Sam talks to the head of TED, Chris Anderson, about using reason to build our morality. Sam makes the case that reason can indeed answer moral questions, and then explores the many controversies that emerge from that claim. Moral superiority? Cultural superiority? Moral progress? Chris and Sam dig in to discuss the right ways to think about defining right from wrong, and reason’s role in it all.
This is an episode of The TED Interview, a new podcast from TED. It's available wherever you get your podcasts.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
You can get away
the same Harris. Ok,
housekeeping her eye,
they knew event series to announce, has called experiments in conversation.
And I'll be kicking this off with Eric Weinstein's
in January January,
a twenty Eightth will be in Detroit at the Filmore on the train
ninth will be in Milwaukee at the Pabst Theatre.
And on the thirtieth will be in Chicago at the Chicago Theater and yet
here, with experiments in conversation, is to launch a series of events that
is about more than my events: competition
there are many of them, especially in the beginning, but there, Sir
Many great speakers out there
create a speaking, serious, echoed eventually take place in many cities simultaneously, it'll be conversation based. These are not lectures I wouldn't
thinking internally about this being TED for two, where the TED conferences
significantly refined and even is
Touche analyzed the short lecture
We cannot have to do something similar for
And to this end will be looking for public intellectuals and creative people who wanted to take some rich.
And think out loud on important and controversial topics.
Looking for people who are not cowed by the prospect of saying something
so surprising or counter intuitive, that people might take offence at it. I can't tell you how
Stifling the current environment is for speech, with the exception podcast. It is just crazy out there.
Some hope in a serious can help us all recalibrate a little bit now and again
the world there will one day be hundreds of events like this happening each year,
All over the world policy goes with the first three,
and I really can't think of a better person a kick this off with then Eric Winston
Eric is one of the most consistently interesting and courageous thinkers. I know he's a real Polly math
In my experience, we can talk about almost anything and
it's fun and illuminating Andrews, it's what a conversation should pay
so he was a natural starting point when taken about the serious, but
I will turned him and say: who else could you have a great conversation with?
and he might go off for that person and do an event in a city near you and I'll region.
At to some of my other favorite podcast, Gaston people. I admire and ask the same question and the conversations will spread.
Anyway. This is all starting in Detroit, no walk in Chicago in January,
You live in or near any other cities, and you want to
not for labour. Then here's your chance, I don't get it
part of the world, very often, in fact only spoken once in Chicago.
And I ve never been in Milwaukee or Detroit, so
oh come on out prevail, take
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Anyway, I'm looking for those events.
And Eric, and I will try to make sense. Okay, the waken up course,
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I've got some good people coming up in the past, have got Rebecca traced, her, the feminist journalist, who has written name scalding me to book
We had a colorful conversation.
Johan, Hari is coming up, has written a book about depression that maybe,
or find in very useful.
Darin Brown, the magician who is
remarkable, as you probably know, he's coming up
dear Khan, the muslim filmmaker
has made an amazing film about NEO Nazis and white supremacist in the? U S dear proves to be kryptonite for white supremacist. Quite amazing! Well, speaking of
head today, I'm turning the tables and presenting an interview I did with Chris Anderson
the owner and impresario of TED.
He's just launched its own past the TED Interview. I believe this is his third episode,
as you know, I occasionally do this by present my appearance on another person's podcast
I think you might enjoy it.
I think you'll enjoy this one crisis egg.
You're here he's a little concerned about some of my views and he put it back on
May from time to time, this was
actually very noticeable after my first TED Talk and two thousand ten, where
Chris came on stage and ask me some very worried quest.
Is about my views on the job and,
Crispin worried about me ever since anyway, with Chris has done with the TED Conference, is truly in credit.
And it was an honour to be interviewed by I'm so
he's enjoy my conversation with Chris Anderson.
Welcome to the TED Interview
I am present decision, and this is the precursor is: why sit down with a TED speaker a weakened dive, much deeper into their ideas than was possible during their TED talk.
My guest today is some Harris. Phyllis
neuroscientist, author broadcaster, SAM.
Has been at the heart of many of them. Most provocative conversations out there today politically
I wouldn't place him at what you might call the radical centre, a stone critic of Donald Trump, but also of political correctness. For example, he has
Infuriated people on both left and right in almost equal measure.
He's also delighted many many people because of his clarity of thought and his fears,
business in how he expresses those thoughts sums Parker.
Waking up is super popular, I'm a regular listener and he's also famed for his book called the moral landscape that was essential
if his first ted to most people, probably here, think that so
I will never answer the most important questions in human life questions
What is worth living for? What is worth dying for what constitutes a good life.
So I would argue that this is
an illusion. The separation between science and human values is an illusion and actually quite a dangerous one. At this point in human history,.
So the debate is over the nature of morality. Specifically, is there such a thing as objective moral truth?
all is morality, inherently subjective, in which case or moral statements are ultimately
statements about the values and individual or a culture happens to hold. So let's give an example here:
Look if I say something like its raw
to lie, or we should all stop eating animals are those
ultimately, just your personal moral values or
but the basins in which they can objectively be judged to be true or false,
believe in God doesn't easy enough answer. This question. Good is what God
revealed to us is good. He's created human beings
consciences and with the holy book that sets out what is right, what is wrong, but most modern philosophers,
academic scientists, don't think you can outsource Miranda, morality to God. They would say there is a fundamental difference in the world between facts and value.
These facts- statements about the real world- they can be true or false. Values are human creations. They differ between different cultures. We can debate them, but ultimately there is no objective arbiter of the truth.
