ICRA 2009 Roboethics Workshop

The goal of the Workshop is to enhance a cross-cultural debate on the recent development in the fields of Roboethics. It intends to identify and discuss sensitive area in Robotics, such as the study of how social, political, and cultural values affect robotics research and robotics application t society. And how the latter in turn affects society, politics, and culture, starting from the assumption that science and technology are socially embedded. Contribution are welcome on the ethical, legal and societal aspects of the following topics.

Economy: Replacing humans in the workplace; Robotics and job market; Cost benefit analysis; Transparency and public consensus; Robots as things; Remote control and cooperation in the workplace.

Psychology: Position of humans in the control hierarchy; Robots and kids; Robots and elderly, disabled and ill people; Robotics in Education.

Law: Robots and liability; Identification of autonomously acting robots; Position of humans in the control hierarchy; Biometric data processing by intelligent systems; Multi-agent decision making.

Health: Robotics in surgery; Robotics in health care and prosthesis; Connecting the human brain to robots; Bionics for enhancing humans. Military application of robotics: Advantages and Risks; Autonomous systems and responsibility in warfare; International Conventions and Laws.

Environment: Underwater robotics noise pollution; Cleaning nuclear and toxic waste; Decommissioning plants; Using renewable sources of energy; Space trash collection.

Technical Dependability: Availability; Reliability; Safety; Security.




café sci floripa



Parallel Paths?

By: Michael Haederle 

Every few years since 1987, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and his senior monks have met with a select group of distinguished neurologists, psychologists and other Western scholars to discuss the latest research into the neuroscience of meditation and the mind-body connection. The gatherings, organized by the Mind & Life Institute, explore the common ground between science and Buddhism, a 2,400-year-old tradition with roots in ancient India. These gatherings have spawned popular books and helped lay the groundwork for the burgeoning study of how Buddhist teachings illuminate the workings of the mind.

It’s hard to imagine a similar collaboration between scientists and, say, a group of priests or rabbis – or any other adherents of divinely inspired faiths, for that matter. Yet it is somehow taken for granted that Buddhism, a tradition conspicuously lacking a creator deity, meshes nicely with science and its impersonal natural laws.

Or does it? In Buddhism & Science: A Guide for the Perplexed, Donald Lopez observes that Western scholars and Asian Buddhists have taken turns proclaiming the compatibility of science and Buddhism for some time now – more than 150 years, in fact. “The claim that an itinerant teacher of Iron Age India understood the theory of relativity, quantum physics or the big-bang theory (each of which has been asserted) would seem to be preposterous,” Lopez writes. “Yet such claims have been made for more than a century, substituting whatever is regarded as the most advanced scientific knowledge of the day as a component of the Buddha’s enlightenment.”

This pattern has more to do with the mutual agendas of Asians and Western converts than with any true similarity between the scientific and Buddhist traditions, Lopez contends: “Asian Buddhists have argued for the compatibility in order to validate their Buddhism. European and American enthusiasts and devotees have argued for the compatibility in order to exoticize Science, to find it validated in the insights of an ancient Asian sage.”

Lopez admits he is no scientist, and he won’t grapple with speculation that Buddhist concepts of impermanence and emptiness somehow presaged the strange, subatomic realm of quantum physics, where virtual wave-particles wink in and out of existence.

A professor of Buddhist and Tibetan studies at the University of Michigan, Lopez is a historian conversant with how Buddhism has been practiced at different times and places. Unsurprisingly, he disdains a “Buddhist modernism” that strips the Buddha’s teachings from the cultural matrix in which they have been presented for centuries.

Varied Buddhisms, Varied Buddhas

Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, wandered the plains of northern India as early as the sixth century B.C., although scholars now think he probably died around 400 B.C., nearly a century later than the traditional dates. The sutras portray him as deeply affected by the problem of suffering; he is said to have practiced arduous meditation for six years before reaching enlightenment at age 35. He spent his remaining 45 years teaching legions of students, and as his dharma spread throughout Asia, a bewildering array of practices and beliefs grew up, reflected today in the Mahayana schools of East Asia, the Theravadan traditions of Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and the tantric Buddhism of Tibet known as Vajrayana.

