot, some treating it as 80% of a homicide, others treating it as a misdemeanor -- and if robot technologies are variable and changing, the law, and people's understanding of the law, might struggle to keep up and to distinguish serious offences from minor ones.

(3.) Chaos might also ensue from the likely cognitive and bodily diversity of robots. While human cognitive and bodily variability typically keeps within familiar bounds, with familiar patterns of ability and disability, robots might differ radically. Some might be designed with conscious sensory experiences but no capacity for pain or pleasure. Others might experience intense pain or pleasure but lack cognitive sophistication. Others might have no stable goals or model their goals wholly on instructions from a human to whom they are gladly, perhaps excessively subservient, insufficiently valuing their own life. Still others might be able to merge and divide at will, or back themselves up, or radically reformat themselves, raising questions about the boundaries of the individual and what constitutes death. Some might exist entirely as computational entities in virtual paradises with little practical connection to our world. All this raises the question of what features are necessary for, and what constitutes, "equal" rights for robots, and whether thresholds of equality even make sense. Our understanding might require a controversial multidimensional scalar appreciation of the grounds of moral status.

Other approaches have their own problems. A precautionary principle that grants fully human equal rights as soon as it's reasonable to think that robots might deserve them risks sacrificing substantial human interests for machines that very likely don't have interests worth the sacrifice (letting a human die, for example, to save a machine that's only 5% likely to be conscious), and it perhaps makes the question of the grounds of moral status in the face of future robots' cognitive diversity even more troubling and urgent. Requiring proof of consciousness beyond reasonable doubt aggravates the issue of treating robots as subhuman even if we're pretty confident they deserve equal treatment. Treating rights as a negotiated social construction risks denying rights to entities that really do deserve rights, based on their intrinsic conscious capacities, if we collectively choose as a matter of social policy not to grant those rights.

The cleanest solution would be what Mara Garza and I have called the Design Policy of the Excluded Middle: Don't create AI systems whose moral status is dubious and confusing. Either create only AI systems that we recognize as property without human-like moral status and rights, and treat them accordingly; or go all the way to creating AI systems with a full suite of features that enable consensus about their high moral status, and then give them the rights they deserve. It's the confusing cases in the middle that create trouble.

If AI technology continues to advance, however, I very much doubt that it will do so in accord with the Design Policy of the Excluded Middle -- and thus we will be tossed into moral confusion about how to treat our AI systems, with no good means of handling that confusion.



The Weirdness of the World, Chapter 11 (forthcoming), Princeton University Press.

The Full Rights Dilemma for AI Systems of Debatable Moral Personhood, Robonomics, 4 (2023), #32.

How Robots and Monsters Might Break Human Moral Systems (Feb 3, 2015)

Designing AI with Rights, Consciousness, Self-Respect, and Freedom (2020) (with Mara Garza), in S. Matthew Liao, ed., The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Oxford University Press.

Monday, January 01, 2024

Writings of 2023

Each New Year's Day, I post a retrospect of the past year's writings. Here are the retrospects of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

The biggest project for the past few years has been my new book The Weirdness of the World, available for pre-order and scheduled for U.S. release on January 16. This book pulls together ideas I've been publishing since 2012 concerning the failure of common sense, philosophy, and empirical science to explain consciousness and the fundamental structure of the cosmos, and the corresponding bizarreness and dubiety of all general theories about such matters.


Books forthcoming:

The Weirdness of the World (under contract with Princeton University Press).
    See description above.
Books under contract / in progress:

As co-editor with Jonathan Jong, The Nature of Belief, Oxford University Press.

    Collects 15 new essays on the topic, by Sara Aronowitz, Tim Crane and Katalin Farkas, Carolina Flores, M.B. Ganapini, David Hunter, David King and Aaron Zimmerman, Angela Mendelovici, Joshua Mugg, Bence Nanay, Nic Porot and Eric Mandelbaum, Eric Schwitzgebel, Keshav Singh, Declan Smithies, Ema Sullivan-Bissett, amd Neil Van Leeuwen.
As co-editor with Helen De Cruz and Rich Horton, a yet-to-be-titled anthology with MIT Press containing great classics of philosophical SF.

Full-length non-fiction essays, published 2023:

Revised and updated: "Belief", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    A broad-ranging review of the main philosophical approaches to belief.
"Borderline consciousness: When it's neither determinately true nor determinately false that consciousness is present", Philosophical Studies, 180, 3415–3439.
    Being conscious is not an on-or-off phenomenon but has gray zones. Our failure to conceive, in a certain way, of such in-between cases is no evidence against their existence.
"Creating a large language model of a philosopher" (with David Schwitzgebel and Anna Strasser), Mind and Language [online article mila.12466, print forthcoming].
    We trained GPT-3 on the corpus of Daniel Dennett, and even Dennett experts had trouble distinguishing its answers to philosophical questions from Dennett's actual answers.
"The full rights dilemma for AI systems of debatable moral personhood", Robonomics, 4 (32).
    We might soon create AI systems where it's a legitimately open question whether they have humanlike consciousness and deserve humanlike rights. There are huge moral risks however we respond to such cases.
"What is unique about kindness? Exploring the proximal experience of prosocial acts relative to other positive behaviors" (with Annie Regan, Seth Margolis, Daniel J. Ozer, and Sonja Lyubomirsky), Affective Science, 4, 92-100.
    Participants assigned to do kind acts for others reported a greater sense of competence, self-confidence, and meaning while engaging in those acts across the intervention period.