The moral statement, what some sing that some Harris is that, although he definitely doesn't believe in God, he does believe that statements
about moral values are ultimately objective statements. In his view, we can discover the truth about those statements
and ever deeper knowledge of science of psychology, for example, of how human societies operate,
and of the exercise of reason there's a lot at stake here:
Somehow it is wrong and the machine
scientists have lots of as a right. Then it's hard to see how they
be such a thing as moral progress.
If a moral system is simply the subjective values that a culture creates, it puts a limit on how much you can argue
against views. You disagree with like the sanctity of life or child marriage,
just have no real answer to the position look. This is what I and my fellow
the thing that generations choose to believe
if some horses right, on the other hand, it becomes possible,
argue agree with certain cultural values, are objectively wrong and must be changed and to present real
evidence as to why that might be so and looking forward. It
pacts, how we build ethical decisions into the technologies where creating machine learning
artificial intelligence, social media, algorithms, self driving cars? There is much to ponder here.
It's not just a philosophical argument is as important a conversation as there is so let's go. Summits die here,
How can you build morality out of mere reason and science and Pepsi TAT? You could even start by defining what morality even is. I would say I would say that it is anchored to
fact that we are in relationship with one another. So if you're in a universe of one of your on a desert island
universe of one of your on a desert island, the ethics of your living, don't come
into play because there's no other conscious system that can be affected by what you do so
it really alone and can't harm
or benefit anyone, then we don't really talk in moral terms. We talk and just in terms of well being
Oh a moral system is the rules by which we should treat each other or not treat each other. How do you
wait, the rules by which to treat each other in Manhattan
build a moral system from the ground up. Just imagine that we have no
notion of should or ought there's there's nothing we should do. This thought has not occurred to any one. Yet
and even the notion of right and wrong and good naval has matured anyone. It's just there's just we just find ourselves in this universe and the Circle
dance which we didn't create, is one in which conscious mind.
Like our own, are susceptible to a vast range of experiences and
some of these experiences suck right with it to unambiguously they like it, and if you, if you would doubt that just imagine having every variable that conspires to make you miserable turned up. You know two to eleven,
rights of here. You doubt this. You know, go to a hot stove and put your hand on it, right them and that that is a powerful philosophical argument the experienced will have. There is deeper than your doubts.
About the weather morale. They can be anchored to reason and
You say why that it only burns my hand, because I'm in my mind and body or constituted in such a way that it is precisely the point, I'm saying that every possible mind has a is susceptible to a range of experiences. Given the physics of things we don't know how consciousness is actually integrated with physics, that's a mystery
but there is some relationship and we live in a universe where conscious mines have ay a range of conscious states, and some of these states are better than others, and I think that claim that there is that's that the worst possible misery for everyone is bad and at every other state of the universe
is better. I think that is as rudimentary acclaim as we ever make in reasoning about anything. It's it's as a rudimentary is to put to it makes for
it is rudimentary, as events have causes, there's not. It is bedrock, and
we know there are many other conditions on offer which are far better than that right
a summer sublimely rapturous and filled with duty and an apparent meaning and Emily Justice to all the satisfaction that the luckiest,
people we know and and and ourselves in our best moments, have enjoyed wildlife and
What I would argue, as that.
We have on our hands, is a navigation problem. We are now
gave in the space of all possible experiences, and so let me just but never discuss what on one for philosophical point:
but that in describing the worst possible state for all people about, couldn't two different people. Look at two universities and disagree about which one was actually were state in
in one. Let's say everyone was making this God Almighty met, so it is creating
might every whether, as it was then ultimate sort of pigsty, and it was disgusting to look up and
another there were people being heart really badly
But there was also you know this beautiful our work in the sky.
That was somehow some creation of perfection like like he people could disagree about we're out of those two was that was the worst. Couldn't I yes, what you're saying
true of my picture of morality in general. That's why I called it a moral landscape where you have peaks and valleys, and some of these people could be equivalent, and some of the valley's could be equivalent that but yeah different, so that you could have societies
People functioning by very different principles and moral intuitions incenses what's right and wrong and they could be enjoyed, they could be enjoying equivalent states of well being
that are irreconcilable. Rising to have an island of perfectly matched sadist and massacres, say and
They might be happy by their own lights, but we would look at them and say: that's just that's a completely bizarre and- and
honourable way of living, so there is a kind of
what moral diversity possible in my picture, but but for this example, though this thought experiment just imagine that that every conscious system in that universe suffers as much as it possibly can for as long as it.
And so, if you're telling me there's somebody who would
sit or a universe of dirt to be worse than a universe of Europe that painful torment. Well, then, that's the universe. He gets right.
We're. Putting we put every. However, your mind is constituted so as to supper to the ultimate degree for as long as possible. That's what you get in this universe, and so someone whose head but suffering isn't a point. You know say: injustice,
is the point, so I think, a worse universe, and that is one where people may not be suffering, but there is greater in injustice. The reason why justice seems important EU is because it seems important, there's inexperienced component to this right says that one simple items to be almost half of getting to your dear argument has just to imagine a scientific comparison between here, too universes and there actually identical in every
regard. Accept that in one one child is suffering in it and in the other, that same child is, is not suffering ever that control for everything else, and it feels like it's not a stretch to say as a fact that that universe with a child is not suffering as it is, is better results. As long as you can get me, give me the spectrum of better and worse. That's all. I need- and there are several double standards here- that people observe by default, which are the source of our. What I would argue as our confusion about morality. So one double standard is that even the most hard headed scientists do use a totally different standard, and so they give you analogy here. If you take something like physics says that the prototypical case of some one shows up at a physics conference with his cock, a maybe view of physics that can't be integrated with standard physics, if someone wants to argue for a bit
Local physics, a bad person just doesn't get invited back to the conference, and this is there's no burden upon mainstream physics to incorporate that view into physics, and no one would be tempted to say, on the basis of you know what the finding people to think that there that the earth is flat or they've invented some.