These varied “Buddhisms” largely preserved core elements of the Buddha’s teaching, including suffering (dukkha) as the shared human condition and the identification of craving (tanha) as the root of that suffering. The Buddha also taught the universality of impermanence (anicca), the doctrine of “no self” (anatman) – the idea that things have no abiding identity – and cause and effect (karma). Cool and analytical, the concepts call to mind modern psychology and philosophical schools like existentialism and phenomenology.

That, at any rate, is how Western scholars and practitioners usually present the Buddha’s story. But, as Lopez reminds us, Asian Buddhists see the Buddha rather differently.

The Asian Buddha has supernatural attributes, starting with a miraculous birth accompanied by celestial fireworks. He consorts with bodhisattvas (those seeking the path to enlightenment), can predict the future, has full knowledge of his past lives and is omniscient regarding this world and everyone in it. By definition, therefore, everything the Buddha says must be true, and his realization is so complete that he is in a perpetual state of perfect enlightenment.

Western scholars somehow transmuted this devotional Asian Buddhism into a thought system so devoid of belief that some argue it isn’t a religion at all. Lopez traces this process back to the early 19th century and the arrival of European colonialists in India, Sri Lanka, China and Japan.

A key figure was Brian Houghton Hodgson, a British envoy to Nepal, who collected Sanskrit manuscripts from a local monk and sent them to Europe for translation. At the time, Europeans knew little about Buddhism, which had died out as a living tradition in the land of its birth some six centuries earlier.

This was the era of the great philologists who mastered ancient Sanskrit and Pali and hypothesized their links to Slavic, Germanic, Celtic, Romance and Hellenic languages in an extended Indo-European linguistic family. When Hodgson’s manuscripts got to Paris in 1837, they were eagerly pored over by Eugène Burnouf, a renowned Sanskritist.

Burnouf’s reading of these texts formed the basis of his Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism, published in 1844. It was a massively influential work, read by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, as well as the American transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Burnouf muted the Buddha’s superhuman characteristics and accentuated his humanity, according to Lopez. Burnouf’s Buddha is a heroic “philosopher,” the epitome of an Enlightenment man.

Even as scholars were idealizing the Buddha in the libraries of Europe, Christian missionaries were trying to convert practicing Buddhists across Asia. They were confident of their religion’s superiority, disparaging Buddhism as little more than rank superstition. But in time, Asian Buddhists started to push back. A Sri Lankan Buddhist monk named Gunananda started publishing anti-Christian pamphlets in 1862. Eleven years later, he debated Buddhist cosmology with a Wesleyan clergyman before a crowd of 5,000, who generally agreed that Gunananda won by pointing out disputes among British scientists regarding Newton’s theories.

A generation later, Soyen Shaku, a Japanese Zen priest who twice visited the United States, would proclaim Buddhism’s compatibility with science: “It is wonderful that Buddhism clearly anticipated the outcome of modern psychological researches at the time when all other religious and philosophical systems were eagerly cherishing dogmatic superstitions concerning the nature of the ego.” Shaku’s disciple, D.T. Suzuki, later played a huge role in popularizing Zen among Westerners.

It’s All Relative, Right?

Just as Buddhism has been viewed differently depending on setting and perspective, science has likewise proved malleable. Nineteenth-century scientists thought in terms of enduring but impersonal natural laws that governed the visible world: gravity, natural selection and thermodynamics. In this era, a comparison with Buddhism’s impersonal karmic law might seem logical enough.

But science morphed from the predictable mechanisms of Newtonian physics to relativity’s mind-bending curved space-time. Today, as scientists plumb the perplexities of string theory, dark matter and multidimensional parallel universes, the orderly Victorian cosmos seems like a comforting childhood memory.

Buddhism-science proponents were undeterred, simply accentuating other Buddhist teachings, like “no self” (or its correlate, “emptiness”), which seemed to resonate with the new science. And so in 1975, physicist Fritjof Capra published The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. Capra’s approach is “not one of proof, but evocation,” Lopez writes scathingly, adding, “One can only assume that he finds a deep comfort in the knowledge that what is newly known was once known long ago.”

