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Neil Levy

Dreaming of the End of the World

by Neil Levy Doomsayers have always been with us. Equally, predictions of doom have always failed to materialise. Apocalyptic cults have been a recurrent feature of American society, in particular. Some have given specific dates for the destruction of the world, which the faithful would survive through preparation and prayer. The failures of the prophesied… Read More »Dreaming of the End of the World

Truthful Misinformation

written by Neil Levy and Keith Raymond Harris There’s a lot of debate over the harms of misinformation today: whether it is more prevalent now than in the past, how often it misleads people, whether people act on misleading misinformation, and on whether the costs of content moderation or algorithmic depriorisation mightn’t be higher than… Read More »Truthful Misinformation

AI Authorship: Responsibility is Not Required

This is the fifth in a series of blogposts by the members of the Expanding Autonomy project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

by Neil Levy

AI is rapidly being adopted across all segments of academia (as it is across much of society). The landscape is rapidly changing, and we haven’t yet settled on the norms that should govern how it’s used. Given how extensive usage already is, and how deeply integrated into every aspect of paper production, one important question concerns whether an AI can play the authorship role. Should AIs be credited, in the same way as humans might be?Read More »AI Authorship: Responsibility is Not Required

Cross Post: Nudging for Better Beliefs

This is the third in a series of blogposts by the members of the Expanding Autonomy project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


Written By: Oscar A. Piedrahita & Matthew VermaireCOGITO, University of Glasgow.


Don’t you find that other people’s beliefs are always getting in the way of progress? They seem to be full of bad views about everything from geopolitics to zoning laws to the most bizarre conspiracy theories; and what’s worse is that they seem often perversely immune to rational methods of persuasion, bristling with a panoply of biases. It’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to their opinions. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if—without having to resort to positively illiberal measures of censorship and forced re-education—we could get those opinions to be a little more tolerable? What if the secret is all in the way in which evidence and potential beliefs are presented to people, so that with more carefully calibrated interventions we could exert a noncoercive but significant influence toward the truth?Read More »Cross Post: Nudging for Better Beliefs

Outsourcing Without Fear?

This is the second in a series of blogposts by the members of the Expanding Autonomy project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

by Neil Levy

As Adam Carter emphasises in the first post in this series, offloading cognitive capacities comes at a cost: the more we depend on external scaffolding and supports to perform a certain task, the less we develop the internal capacities to perform that task. The phenomenon is familiar: people probably really are much less able to do mental arithmetic today than in the past, thanks to the introduction of the calculator. We tend to think of new technologies when we worry about what we lose as a consequence of scaffolding, but the concern is ancient. In the Phaedrus, Plato has Socrates approvingly recounting the story of an Egyptian king who worried that the invention of writing “will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it, through lack of practice at using their memory.”Read More »Outsourcing Without Fear?

Why I Don’t Have Pronouns In My Bio.

Written by Neil Levy

It’s now pretty standard for academics to put their pronouns in their bio – in email signatures, Twitter profiles, on Zoom and so on. There are two sorts of reasons to do this. The first is because you have a preference about your pronouns and there’s a reasonable chance that if you don’t express that preference, you won’t be called by your preferred pronouns. The second reason is the one that applies to people like me: we don’t really have a strong preference about our pronouns or don’t think there’s a significant chance that we’ll be referred to by a pronoun we don’t want, but we want to signal our allyship with trans and other gender non-conforming people.

Read More »Why I Don’t Have Pronouns In My Bio.

AI As A Writing Tool: Great Benefits, Major Pitfalls.

Written by Neil Levy

Large language models look set to transform every aspect of life over the coming decades. Some of these changes will be dramatic. I’m pretty unconcerned by the apocalyptic scenarios that preoccupy some people, but much more worried about the elimination of jobs (interestingly, the jobs that seem likeliest to be eliminated are those that require the most training: we may see a reversal of status and economic position between baristas and bureaucrats, bricklayers and barristers). Here, though, I’m going to look at much less dramatic, and very much near term, effects that LLMs might have on academic writing. I’m going to focus on the kind of writing I do in philosophy; LLMs will have different impacts on different disciplines.

Read More »AI As A Writing Tool: Great Benefits, Major Pitfalls.

Is Authenticity Coherent?

By Neil Levy

Authenticity is a widely espoused ideal; often under that name but also under other labels. People take pride in being individuals, set apart from the crowd, in not following the herd, in thinking for themselves. To be accused of conformism stings. Read More »Is Authenticity Coherent?

Does Moral Ignorance Excuse?

Written by Neil Levy

Everyone agrees that ignorance of fact can excuse. If I take your suitcase thinking it was mine, and my belief that it was mine was faultless (perhaps the coach driver handed it to me, saying “this is yours”, and it looked exactly like mine), I seem excused of blame for taking it. But philosophers and ordinary people have been reluctant to excuse people on the basis of their moral ignorance. Think, for example, about recent debates concerning memorials to people we now recognize as deeply racist. Of course, it’s perfectly possible to demand that such memorials be removed on the grounds that it’s inappropriate to laud bad people, but the demand is often combined with blame directed at the racist (conversely, those who defend the memorials often think it’s sufficient to deflect blame on the grounds that the person was “a man of his time”).Read More »Does Moral Ignorance Excuse?