Perpetual motion machine or whatever it is no one takes those claims seriously and
and so it is with medicine. If someone came to a hospital or into a medical school and said you listen, I have a totally different conception of human Health and it entails
vomiting continuously and being in continuous pain and then dying soon. That's my as how I'm I'm gonna define health the year that its persons working with a conception of health that doesn't matter to us and for good reason. There are obviously controversies in science and those are debated
even for decades, and sometimes they overturned or are standard conception of of what is true, but the radical skepticism it with respect it. Maybe there's no such thing as science right and maybe there's no such thing as true
that doesn't continually undermine our conversation, whereas with Marie
how it does, and so, when you, when you find,
and another group, the hay
then by a totally divergent moral code. A group like I
let us say so you don't ISIS thinks that the best,
to do, is: kill apostates, kill, blasphemers, throw homosexuals from rooftops take sex life,
waves and didn t even best case, die in for the prince
of doing all this in an act of martyrdom right. This is their conception.
Life well lived and people look at them.
In the west and
a well educated over educated people with Phds and people who people who are have careers as rang right people who, for whom thinking
about what is good and right and beautiful in a western context. That is their job. They look at this diversity of opinion and they say well. Who are we to say that this is wrong? All we can say is that we don't want to live that way, but is it me as mere preference, and then this gets connected to a decision
rip do notion of how we got here. I like it when you look at how our moral tool kit has evolved the work. We are social primates that have
our morality, anchored to certain emotions like discussed and jealousy end and a capacity for empathy and and we look at these evolve capacities, and we say what it does nothing about the process that got us here that is causing us to track anything
substance about due to the way the world is we're not in touch with reality when work, moralising, we're just apes with preferences, and so these these two things that lead the fact of moral diversity,
the fact that much of our moralities anchored to these evolved a fish tendencies. Those two things
have led many many smart people to believe that there's no there. There there's no truth with respect of right and wrong ungoodly, but by presenting the ISIS case that you ve started with the state of the art could logically implication of of moral relativism about most people. Wouldn't when start that there would say what that protecting, as, for example, if we discuss
a culture in the Amazon Rainforest and have been discovered. We discovered they have certain ways and certain moral preferences and how they run this
society? Who are we to judge and say our western ways, are better but term that kind of them and through policy driven moral relativism as champion by people at Margaret Mead, becomes quickly a kind of an absurd position. While you can't say that objectively
ISIS. His views are wrong. That's just that culture we consider wrong or we can do is- is fight them young, but I wanted to plant a flag there, because you, you mention Anthropology, which is a,
in which, seventy years ago, in the aftermath of world WAR, two explicitly said is it did the american and anthropological association expire,
simply set when, when the U N, was trying to develop a universal conception of human rights, the Interpol,
Just all lined up and said this can't be done. This is a fool.
There. There is no such thing as universal human rights. They think of how ethically questionable that position is. I guess there's no way to say that your clear directive needs are a bad
say. It's pure delusion. The moment you link morality to
the well being of conscious creatures in general and and and people the impact
I want once you draw the link between human flourishing and morality, which I think is a. I think the link is very direct and we can talk about that, but once you,
Draw that link to say there no right and wrong answers here is tat,
at the same, we will never know anything about human well being, and what would the Dell be knows, human psychology that can tell us the how people flourish, though we know sociology, though we know economic self it? No.
The other discipline that they can give us right and wrong answers, and that's that I think it is wrong. Ok, so what you are saying is that the route from science to morality, as as it were you ve, described ass, a sort of reason based route. There's another route the people might give, which is a sort of an evolution based route to morality, which would say that it's completely credible to believe that apes, and certainly our ancestors evolved a conscience or perhaps multiple conscience.
Is, if you like, my instincts that guided behaviour which turned out to be really helpful for surviving on promoting group collaboration and Anne and so forth, but those instant,
things may be generally good beneficial, but may also be buggy
as we know that so many aspects of our psychology is just odd. I could maybe
fine tune for life a few million years ago. It's definitely runs into all kinds of lectures
the wherein now, and I think what are you saying is that this
this incredibly important agenda, of applying reason to these stop point instincts that we have- and this of course is where it gets, gets really hard
People do in John John Height spoken at TAT, has argued in other there, these different moral engines, Guyana, people, some people, can much more about fairness or about happiness. Others care more about.
Out honour or about purity or about justice, and I think you want to argue that you can. You can use the tools of reasons to bridge this gap says not fundamentally divisible chasms that that can't be breached right yeah was there too
separate projects here. The two ways in which science can way and on the question of morality, one is to help us descriptive. We understand how we got here, and that is an evolutionary story. That is a story get if took talking about ourselves in terms of our history, as as social primates and
observing as a matter of psychology and sociology and every other discipline that can be brought to bear on this, that people have emotions and intuitions and various cultures,
have norms which everyone involved claim have some
then to do with morality right so there's a feeling of disgust that people have and idiotic. Clearly it's it's ancient origin is is to be anchored to things like smells and tastes, and it protects the the organism from near the chest.
Just pollution. But then, as we ve evolved. It is this. What we haven't evolve any
new hardware, and so what we have built in
terms of our morality and our norms and our sense of their violation is anchored to this same circuitry.