Lopez also implicates the Dalai Lama, who has frequently expressed his interest in science and in 2005 even published a book on the subject, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. Although His Holiness sees Buddhism and science as occupying separate but complementary realms (roughly speaking, the spiritual world versus the physical), he “seems to describe a new Buddhism, one that retains compassion as its primary motivation, but adds the discoveries of modern science to the wisdom needed to complete the long path to buddhahood,” Lopez writes.

Buddhists may indeed have to alter their worldview to accommodate modern science, Lopez acknowledges, but he cautions that the baby should not be discarded with the bathwater. “The question,” he writes, “is which Buddhist doctrines can be eliminated while allowing Buddhism to remain Buddhism.”

Lopez’s strengths as a historian – his impressive command of the vast Buddhist literature and his skills at dissecting a text – may contribute to some of his book’s problems. Too often, he assumes an essentialized Buddhism inferred from the sutra texts, rather than acknowledging the myriad ways that Buddhism actually manifests. In this way, he is an unexpected heir to the old Sanskritists.

And while ridiculing old comparisons between Buddhist ideas and now-discredited scientific theories is like shooting ducks in a barrel, many would argue that it is the paths, rather than the content, that are similar.

Lopez would deny even this similarity. Buddhism is profoundly “conservative,” he says, owing more to replicating the Buddha’s original insight as reflected in the sutra teachings than to firsthand experience. But this overlooks the glaring example of Zen, which explicitly rejects reliance on the texts in favor of sustained meditative practice. For Zen practitioners, and Buddhist monastics generally, the path has a see-it-for-yourself quality that at least resembles the trial and error of scientific empiricism.

Lopez barely acknowledges Buddhist converts in the West and in China (where Buddhism was suppressed for 50 years). Many, having rejected traditional faiths, were drawn to “Buddhist modernism” precisely because of its apparent rationality. For these Buddhists, in their own way as “real” as the traditional Asian kind, the perceived compatibility with science circumvents the cognitive dissonance associated with theistic religion – a measure of science’s immense explanatory power.

Lopez briefly discusses research into the neural aspects of Buddhist meditation, made possible by new tools like functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography, but draws no conclusions. He omits mention of how Buddhist meditation is affecting clinical psychology, including the introduction of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Nor does he examine how the Buddhist concept of “no self” may accord with modern neuroscience, which sees the components of consciousness arising in many parts of the brain at once.

The book does a fine job of deconstructing many of the Western myths that have arisen about the Buddhist tradition, but it falls short of being a comprehensive discussion of Buddhism’s relationship to science. It is, nevertheless, a worthwhile introduction to the topic, providing a valuable critical perspective in an area prone to much wishful thinking.



Designer consciousness

Sat, 03/21/2009 – 05:35 – NLN

The spectacular increase in the use of psychiatric drugs over the past
50 years involved what a University at Buffalo historian calls “a
massive break with what we consider ‘normal’ mental health,” one linked
to myriad social and cultural changes in America.

“Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac” (November 2008, Johns
Hopkins University Press), a new book by David Herzberg, Ph.D., UB
assistant professor of history, considers a wide range of psychiatric
medications hailed in pharmaceutical marketing as “wonder drugs” and the
social changes they provoked. Notably, he examines how we came to see
“normalcy” in light of their mood-altering capabilities, and how we
continue to respond to the barrage of drug advertising aimed directly at
consumers. “Patients have always demanded sedatives and stimulants from theirdoctors, who generally obliged them,” Herzberg says, “but after WorldWar II, something new happened. A vast and powerful system of commercial medicine anchored by pharmaceutical companies brought the values and practices of the consumer culture to psychotropic medications.”

He says these values and practices were used to market scores ofprescriptions for the pharmacological treatment of depression, mania, anxiety and a host of other thought, mood and attention disorders, many of which were, at that time, unfamiliar to the general public as common illnesses.

