Speaker: Michael Solomon (RWJ Barnabas University Hospital Bioethics Committee & Medical Society of New Jersey Bioethics Committee)

Abstract: One of the roles of Bioethics is to anticipate ethical issues before they arise and to try to apply existing ethical considerations to these new issues (i.e., Don’t wait for someone to clone a sheep before considering the implications of genetic engineering). The coming singularity, when AI surpasses human capacity, is one such issue. I will try to unpack what we mean by Moral Standing, i.e., when something’s interests must be considered as having intrinsic worth. I will discuss what Moral Standing provides to an entity and then what provides Moral Standing to an entity. We will consider whether Consciousness demands Moral Standing. We will then consider three aspects of consciousness, the I/Me personal experience, Awareness as in Sentience, and Self Awareness. I will then review aspects of neuro anatomy and physiology relevant to distinguishing sensation and perception, and focus on the HeteroModal Cortex specifically as the locus for how the human brain integrates sensory input to create a coherent model of the world. If Consciousness is truly an emergent process of neural function, and if a machine can duplicate this model of information processing, then will it be necessary to attribute Moral Standing to such a machine? Whether we will ever be able to know the Subjective Quality of that processing experienced by a thinking machine (any better than we can for another human person) remains unknown.


  • David Fergusson, New College in the University of Edinburgh
  • Michael Solomon, RWJ Barnabas University Hospital & Medical Society of New Jersey
  • Olaf Witkowski, Earth-Life Science Institute
  • Monica Manolescu, University of Strasbourg
  • Susan Schneider, The University of Connecticut
  • Ed Turner, Princeton University
  • Ayako Fukui, Araya Brain Imaging Tokyo
  • Yuko Ishihara, University of Copenhagen
  • Piet Hut, Institute for Advanced Study
  • Gene Miller, New York University

Thursday, February 23, 12:30 p.m.
Institute for Advanced Study, 1 Einstein Drive, West Building Seminar Room, 2nd floor
Host by the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies

Read a synopsis of the event on our blog.