Now discussed, is doing a lot of work in the moral domain and the political domain and and is even die either. I, as is
Sumner Imaging work. I did early on shows that the same circuits in this case did the insula in the brain are working to differentiate, just truth and falsity, so that that, when you find a statement to be false, it seems to activate the same network and they based on culture. This can play out in very different ways. You can find cultures where people
fine certain things disgusting, which seem completely arbitrary to us right, an end, therefore wrong and
it, when we find other things discussed and said to take this down to something like food preference, there are cultures that eat dogs and we find this absolutely disgusting right, and you know many of us. He cows, the Hindus, find that absolutely disgusting and in a sacrilegious,
So clearly we can't to talk about the ultimate wrongness of eating cows or dogs. The conversation can't begin and end at what people find disgusting right here you what you want to say it should be possible to make progress on
By bringing a Hindu and Westerner together are nets, let's have a conversation and look at what is actually at stake here, who's being reasonable, who isn't unsafe, see if we can't change those feelings and probably everyone. This income can think things that they were discussed at one point that they may be
did on over time, but but, but more generally, I want to make the claim that there is. There is another project which is just in principle. It is just as scientific as the first project of telling an evolutionary story of how we got here, and this project is to talk about what is possible for us. What one states of conscious well being
are possible. Given the kinds of minds we have and given the kinds of mines we can some day have based on changes, whether cultural or
pharmacological or genetic or Budapest or with neural transplants, are implants. We integrate our minds with technology, who knows what state of consciousness or on offer what
or is on offer, I completed science of the human mind would be able to tell us just how good it is possible to feel
the truth about, as will be known scientifically, ultimately right, say that, just as a scientifically minded group of explorers could embark on a journey through a new landscape and try
figure out the smart way too, to navigate it using measurement
reason and discussion among them. So a group of reasonable humans could never get the more landscape and and figure out new possibilities better peaks, as it were, that we might term aspire to that's a beautiful sounding project, an uncertain convincing in or to too many people, but it runs into this this problem quite sooner in practice, which is that, from this stop point you are putting,
self onto a springboard where you can basically sound for want of a better, morally superior. You, you will say in all Muslims. Your book is sick and promotes violence, and it provokes this really strong reaction among people that you that you are. You are being discriminatory, you, you know you are being in some cases, even if his being racist speak up because of the strength of which people here these views expressed. How
could you persuade someone who's not in your world right now that these ideas for them and therefore all humans are not just for you
What is it possible? Edge, yellow well, first exercise that, despite how undiplomatic
I can be on this topic and end of seemingly.
On pragmatic and even a nap in communicating these ideas in a way that people can hear them. People's minds,
changed all the time and even in the most extreme case, I did I hear from fundamentalist former fundamentalist Christians or former fundamentalist Muslim, the value people who have described themselves as this close to being jihadists. I've heard from these people and met them in person whose my
have been changed by a totally uncompromising and tone, deaf and even apparently callous criticism of there
believes so it is a myth to say that some one can't be reasoned out of a position they weren't reasoned into certain right. That's just simply untrue. People through them
The hammer blow of reason, all the time come out of their their dogmatism in their poorly considered. Views in Islam is from whatever
reason, especially politicized, and you reap a whirlwind of criticism in as a on the left politically for pointed out. It's it's obvious issues
whereas Christianity. If we on the left you can, I can criticise fundamental Christianity all day and will win plaudits from people on the left. But the moment that turns
Islam people worry that this is somehow discriminatory or- and that's that's just the doublespeak
and we have to notice because it makes no sense and that the issue is that all we have is human conversation by which to orient ourselves to these quest
Indeed, it is the most important questions in human life are questions we have to be able to talk about
we have a very large proportion of humanity that assain ok, these questions, these most important questions, how to live, how to cause your children to live, and what to do,
I, for these are questions that we are not willing to talk about rationally. These are questions of upon which we have a book that was dictated by the creator, the universe for whom we have no evidence.
Which is, will be sacred until the end of the world. The book can't be edited, and all that's left for us to do now is to decide how
completely. We will be in an enslaved by the content of this book and, if you say anything about this project that is disparaging or even sceptic
I will consider you my enemy right, that's where we live, and it's completely insane
If it is it is, it is as though we were living in a world where people were doing this with the place of Shakespeare, or that they are
or the Iliad in the odyssey. That's how perverse
and at random. It is evidently also its improve its appropriate due to lose patience with the status quo. So this is such an interesting topic to men and some on think about this. A lot and tabs attacks in terms of ten speakers come to the TED stage that the coming to try to persuade people on something often
sometimes as efforts succeed brilliantly and sometimes they fail and sometimes when they feel they fell for unexpected reasons, not because the present said anything that wasn't
through a set of reason in one way that, because they do things that provoked unintentionally, a sort of a defensive ray
should it in the audience of communication, didn't happen. I guess my question to you is: let's say that your project essentially is this. It is spread the good name of more progress to the world how'd you
that said that that does reason which has one way in which humans persuade each other but term most people suppress.
Reason as their main listening tool and listen to all things are impact by their emotions are infected by when they trust someone in impacted by whether they feel there is a connection there. I just wonder whether there is a discussion is more like a technical discussion about how you would do best to persuade people who aren't westerners, say, aren't liberal westerners, whatever that you are our right and that, yes, there may be some people who you have persuaded his completely abandoned
their faith, for example, and come over to a different, but that may I think there may also be many other people. I could be right or wrong about this. We haven't got a survey but who that they ve heard you they ve had the tone of some of what you said:
and rather than being persuaded, they react against it because it has sounded scorn for or disrespectful is, is that it is at a danger he well first. I would point out that a person's capacity to be offended the feeling of offence is not an hour
you meant, and it's not a virtue right. It's not that this is a. We all have this thing and in many people it is functioning like it is some kind of a pistol, a logical principle right like that like it's. This is this is how I am going to do
judge the correctness of a view. I'm going to react to it instantly right.
So if I say to you well, there is good reason to believe that.