“This system drastically changed the way we viewed normal mental health by dramatizing emotional problems to promote pharmaceutical solutions. As a result the products sold well, made the drugs themselves household names and the conditions they treated part of the public conversation about health,” he says.

“The the real transformation brought about by the cultural celebrity of these drugs, however, is in the political dimension of happiness.” First, he says, medications helped make “happiness” (defined in relatively narrow terms by commercial medicine) an obligation of middle-class citizenship. If, as the marketing assured us, we could be “happy” with pharmaceutical assistance, then the implication is that we should be “happy,” a process has been bemoaned by those who say that we no longer appreciate a broad range of subtle moods.





Meetjohnsong chama a nossa atenção para um projeto musical colaborativo global chamado Playing for Change: Peace through Music “Tocando a Mudança: Paz através da Música”, em uma tradução livre]. O conceito por trás do projeto é o de que a música é um fator comum de agregação entre diferentes culturas, etnicidades e regiões. Os filmes e músicas estarão disponíveis em 2009, e mais informações sobre o projeto podem ser encontradas no site do Playing for Change [En].

O Playing for Change não é apenas sobre fazer e distribuir música. A fundação Playing for Change está construindo e mantendo uma escola de música no vilarejo de Gugulethu [En] e um centro de artes emJohannesburgo, na África, como uma forma de prover oportunidades de crescimento e educação para os jovens das comunidades. Eles também mantém centros para refugiados tibetanos na Índia e no Nepal.

O trailer que mostra a música Stand by Me interpretada por músicos de diferentes partes do globo [En] deu suas primeiras voltas ao mundo há alguns meses como um vídeo viral, e agora está de volta com a história completa de como a música pode apagar fronteiras:




Tive um amigo em Minas Gerais que, compadecido, salvou um leitãozinho de ser devorado na festa máxima da cristandade. O animalzinho, que recebeu o sugestivo nome de Oinc, foi criado por ele e acabou crescendo e habitando a sua casa. Já adulto, era curiosíssimo ver o meu amigo assobiando para chamar o porco, que dormia normalmente na soleira da porta e perambulava pela casa, como se fosse um cachorro.

Oinc tinha por hábito sentar-se à beira da mesa aguardando que lhe fosse atirado algum pedaço de pão ou comida… Imenso, mas não obeso, brincava com as crianças, aguardava ansiosamente a volta do meu amigo (abanando o seu pequeno rabo de alegria assim que ele chegava) e avisava, com guinchos e agitação, a chegada de alguma pessoa estranha. Era acariciado pelas pessoas e gostava disso, e, como qualquer cão, não aceitava o carinho de estranhos. Quando seu dono chegava do trabalho, Oinc corria desengonçado ao seu encontro.

Infelizmente o destino de Oinc não foi feliz. Meu amigo teve de viajar para o exterior, onde permaneceu por mais de dois anos. Cheio de tristeza e saudades, Oinc não suportou a ausência e desenvolveu uma profunda depressão, morrendo devido a uma baixa imunidade que lhe desencadeou uma infecção generalizada. Quem duvidar que animais têm sentimentos deveria ter visto olhar de Oinc uma semana depois da viagem do meu amigo.

Mas a grande maioria dos porcos não tem a mesma sorte de ter um dono como o de Oinc. Eles também são vistos como mercadorias, não como seres vivos com sentimento. Devido à sua carne considerada saborosa, são criados em larga escala no mundo inteiro, mas em condições tão vis e deploráveis que envergonhariam qualquer pessoa dotada de um mínimo de sensibilidade. Talvez sejam os animais que mais sofrem nas mãos de seus criadores.

Manejo em pequena escala
Aqueles que criam porcos em pequena escala e domesticamente costumam castrar os animais (para que possam engordar bastante), forçando-os a uma vida sedentária, reclusa e totalmente incômoda, alimentando-os com todo o tipo de resto de comida, preparando-os para ser abatidos.

