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.”
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.