Men and women differ biologically. I even start with the uterus and- and you start counting from there and the more science studies us and sex differences. We have discovered that this extends to human psychology and human ability, cognitive abilities and and interests and see start linking those sentences together. People begin to get uncomfortable,
right, the discomfort isn't evidence of anything they neither did. I not by its had been true righto current
evidence, but it, but it is real
and the de facto impact that may be that you lose part of your audience again:
so I'm staying here, but the point to make is that we have a project to collect collectively, seven billion of us. We have a project to
get more and more people more of the time did become sensitive to
can't live in emotional reactions that are making conversation and clear thinking.
Impossible right, and this is one of them. This is it did this to the feeling you get like. I don't like the way this sounds
say, logical error to move from that feeling to the feeling that this counts as evidence against the visa process. So let's agreed that that's a logical error, but it might also still
be a technical error by you is the only way to put it that much greater that affairs short. What were if you in others, if, if you could make the case a different way,
why wouldn't you will I do I make it it depending on the situation. I make it every which way- and I am certainly not approve
a tour, I'm not saying the offensive,
just to get a rise out of people and is everything I say is sincere. It's not I'm not giving it the top spin. That makes it
less accurate, because I know I'm gonna get arise out of people. In any case, I think that it is their enough people
who are meal, the arrests, enough people who are bending over backwards to not offend.
On these topics and what we need are more and more people to say. Listen week. We can all we can all be a little thicker skinned than that and were pay a price for political correctness were pay a price for not being totally straight, and it is just a fact that route it just to talk about the narrow subject here, but this applies to everything
everything is polarizing. It is a fact that we are paying an immense
and generally unacknowledged and I would argue totally unnecessary price for respecting this concept of revelation.
This is the idea that any one of our books he has in origin.
That is not merely human and that the moment you put a little pressure on that believe.
You're already in in the territory of deeply offending billions of people, so that's troops pellets. So let me tell you a story about my own set of engagement with both religion and Islam. Server intersects with us about- and I was I was- my parents are missionaries. I grew up in Pakistan and Afghanistan in our group, as fundamentalist christian boarding Unchristian. Your believed that term that Microsoft determined whether I gotta have an how my father was in Pakistan for many years, in the belief that unless he could persuade Muslims to to accept Christ, that they were gonna, have the stairs drove his whole approach to life and he was
in his own by these measures are deeply moral persons that are making money in the west. He was out. There is a pauper trying to persuade people of this belief. Over many years here, my mother got to know, met many muslim families at much greater depth and am something kind of surprising happened. They they found that many of them were deeply speritual, unshared lot of the sort of consent
and they did they they had. You know they were concerned for the poverty they saw around them. They ve never sleep in a sacrifice for that
families and late. They worked hard and their incredibly hospitable and spent from the sense of said of the quest for something deeper themselves. They found a connection to him and surely solely in his views, shifted to believing that actually Muslims and Christians quite probably wash the same gorgeous by different names and with differ
And said, o them accompanying beliefs, but it was a monumental chef for someone who started from where he started and his his conversations with Muslims,
He could go a very long way by starting from a position of respect of of emphasising the things that the things that were there. So what I guess my question to you is that, because you I hear what you said. I I believe what you say about your your sincerity. You out you're very, very passionate about what you believe what people sometimes here is a way
the ring scorn his very effectively and your TED talk. I picked up one one on you made about millions of muslim women being trapped in cloth bags, and if you say that, as opposed to a different way of interpreting, let you get because headed like I'm, your trapped in a cloth bag around my body for different reasons. If, if, if there was a different story, that said look that there are so many things are extraordinary about your tradition and your religion
This is up with this, unless they, this is emphasis on compassion on hospitality. Many many Muslims spend so much for the nice trying to figure out how to make the world a better place than not focused on the stories of around violence and so forth that are part of the Quran, but arguably open to different interpretation. If you stop from a different point, don't you have a better chance of persuading the silent majority of Muslims to take you seriously and to want to be,
Part of the solution, as opposed to provoking them to stay outside a meme coming in defend, reject an entity to suit of clothes. You out, and you should make some one could argue that you make life harder for moderate Muslims because of that sort of feeling of scorn for the whole enterprise right
was at first he eats never its virtually. Never that I'm I'm communicating scorn for people its ideas that I am criticising and what you what you talked about with ear you your family's experience in Pakistan and Afghanistan. None of that is surprising to me with it. There's that just a deeper principle here that
that, would they were human beings where what we are by and some basic level running the same software and culture is laid on top of that. But we just we have a deeper psychological capacity for empathy and ethically
gauge meant and even spiritual insight, and I dont shy away from this concept of spirituality of I can. I do consider myself a very spiritual person. As you know, I ve spent a lot of time practicing meditate
I've spent all told some years on silent, meditation retreats and I think that they contemplative life is something that we have only begun to think about in western scientific, rational terms, and it is a part of the spectrum of human
experience that, I think, is undoubtedly there and worth understanding culturally. The problem is that the respect for tradition and in particular the respect for revelation, keeps us balkan Ized into these separate moral communities that do have irreconcilable differences, and so you, you pointed to the possibility