Como são mortos
São mortos através de uma fina, longa e cortante faca que lhes é cravada com perícia, diretamente no coração. Sem se incomodarem se o animal sente dor e em que grau, esses criadores, insensíveis, praticam esse ato friamente, em geral rindo, como se estivessem fazendo algo trivial, como puxar uma descarga, por exemplo. Há aqueles que tem como profissão matar porcos dessa maneira, e assim, todos os dias, realizam seu trabalho. Conheci um deles, uma pessoa no mínimo asquerosa, que me confessou que a sensação que sentia ao introduzir a faca no peito de um porco de 100 quilos era a mesma de matar um homem gordo…

Manejo em grande escala
Nos matadouros, onde os animais são produzidos industrialmente, não é muito diferente. Assim que nascem, os porquinhos machos são castrados sem anestesia, de modo cruento. Depois que mamarem alguns dias, são afastados da mãe e nunca mais a vêem.

As porcas grávidas, nos dias finais da gravidez, são mantidas num tipo de jaula tão pequena que não podem se mover, sendo forçadas a se manter na mesma posição, de pé, sem se voltar para qualquer lado e sem poder deitar-se. E assim têm os seus filhotes, como máquinas de produzir porquinhos.

Qualquer mulher que já teve um filho sabe do incômodo característico dos dias finais que precedem o final da gravidez, que exigem a busca de posições mais confortáveis a cada instante. Durante o próprio parto é necessário mudar de posição várias vezes.

Imaginem então que tremendo desconforto deve ser sentir as dores, as contrações uterinas, sem poder mexer-se ou deitar-se… as porcas grávidas, geralmente muitas ao mesmo tempo, costumam urrar de dor, o que torna o ambiente em que vivem um local onde se capta uma tristeza e uma agonia indescritíveis. Os animais apresentam sempre um olhar apavorado, talvez pela tremenda dor a que são submetidos.


Animais não nos dão a vida como contam as historinhas ou como os desenhos animados e a propaganda em folhetos escolares procuram mostrar. Nós tiramos as suas vidas. Eles lutam até o fim para fugir da morte, do mesmo jeito que faríamos se estivéssemos em seu lugar.

O porco, dócil e inteligente, não aceita a morte simplesmente pensando que ela é apenas mais um passo na produção de bacon; portanto, será difícil vê-lo cantando alegremente como nos anúncios dos produtores de salsichas.

As galinhas não sonham em virar caldo na panela, assim como perus não querem ser criados para serem mortos, por mais que a propaganda insidiosa, subliminar tente nos convencer.

A gentil e paciente vaca não se rende docilmente à marreta ou à faca; ela se agita e pula como pode para se livrar do gancho que prende uma de suas pernas, que foi quebrada e pendurada a uma corrente.

Os produtores de leite nos EUA costumam fazer propaganda. Uma delas mostra uma simpática vaca sorrindo, enquanto uma suave voz masculina avisa, em off, que o leite dessa empresa é proveniente de vacas felizes.

Talvez ele esteja se referindo ao efeito dos tranqüilizantes e antidepressivos que esses animais recebem regularmente para combater a tristeza dos ambientes onde são criados.

“Quanto mais eu vejo animais serem mortos para virar comida, mais eu entendo por que o McDonald’s engana as criancinhas, fazendo-as crer que hambúrgueres crescem em árvores, já nos saquinhos”.
John Robbins

baghdad hoje



hometown baghdad

Porém, quando a piscina é de uma casa abandonada em Bagdá, quando ir para a faculdade é um desafio diário por causa da violência nas ruas e o ensaio da banda é interrompido pela falta de energia rotineira na capital iraquiana, estes vídeos passam a ter um interesse bem maior e a chamar a atenção de milhares de internautas.

