About the Author
Michael E. Zimmerman

Michael E. Zimmerman

Michael E. Zimmerman is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts at CU, Boulder. Since his undergraduate years, Zimmerman has been concerned about anthropogenic environmental problems. His research examines the metaphysical, cultural, ethical, cognitive, political, and religious dimensions of such problems. Like many others in the field of environmental studies, Zimmerman maintains that a multi-disciplinary approach is needed both to comprehend and to propose effective solutions for environmental problems. Natural science is crucial for characterizing, making predictions about, and providing alternative scenarios regarding existing and emerging environmental problems. Anthropogenic environmental problems, however, arise from human activities that are usually best studied by researchers from the social sciences, humanities, and the arts. Although criticizing the command-and-control attitude toward nature that has characterized modernity, Zimmerman has also warned of the dangers posed by the anti-modernist attitudes that characterize some versions of environmentalism. Zimmerman asks: How to retain what is noble about modernity, including the freedoms connected with politics, research, and religion, while correcting its shortcomings, including serious environmental problems?

In what has been called “post-normal” science, researchers must not only deal with problems characterized by complexity and thus uncertainty, but must also integrate multiple perspectives, many of which operate at different scales, with different assumptions, and in light of different value concerns. Environmental policy formation will become increasingly effective as it develops the conceptual models needed to identify crucial methods and perspectives and to show their relationships to one another, as well as to specific problems. Working with Ken Wilber and Sean-Esbjörn Hargens, Zimmerman is helping to develop and apply one such integrative model to anthropogenic environmental problems.

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Artificial Intelligence vs. Artificial Consciousness

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The hopes and fears surrounding the advent of artificial intelligence are fantastical, from Ray Kurzweil’s promise of spiritual machines to Elon Musk’s warnings of killer robots. And yes, some version of that future is barreling toward us at an ever-increasing speed, says philosophy of technology professor Michael Zimmerman, who is Jeff’s guest today.

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Brave New Future? An Integral Look at Super Artificial Intelligence

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These days, discourse about intelligent robots—thinking machines—is as widespread as discourse about zombies. Both have been the subjects of recent bestsellers, which are the basis of two forthcoming films. Popular culture’s depiction of humankind under attack by either the undead or by the never alive (autonomous machines) suggests widespread anxiety about and fascination with technical developments that may generate a future out of human control (as if the future ever were under our control!)

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Yes, Virginia, Consciousness Goes All the Way Down. But Does It Go All the Way Up?

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Although the apparent confirmation of the Higgs Boson, the so-called God particle, has been attracting attention recently, the most vexing problem in science and philosophy remains the mind-body problem: What relation is there between material brain states and conscious, first-person experience? In the past few years, as we shall see in a moment, some neurosciences have now arrived at an answer that was anticipated by Ken Wilber’s version of integral theory.

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Bringing Perspective to Climate Change

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The problem of climate change is so big, so complex, and so politicized, it is almost impossible to know what to think about it, let alone what to do. Michael Zimmerman, co-author of Integral Ecology, helps cut through the partiality and propaganda that are so rampant on both sides of the argument, offering a more sober perspective on the current status of the climate change debate.