Full-length non-fiction essays, finished and forthcoming:

"Dispositionalism, yay! Representationalism, boo!" in J. Jong and E. Schwitzgebel, eds., The Nature of Belief, Oxford.

    Presents three problems for hard-core representationalism about belief: The Problem of Causal Specification, the Problem of Tacit Belief, and the Problem of Indiscrete Belief.
"Repetition and value in an infinite universe", in S. Hetherington, ed., Extreme Philosophy, Routledge.
    Standard decision theory fails when confronted with the possibility of infinitely many consequences of our actions. Still, it's reasonable to prefer that the universe is infinite rather than finite.
"The ethics of life as it could be: Do we have moral obligations to artificial life?" (with Olaf Witkowski), Artificial Life.
    Creators of artificial life should bear in mind the conditions under which artificial systems might come to be genuine targets of moral concern.

Full-length non-fiction essays, in draft and circulating:

"The prospects and challenges of measuring morality" (with Jessie Sun).

    Could we create a "moralometer" -- that is, a valid measure of a person's general morality? The conceptual and methodological challenges would be formidable.
"The washout argument against longtermism" (commentary on William MacAskill's book What We Owe the Future).
    We cannot be justified in believing that any actions currently available to us will have a non-negligible positive influence on the billion-plus-year future.
"Let's hope we're not living in a simulation" (commentary on David Chalmers's book Reality+).
    If we are living in a simulation, there's a good chance it's small or brief and we are radically mistaken about the past, future, and/or distant things.
"Consciousness in Artificial Intelligence: Insights from the science of consciousness" (one of 19 authors, with Patrick Butlin and Robert Long).
    Some mainstream scientific theories of consciousness imply that we might be on the verge of creating AI systems that genuinely have conscious experiences.
"The necessity of construct and external validity for generalized causal claims: A critical review of the literature on quantitative causal inference" (with Kevin Esterling and David Brady).
    We develop a formal model of causal specification which clarifies the necessity of construct validity and external validity for deductive causal inference.
"Inflate and explode".
    Illusionists and eliminativists about phenomenal consciousness illegitimately build objectionable presuppositions into the notion of "phenomenal consciousness" and defeat only this artificially inflated notion. (I wrote this a few years ago and I'm undecided about whether to trunk this one or revise it.)

Selected shorter non-fiction:

"Uncle Iroh, from fool to sage -- or sage all along? (with David Schwitzgebel), in J. De Smedt and H. De Cruz, eds., Avatar: The Last Airbender and Philosophy (2023), Wiley Blackwell.

    Uncle Iroh is a Zhuangzian sage, and ordinary viewers immediately glimpse the sageliness behind his veneer of foolishness.
"Dehumanizing the cognitively disabled: Commentary on Smith's Making Monsters" (with Amelie Green), Analysis Reviews (forthcoming).
    We describe Amelie Green's experience witnessing the dehumanization of the cognitively disabled in care homes, comparing it with Smith's treatment of racial dehumanization.
"Introspection in group minds, disunities of consciousness, and indiscrete persons" (with Sophie R. Nelson), Journal of Consciousness Studies, 30 (2023), #9-10, 288-303.
    We describe a hypothetical AI system that defies the usual sharp lines between cognitive systems, conscious experiencers, and persons.
"Quasi-sociality: Towards asymmetric joint actions with artificial systems" (with Anna Strasser), in A. Strasser, ed., How to Live with Smart Machines? (forthcoming), Xenemoi.
    AI systems might soon occupy the gray area between being asocial tools and being real, but junior, social partners.
"AI systems must not confuse users about their sentience or moral status", Patterns, 4 (2023), #8, 100818.
    AI systems should be designed to either be clearly nonsentient tools or (if it's ever possible) clearly sentient entities who deserve appropriate care and protection.
"How far can we get in creating a digital replica of a philosopher?" (with Anna Strasser and Matt Crosby), in R. Hakli, P. Mäkelä, J. Seibt, eds., Social Robots in Social Institutions: Proceedings of Robophilosophy 2022. Series Frontiers of AI and Its Applications, vol. 366 (2023), IOS Press.

"Don't make moral calculations based on the far future", The Latecomer (Dec 19, 2023).

    An epistemic critique of "longtermism".

"Could the Universe Be Finite? (with Jacob Barandes), Nautilus (Dec 15, 2023).

    Well, probably not.

"Is it time to start considering personhood rights for AI chatbots?" (with Henry Shevlin), Los Angeles Times (Mar 5, 2023).

    Reflections on the hazards of confusion about the moral status of AI systems

Science fiction stories

"Larva, pupa, imago", Clarkesworld, issue 197, (2023).

    The life-cycle and worldview of a cognitively enhanced future butterfly.

Some favorite blog posts

"The black hole objection to longtermism and consequentialism" (Apr 13).

"'There are no chairs' says the illusionist, sitting in one" (Apr 24).

"We shouldn't 'box' superintelligent AIs" (May 21).

"The fundamental argument for dispositionalism about belief" (Jun 7).

"The Summer Illusion" (Jul 10).

"One reason to walk the walk: To give specific content to your assertions" (Sep 8).

"Percent of U.S. philosophy PhD recipients who are women: A 50-year perspective" (Nov 3).

Happy New Year!