Isto é um pouco da realidade de três jovens iraquianos relatada em uma série de 45 vídeos que estão sendo exibidos na série de vídeos Hometown Baghdad (



“Murder, violence, greed, anger and temptation has made the human world a desperate place. A terrible storm has descended upon the human world, and this is carrying the world towards destruction. There is only one way to save the world and that is through dharma (religious practice.) When one doesn’t walk the righteous path of religious practice, this desperate world will surely be destroyed. Therefore, follow the path of religion and spread this message to your fellows. Never put obstacles, anger and disbelief in the way of my meditation’s mission. I am only showing you the way; you must seek it on your own. What I will be, what I will do, the coming days will reveal. Human salvation, the salvation of all living beings, and peace in the world are my goal and my path. Namo Buddha sangaya, Namo Buddha sangaya, namo sangaya. I am contemplating on the release of this chaotic world from the ocean of emotion, on our detachment from anger and temptation, without straying from the path for even a moment, I am renouncing my own attachment to my life and my home forever, I am working to save all living beings. But in this undisciplined world, my life’s practice is reduced to mere entertainment. The practice and devotion of many Buddhas is directed at the world’s betterment and happiness. It is essential but very difficult to understand that practice and devotion. But though it is easy to lead this ignorant existence, human beings don’t understand that one day we must leave this uncertain world and go with the Lord of Death. Our long attachments with friends and family will dissolve into nothingness. We have to leave behind the wealth and property we have accumulated. What’s the use of my happiness, when those who have loved me from the beginning, my mother, father, brothers, relatives are all unhappy. Therefore, to rescue all sentient beings, I have to be Buddha-mind, and emerge from my underground cave to do vajra meditation. To do this I have to realize the right path and knowledge, so do not disturb my practice. My practice detaches me from my body, my soul and this existence. In this situation there will be 72 goddess Kalis. Different gods will be present, along with the sounds of thunder and of tangur , and all the celestial gods and goddesses will be doing puja (worship.) So until I have sent a message, do not come here, and please explain this to others. Spread religious knowledge and religious messages throughout the world. Spread the message of world peace to all. Seek a righteous path and wisdom will be yours.”

Guru Ji dentro do fogo, sem se queimar.


david chalmers. MARAVILHOSO!

IN-Formation: the formation of what goes IN the mind…

O universo é um holograma, assim explica Michael Talbott:

According to Bohm, the apparent faster-than-light connection between subatomic particles is really telling us that there is a deeper level of reality we are not privy to, a more complex dimension beyond our own that is analogous to the aquarium. And, he adds, we view objects such as subatomic particles as separate from one another because we are seeing only a portion of their reality. Such particles are not separate “parts”, but facets of a deeper and more underlying unity that is ultimately as holographic and indivisible as the previously mentioned rose. And since everything in physical reality is comprised of these “eidolons”, the universe is itself a projection, a hologram. In addition to its phantomlike nature, such a universe would possess other rather startling features. If the apparent separateness of subatomic particles is illusory, it means that at a deeper level of reality all things in the universe are infinitely interconnected. The electrons in a carbon atom in the human brain are connected to the subatomic particles that comprise every salmon that swims, every heart that beats, and every star that shimmers in the sky. 

Everything interpenetrates everything, and although human nature may seek to categorize and pigeonhole and subdivide, the various phenomena of the universe, all apportionments are of necessity artificial and all of nature is ultimately a seamless web. In a holographic universe, even time and space could no longer be viewed as fundamentals. Because concepts such as location break down in a universe in which nothing is truly separate from anything else, time and three-dimensional space, like the images of the fish on the TV monitors, would also have to be viewed as projections of this deeper order.


Researchers have discovered, for instance, that our visual systems are sensitive to sound frequencies, that our sense of smell is in part dependent on what are now called “osmic frequencies”, and that even the cells in our bodies are sensitive to a broad range of frequencies. Such findings suggest that it is only in the holographic domain of consciousness that such frequencies are sorted out and divided up into conventional perceptions. But the most mind-boggling aspect of Pribram’s holographic model of the brain is what happens when it is put together with Bohm’s theory. For if the concreteness of the world is but a secondary reality and what is “there” is actually a holographic blur of frequencies, and if the brain is also a hologram and only selects some of the frequencies out of this blur and mathematically transforms them into sensory perceptions, what becomes of objective reality?

Put quite simply, it ceases to exist. As the religions of the East have long upheld,  the material world is Maya, an illusion, and although we may think we are physical beings moving through a physical world, this too is an illusion.