Christians and Muslims have any kind of rapprochement around very we both worshipped the same God. You can't play that game with Hindus right. It is likely that the Christian that the bridge from chris-
Janet Hinduism only runs in one direction. Hindus can say well, Jesus is just an avatar vishnu, but the Christians can't look at Hinduism with a multiplicity of gods,
thousands of God's, many of whom have been the most garish fictional monstrosities? From the point of view of Christianity, you ve got people worshipping monkeys like Connemara or Gourbi elephant headed gods like an ash. None of that makes any sense. Its is all understood in a context of car
mon rebirth? That also makes no sense, somebody's right in somebody's wrong and somebody's going to hell right, if you believe these things and
there's no reason, we should find ourselves in this circumstance for centuries more right that it makes and where we- and we would just don't- have the luxury of waiting for centuries to change our views on these, but sometimes people like us off outside and and other similar criticise region. It is they that they see they sound as if that come into it, as if religion was a belief like say belief that Jupiter is the biggest planet. That was that someone if they were
swayed or shown how ridiculous an idea that was would would abandon it and possibly miss. But what can I want? What actually happened that does have no one is that it can happen, but it's it's had. I think it's a deeper thing that you're trying to overcome. I mean as someone who grew up religious, what it's not just a belief. It's it's a relationship, you not to let go of a belief in God is worse than getting divorced, it sort of like it. So it's a relationship with what you believe to be some one. You ve had connection with your whole life and dumb, and so when I
I think in coming critiques of it. Yes, in that there is a discussion to have her unreason, but it's also it feels like you know, your core identity is being attacked. I think one when that happens to humans a whole other set of defence mechanisms come into
I am, I guess what I wonder is. Let's say we agreed that a world where religion did not play the
dominant rather than it does now was, could be a better world. How did you get that? It might not be a head on assault on religion? It might be like feel if it what's happened of Christianity. Four hundred years ago, Christianity was at least as violent is the most extreme aspects of of Islam. Today and gradually most Christians have just downplayed those interpretations of the Bible. Those arguments in other people espousing them have Pavlovsk was people most people don't need as coherent and consistent a worldview is, as you need. Another
Second, I feel like I I need most people are able to embrace an element of contradiction and to say you know, I love the traditions here and I believe in some of the core ideas of of religion, even with Hinduism Christians and Hindus can unite on certain things. I can you you're, unite
and the idea that life is about more than shopping here. It's about you know the x
in a mystery and wonder in the divine and the pursuit of pets,
It is all around us. Gods are all around us, those two things that have to be that different. They can agree on compassion as as luck as a core operating system value. I would argue it's possible that an approach that said I love that about your religion, that that is at the heart of it and that you do that. I'm uncomfortable with this. How you know, can we talk about that? But but it starts from a position of respect for, if we vote for what is good and and arguably the single biggest thing that religions do, that fundamentally plays to the moral world you want is that they have persuaded billions of people that they should pursue the interests of others,
over themselves and that that I think, is the hardest thing that the abandonment of religion hasn't really handled. Yet. Is that by saying in all those rules that matter anymore, find yourself folly or passion be or thing we haven't inspired enough people yet to say as a core part of that by the way? Don't just leave yourself. What I think the need is to be able to talk about the most important questions in
human life without losing our connection to one another, and we are not playing that game. Well, we need to be able to hear people out. We need to be able to reason about everything, because reasoning is
the only thing that scales it's the only way of talking about a problem which stands the chair
and of being Universalism its it, it's the end this. Why
identity. Politics is clearly a dead end. It can't be that this thing is import
and the whole world needs to take it on board, because you are you or because you have the color of skin, that you do right by accident it whatever this thing is, whenever this gonna going to relate to our building a durable, cosmopolitan, pluralistic future together. This thing has to
be true and important, because its touching the way the world is for everyone on some animal s is tat. Tat touching
some Universalism principle of human psychology in human flesh,
machine and economics or whatever it is and are religious provincialism doesn't do that are in
compatible claims about revelation, don't do that are the mere accidents of birth and skin, color and gender. Don't do that, and so we need we
can we have to be able to reason as human beings very much in in the style of others. So to take you John rules for a second, we had this brilliant thoughts, experiment, which is that it was called the veil of ignorance.
Or the original position where he met he asked to imagine organised
a society such that, yet we figure out what we think are a of just and fair arrangements between people, but we did this from behind a veil of ignorance. Were we
I know who we're going to be in that society, and this is able a starting position where you then could imagine that
whoever whoever you are, whether you're a NEO Nazi or a black person or or a Muslim or an atheist
wherever you are not knowing
who you're going to be in this society. This is a high risk that could allow people to converge on principles of fairness
without them having to roared out their differences. In France, from
they'll. You could have a recent discussion about what would be the limits of inequality in a society. What be the fundamental rights that you,
We want a very minimum to happen, and I know if your ego high
he were low. I q, you don't know you don't know where you where you will fall right and- and this is a principle that generally I think, as is unacknowledged- that we have to spend much more time acknowledging, which is that so much of this comes down to lock me limp
some people are so much luckier than other people, you're lucky to be born in the right place at the right time to the right parents with the right put the economic opportunities and all of those switches can be tackled in the other direction, and you have none of that.
