NYU Launches Mind, Ethics, and Policy Program


New York University (NYU) has created a new program to support research and outreach on “the nature and intrinsic value of nonhuman minds, including biological and artificial minds.”

The “Mind, Ethics, and Policy” program is directed by Jeff Sebo and has a team of affiliated faculty from across the university.

On its website, the program elaborates on its central concerns and questions:

At present, the world contains quintillions of nonhuman animals. Human activity is increasingly shaping the lives of these animals, by determining whether they can exist and what kinds of lives they can have if they do. And in the future, nonhuman populations might be much larger, and might include advanced artificial intelligences as well. These trends raise important questions at the intersection of mind, ethics, and policy. Which nonhumans are conscious, sentient, and sapient? What kind of moral, legal, and political status should they have? How can humans build a positive future for the vast multiplicity of potentially morally significant beings who might one day exist? These questions, in turn, require us to confront some of the hardest problems in science, philosophy, and policy. What is the nature of consciousness? Can we have knowledge about other minds? Can we make welfare comparisons across species? What do we owe members of other nations, generations, species, and substrates? Our aim is to advance understanding of the consciousness, sentience, sapience, moral status, legal status, and political status of nonhumans—biological as well as artificial—in a rigorous, systematic, and integrative manner. We intend to pursue this goal via research, teaching, outreach, and field building in science, philosophy, and policy.

The program will be putting on various events and is currently accepting applications for an award and workshop on animal and AI consciousness.

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Alex Bryant
7 days ago

Is this an undergraduate degree program/stream? An office? Not clear what’s happening here from the write-up, though it sounds interesting!Report

Jeff Sebo
Reply to  Alex Bryant
7 days ago

Thanks Alex! This program will focus mostly on research and outreach initially. Year one goals include producing a research agenda, launching a few research projects, and hosting some talks and a few larger events (including the early-career award and workshop listed on the site). At present there are no plans to offer a degree or certificate, though we do want to support and engage with students via awards, events, reading / working groups, and research / speaking / writing opportunities. We might also consider a degree or certificate program in the future, but I want to see how these initial activities go first.Report