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Stephen Cave

Senior Research Fellow, University of Cambridge

Stephen Cave is executive director and senior research fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge. A philosopher by training, he has also served as a British diplomat, and written widely on philosophical and scientific subjects, including for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Guardian and others.

Written by Stephen Cave

Once and future sins | Aeon
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Ethics

Once and future sins

In 2115, when our descendants look back at our society, what will they condemn as our greatest moral failing?

Stephen Cave & Stefan Klein

Everlasting glory | Aeon
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Death

Everlasting glory

There are few fantasies so absurd as the idea of living on through fame. So why does immortality still beckon?

Stephen Cave

Who killed Knut? | Aeon
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Biology

Who killed Knut?

The death of a beloved polar bear casts the logic of zoos in a cold light. Are they safe havens or places of sacrifice?

Stephen Cave

Not nothing | Aeon
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Death

Not nothing

The death of a fly is utterly insignificant – or it’s a catastrophe. How much should we worry about what we squash?

Stephen Cave

The free-will scale | Aeon
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Cognition and intelligence

The free-will scale

Like IQ or EQ, there should be FQ: a freedom quotient to show how much free will we have – and how to get more

Stephen Cave

It’s not easy being green | Aeon
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Ecology and environmental sciences

It’s not easy being green

If rational persuasion fails to make people behave environmentally, could rituals and a dash of guilt do a better job?

Stephen Cave & Sarah Darwin

Remember Herostratus | Aeon
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Human rights and justice

Remember Herostratus

The ruling that Anders Breivik is sane leaves his ideas unchallenged. We need a new verdict for crimes of vainglory

Stephen Cave

Frozen dead guys | Aeon
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Death

Frozen dead guys

Is cryonics an ambulance into the future or the latest twist on our ancient fantasy of rebirth?

Stephen Cave

Democracies fail when they ask too little of their citizens | Aeon
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Political philosophy

Democracies fail when they ask too little of their citizens

Stephen Cave

Intelligence: a history | Aeon
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Cognition and intelligence

Intelligence: a history

Intelligence has always been used as fig-leaf to justify domination and destruction. No wonder we fear super-smart robots

Stephen Cave



Recent Comments

Suspended animation

Stephen Cave

The paradox: we do not much fancy the idea of dying, but we do not much fancy living forever either. Alas one is the consequence of the other.

The fairytale: The First Emperor of China dreamt of defeating death. He built a Great Wall around his land to keep death at bay and had songs of immortality sung wherever he went. But death crept in through the cracks in the wall and mocked the Emperor when he slept. So he went to a wizard called Xu Fu and begged him to find an elixir that would keep death at bay.

Xu Fu dreamt of defeating death. He knew of an island, he said, where the plants were white, the palaces were silver, and the people immune to time. With three thousand virg...

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The free-will scale

Stephen Cave

There is good research on this question, which supports both the fears of some and the hopes of others.

In 2008, Vohs and Schooler showed that those who had been primed to believe in determinism (by reading an extract from Francis Crick’s book The Astonishing Hypothesis arguing that “you are nothing but a pack of neurons”) were more likely to subsequently cheat. Further research in 2009 (by Baumeister, Masicampo and DeWall) showed that those primed for determinism were less willing to help others (eg, give money to the homeless) and were more inclined to be aggressive.

This supports the widespread fear that if we do not feel responsible for our decisions, we will no...

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Paradigms lost

Stephen Cave

It seems reasonable to think that science will never be able to answer the simple question of how many hears I had on my head when I was eleven years, 36 days and 7 minutes old. You might think that not a great failing on science’s part, but when I was roughly that age, such things troubled me greatly (not how many hairs I had - a question that troubles me much more these days - but the knowability of such facts-in-waiting). That no one knew, or likely ever would, how many steps I had made on the walk to school, for example, plunged me into an existential crisis - a crisis to which the obvious answer was an omniscient God. How reassuring it would be if all things were filed in a great min...

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