And through no fault of your own at is a massive lottery, and so much of what will make the future better is for us to care about the most shocking disparities in in luck and correct for them collectively, and that generals in conversation seems like a beautiful thing. Imagining that that people just using the tools of set of them in a reason of Venice and discussion among them it you could. You could come up to certain basic fundamentals of authority, for example like a since you have that discussion. Everyone puts basic health care and education right at the highest of saying that a society. Of course you know what would we do to see what you would, what matter the minimum to give us a chance to lend them an undue can build on many other things will adopt it
and didn't the tragedy of the present seems to be that certain discussions seem to get shut down before they can even start with the lines that you can't say that to me, because of who you are and who I am
which would have energy politics yon is it? Is it our agri food? That is its a treasure? Have this picture? Have you sort of two different audiences f, in the view of some and speaking, to rights in others, annoyance that here's the speaker and that the people are out what
chicken. That of their eyes are open and their arms are open and their excite in their listening and then
The authority and what they ve heard, something that means. Oh, I don't know about you, therein, protection mode. I think there are strategies to promote this revision of the opening of the arms and another listening and one of yes question, I guess, is whether we should we start every conversation when there are different identity groups involved with someone
recognition of the biggest concerns of the other group, I wonder whether that saying that we need to spend more time on what I think there are tricks, as you say that are very useful and that we are paying a terrible price were not remain
brain enough, so that one that's not gonna trackless couldn't wise, wise Maxine
but if is just only it's, it's me something like so many of these arguments occur with
each side, straw man in the other racy, take the worst version of your opponents view one that he here. She can't what wouldn't sign off on
and you attack that and that right heartily and persuasive what we need is the opposite of this notion of steel man, in which it is now a term of jargon among us where you what you you, you prop up the best possible version of the opponents view which they with won't not find fault with right. Let me just give them into summarize what I think you think, and then what you put into that place is perfect
that's the way to start one of these debates right right now, that's what it, but it's an amount to add one more tweet took up sandwiches, which is not just that's the way you think even before that is. This is the way that you feel and our young. I think I think feelings are so fragile right now the people want that recognition. First, almost feel that
more human connection, intellectual connection here, although I would say that this dichotomy between
reason and emotion or the intellect and and feeling that is, is a bit of another one of these myths,
is certainly the case. Neurologically and, I would say, is generally not the case expire.
Angela me when I am in the none of this, is divorced from the motion for me. You like what I'm talking to like it, so that first TED talk I gave for you where I was talking about either the Moreland.
Eight and how science can understand human values, and I mean I'm a spotlight character? I actually almost burst into tears at one moment, I'm talking about honour killing and I then
I ask you to imagine what it's like to be. A father who believes that that
the family, honour and male honour is so predicated on the sexual purity of the girls in the family that, when he has it, when his daughter gets raped, what he's moved to do is to kill her out of shame right. So that would just by stating that example,
virtually burst into tears, so I'm reasoning in a cold and calculating way about what is written,
What is wrong in the power of ideas? But this is all united. This is all
just just say, a neuron away from a very energy
and feeling laden contest but button. But if your audience hadn't been there
I wouldn't say, but had been an audience, including service, an audience in an islamic country. There is an edit too that talk that could have made it much more effective which, to start by saying what I and
stand the the beauty and the idea of honor. I understand that you come from a tradition where family values at a deeply respected, where you want you want to celebrate the purity of Mars. You dont want people engaging in widespread infidelity. You look at what is happening in the western, your horrified by what you see your horrified by the movies. You see, you don't want your society to be like that.
That those? I understand the beauty of that, but and then from there you go, but you can't go from there to the horror of why killing. In fact, I did sort of make that point even in their talk, but this is a point I do make.
It's not it's not hard to see
the merit in the the criticism of western superficiality and materialism and blindness to what is sacred or possibly sacred about our appearance. Here we have done a bad job, as you say in secular,
culture, particularly in the west, in value in
something more than just great,
to find one desire after the next and so is a key
all be a matter of getting nice tastes on your
tongue and bind the most expensive watch. You can afford right.
Yet clearly, we need a deeper and truly universal, sizeable conversation about what is most profound and what is and what is possible here- and I again I just keep this is
This is where a I have to draw the line and have to be an uncompromising. I think the idea that we will get to a good place by sea
Billy. Reducing our adherence to these irreconcilable claims, a revelation like getting Christians and Muslims and Jews to be just a little bit less fundamentalists. More of the time that that is the that incremental effort is the endgame. I think that is clearly untrue, because the problem is there's and asymmetry here, there's an advantage to fundamentalism, always because one when you go back to the books, the books never tell you to be a moderate
They never tell you that the problems with fundamentalism and fundamentalism can always be rebooted by just merely adhering to the tax and there's some.
In more honest about it, and this again is it. This is where, where there's
asymmetry within every one of these traditions, where the fundamentalist or on firmer ground the illogically than the moderates, the liberals, because they can always say listen. I just want to know what the book says. I just wanna one honest adherence to what is here on the page and what that gets you his intolerable right. You have to be doing some advanced, not entirely straightforward, casuistry with the book to edit out the bad parts. Somebody pulled back to two m almost to the stop point of your position in your stop. Point comes from recognising that tell all that matters are things that happened to sentient beings and its if an ETA moves here and that the universe, no big deal if something suffers or enjoy something that that matters
That's the anchoring view of them of the position so that spend about his statement about consciousness. Your arm and yet consciousness. I think- and you obviously in mine is, is the one big
being that we know about that science. So far, has some miserably fail to give a really compelling explanation of, I would say so. If you ve got you ve got a view that you could. Science can get you to a set of irrational view of of right and wrong of morality does anchored in a story about certain that science really content, explain how had it? How do you think about that?
is that term? Is that a paradox Ashby at were eight. I, as you know, I'm one of these people who believes there is a so called hard problem of consciousness. Tat consciousness is, unlike anything else, we attempted to study or understand scientifically and is simply a fact that the only evidence or consciousness in the universe is our direct experience of consciousness itself. But the flip side of that is that consciousness is the one thing they can't be an illusion.
