About BobbyAzarian

I'm a neuroscience researcher and creator of the site Science Is Sexy (scienceissexy.com)

The Myth of Sentient Machines: Why Digital Computers Can’t Have Consciousness

A-human-like-robot-Shutterstock_raw story image

This article was originally published at Psychology Today and posted to the Reddit philosophy board, where it generated over 1000 comments. See the discussion here.

Some of today’s top techies and scientists are very publicly expressing their concerns over apocalyptic scenarios that are likely to arise as a result of machines with motives. Among the fearful are intellectual heavyweights like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates, who all believe that advances in the field of machine learning will soon yield self-aware A.I.s that seek to destroy us—or perhaps just apathetically dispose of us, much like scum getting obliterated by a windshield wiper. In fact, Dr. Hawking told the BBC, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Indeed, there is little doubt that future A.I. will be capable of doing significant damage. For example, it is conceivable that robots could be programmed to function as tremendously dangerous autonomous weapons unlike any seen before. Additionally, it is easy to imagine an unconstrained software application that spreads throughout the Internet, severely mucking up our most efficient and relied upon medium for global exchange.

But these scenarios are categorically different from ones in which machines decide to turn on us, defeat us, make us their slaves, or exterminate us. In this regard, we are unquestionably safe. On a sadder note, we are just as unlikely to someday have robots that decide to befriend us or show us love without being specifically prompted by instructions to do so.

This is because such intentional behavior from an A.I. would undoubtedly require a mind, as intentionality can only arise when something possesses its own beliefs, desires, and motivations. Continue reading

‘Cosmic Evolution’ Theory Says Life Is Inevitable Across The Universe


Group of aliens arrives in UFO (Shutterstock)

According to theoretical physicist and super-genius Stephen Hawking, “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet orbiting round a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.” Indeed, to most modern scientists we are nothing more than an entirely random ‘happy accident’ that likely would not occur if we were to rewind the tape of the universe and play it again. But what if that is completely wrong? What if life is not simply a statistical anomaly, but instead an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics and chemistry?

A new theory of the origin of life, based firmly on well-defined physics principles, Continue reading

Donald Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Makes Him A Dangerous World Leader

donald trump_AFP Photo Timothy A Clary_big

AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary

According to a number of top U.S. psychologists, like Harvard Professor and researcher Howard Gardener, Donald Trump is a “textbook” narcissist. In fact, he fits the profile so well that clinical psychologist George Simon told Vanity Fair, “He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops.” This puts Trump in the same category as a number of infamous dictators like Muammar Gaddafi, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Saddam Hussein. And although there are narcissists out there who entertain us, innovate, or create great art, when a narcissist is given immense power over people’s lives, they can behave much differently. As the 2016 presidential election grows nearer we must ask ourselves, if elected president would Donald Trump act on the behalf of the will of the people, or would he behave more like a dictator—silencing any dissenting voices, perpetually refusing to compromise, and being oppressive to certain groups? To answer that, we should ask a little bit more about what makes a narcissist tick, and how they tend to behave when given free reign. 

Continue reading

Articles I’ve written for other sites.

Here’s a(n incomplete) list of articles I’ve written for other places. Explore.

11/17/16 How The Fear of Death Makes People More Right-Wing —Aeon

10/25/16 To Make A.I. More Humanlike, We Must Teach Them To Be Mind Readers —Quartz

9/29/16 How Anxiety Warps Your Perception —BBC Future

9/1/16 Apeirophobia: The Fear of Eternity —The Atlantic

8/27/16 The More People Think About Death, The More They Think About Voting For Trump: Study —Raw Story

8/4/16 A Neuroscientist Explains What May Be Wrong With Trump Supporters’ Brains —Raw Story

7/11/16 A Neuroscientist Explains The Unconscious Racial Biases Behind Deadly Police Shootings —Raw Story

6/1/16 The Myth of Sentient Machines —Psychology Today

5/25/16 Adorable Lesbian Gorillas Prove Homosexuality Is Not Unnatural —Raw Story

5/10/16 The Mindful Child —The New York Times

5/6/16 Why Do Some People Respond To Trump? It’s Biology 101 —The Daily Beast

1/19/16 Trump Has A Mental Disorder That Makes Him A Dangerous World Leader —Raw Story

1/13/16 Fighting Radical Islam: A Virus Of The Mind —Psychology Today

12/28/16 ISIS Uses Amphetamine To Create Brainwashed, Psychotic, Killing-Machines —Raw Story

12/9/15 Neuroscience Explains Why ISIS Attracts Psychopaths —Raw Story

12/5/15 How Young Brains Get Radicalized —The Daily Beast

12/1/15 The Neuroscience Behind Why White Cops Kill Black Men —Raw Story

11/6/15 Study: Religious Kids Are Jerks —The Daily Beast

10/27/15 Star Wars Tractor Beams Are Real —The Daily Beast

10/21/15 Designing Robots To Avoid The Uncanny Valley —Slate

10/1/15 ‘Internet Justice’ Actually Does Good, Potentially Saves Lives —The Huffington Post

9/29/15 Morals, Not Memories, Define Who We Are —Scientific American

9/16/15 We’re Getting Close To A Real-Life Smart Drug —The Daily Beast

9/14/15 Religious Fundamentalism: A Side Effect Of Lazy Brains? —The Daily Beast

9/3/15 Study: Gamblers Risk More When Slot Machines Seem Humanlike —Slate

4/15/15 Will Smart Drugs Soon Sweep The Nation? —The Huffington Post



Spreading Pseudoscience: 5 Reasons Why Some Liberals Are As Bad As Conservatives

Recently we posted an article entitled “5 Revealing Scientific Differences Between the Minds of Liberals and Conservatives”, which highlighted peer-reviewed studies that have described their neural and behavioral disparities. Although the experimental results that were presented are indisputable, the (probably quite accurate) subjective interpretations weren’t exactly ‘polite’ towards conservatives. To be fair, we have chosen to write a list of ways that liberals (which I myself am one of) can be just as bad as those on the right, if not worse in some instances, when it comes to believing a big bag of pseudoscientific bullshit.

1. Homeopathy  Continue reading

6 Reasons Why Richard Dawkins Is The Ultimate Science Badass

1. When asked by a proponent of faith to justify his “belief” in the scientific method he responded: “If you base medicine on science, you cure people. If you base the design of planes on science, they fly. If you base the design of rockets on science, they reach the moon. It works, bitches.”

Dawkins_It works Continue reading

Neuroscience’s New Theory of Consciousness Might Make an Atheist Turn Spiritual

Molecular Thoughts

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality” -Carl Sagan

It appears that we are approaching a unique time in the history of man and science where empirical measures and deductive reasoning can actually inform us spiritually. But before getting into that, let’s talk a little about how we got to this point.

Continue reading

5 Revealing Scientific Differences Between The Minds Of Liberals And Conservatives

brain differences liberals conservativesCan brain differences explain conservatives’ fear-driven political attitudes? See what the peer-reviewed research has to say.

1. Conservatives focus more on the negative Ebola danger_Consciouslifenews In a 2012 study published in the prestigious journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, liberal and conservative participants were shown collages of both negative and positive images on a computer screen while their eye movements were recorded. While liberals were quicker to look at pleasant images, like a happy child or a cute bunny rabbit, conservatives tended to behave oppositely. They’d first inspect threatening and Continue reading