This is the one thing we can be mistaken about consciousness, whatever it is exists. I think that, for I am a national, a out of us every MRS Amy, I think they card might have meant something very close to this, but consciousness is deeper. Then then thought is at an end,
DE the I am part is also fishy, because I think that the self is is an illusion. The self has a construct, there's no stable, unchanging self carried over from one moment to the next summer. Something fails, therefore something
as yet there is, there is something seems to be happening, and that ceiling is what we mean by consciousness. So, even if
You know you were not actually do in a pot gas now in your does dreaming that we are even if we're just brains and bad if we're in the matrix, if we could be radically confused about everything, but whatever this. This seeming is that the fact that the lights are on that is consciousness. The fact that there is a qualitative character to our appearance here too being and that some systems have it and and probably some systems, don't write and even some parts of the brain habit in some parts of the brain. Don't that is mysterious, but that the fact that this that is so is the one thing that isn't open to any
possible doubt and that's answer that say it is a kind of paradox because is the one thing: it is the thing that is doing all the understanding we dont understand consciousness, but unless something appears in consciousness it isn't an empirical data em too, to be taken into account at all. Is. Is there any hope that in the next ten years say that we make material progress and understanding consciousness and has been the riddle for thousands of years? It feels like in some ways that they can be dramatic new data points over the next decade as the machines we build start to exhibit what looks very much like
conscious behaviour? Do you think? That's gonna forces us to make decisions in a like the decision on whether the things we create our conscious or not, that this huge implications of that do, you think, will be autumn make a wise decision about that. A war that has remained impossibly impenetrable were, I think, several things might occur in there and it matters which universe we find ourselves in. I think it is its hugely consequential that we might be old, conscious machines. We therefore machines that can suffer and machines. It can experience wellbeing and perhaps suffer unimaginably horribly in ways that we don't understand or our experience well being that that exceeds our own. That ethically
is of enormous importance. It's either either in certain cases you could imagine it being the most ethically consequential thing that has ever happened in the universe that we could build simulated worlds that are essentially hell, realms and populate them with conscious mind. You know that would be the worst possible thing we could do it in and it would be
I should point out give us the same moral stature as the God of the Bible.
Or the Koran we get, even if he exists, as believers believe he does, which is to say this is a completely psychopathic thing to do, is to create a hell and populated. So it matters. If that's the case, if that's possible- and it certainly matters if we stumble into that circumstance- not knowing we ve even done it right so like we wouldn't want to do that on purpose, we would want to create hell on purpose and yet as possible that we could do it inadvertently, given it just the physics of things. What I think is quite likely and pretty undesirable from my point of view, is that we could lose sight of this being an interesting problem
In the first place, we could build machines that seem conscious, seem so credibly, conscious to us far in advance of our understanding what consciousness is at the level of information processing. Our machines will all be passing. The turing test will feel in relationship helplessly inroad thrust into relationship with them, though, make the right facial expressions will what will design them this way of, because will want to interact
with machines, at least in certain circumstances that make us feel like we're relationship with another person and it'll just be obvious to us that are in a robot servant is conscious because it seems so and if we don't know where it is a perfect disjunction here we could build systems that are not conscious but seem conscious, and we could build systems that don't seem conscious at all, because we haven't built the interface
for them to seem so, but they affect our conscious, perhaps get. Google is suffering right now. The only objective information processing, this guy
on an and its in well at the dismal nature of other search is that people are typing into it wishes that the input could be better the rabies it's hard to tell that concerns seriously, but but something like that is certainly possible summit Fit VIC, because, precisely because, where buildings machines making them more powerful at some point, we will have to make an effort to put human values into them. So we can have to decide what those values are and even, if you just look at it from that standpoint, its history or your work is incredibly important to me, and it is these questions incredibly hard resolve, but at some point were building things. That
need to operate based on some kind of moral code, and so we have to bring more people into this conversation. We have to figure out and have to try and figure out who have having at the polls in as many people as possible in a collaboratively and constructively and get past this horrible moment in history.
Truth is nothing reason is nothing and it's all is well justified,
yeah, it's. This is philosophy on a deadline, and this is what this is. One of the the silver linings to the risk here is that
in force to build our values into technology, that's becoming more powerful than we are, will force us to
ignore the academic quibbles here and acknowledge that there are better and worse answers to moral questions and to just take self driving cars as one example
this again, is it it's a near term examples already here: it's a engineering problem that we have to solve, and then the question is
moral, biases and intuitions. Do you want to build into your robot cars? Do you want cars? That
run over white people preferentially because of all the white privilege in the world. Do you want cars that put the drivers or the path
passengers lie that some greater risk. If we're talking about it
trolley problem, where it's, what the one versus the five or the one versus the tent one childless Israel people exactly said so and to not answer these questions is to answer them. One other way by default either make your car blind to the differences between people or you make it sensitive to the differences in so there you eat a force choice. I think people have different intuitions about what
but the right answers are here, but clearly there are wrong answers and are clearly answered it and some of the traditional answers that you would get from religion like Islam, for instance. I would bet
be judged wrong even by a majority of Muslims, when this technology has to come on line for everyone an and if they are judged wrong by a majority of Muslims, that's maybe a an indication that people off
capable of euro reasoning across across in a long held. This is done Athens over this is again. This is- and this has happened, as you pointed out, to Christianity in a very effective way and Christianity. If you create the credit, we're not tending to meet the Christians of the fourteenth century anymore, and that's because of what Sir
scientific rationality and secular politics and humanism and capitalism, and just modernity and general has done to Christianity and, to some degree the disparity was he?
twin Christianity and Judaism, and Islam now is because Islam is a much is a vast religion them. It is it's nearly two billion people and much of the muslim world has not suffered the same centuries. Long collision with modernity or in the collision suffering now is occurring over much short,
the timeframe and without many of the same social and economic benefits being spread to these societies, and so where we have to.
The end game in view the endgame has to be a viable global civilisation that is pluralistic, cosmopolitan, tolerant of difference.
And yet convergent on the same answers to the most important questions in life. We can't be radically tolerant of difference. These ideas are for everyone, not for one group, for everyone under your you're, ready to fight for their rights and try it out. Some it's been absent,
fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for all your time here and I wish you the best,
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Transcript generated on 2020-03-23.