Times are changing drastically. In such a situation, how should those of us engaged in academic disciplines go about our work? The least that can be said is that we cannot meet the demands of our times if we only work within the confines of how we have looked at problems up to this point, relying solely on established and standardized methods to fill in the blanks left on the ‘map’ of academic studies.
The progress of modern civilization has put mankind face to face with urgent problems such as the destruction of the environment and the spread of infectious diseases. When confronting such huge problems, it is not enough for us to merely respond to individual symptoms, as if we were playing whack-a-mole. Of course, in many cases, it is also necessary to deal with problems on an individual basis. Yet, with that said, isn’t it time for us to dive deeper into what is driving human civilization at its very foundations?
Pondering in this way, we are led to understand that responding to the demands of our times will naturally connect with the questions that have driven humanity for thousands of years, the questions that religions and philosophers have been asking continuously.
The Center for Human Nature, Artificial Intelligence, and Neuroscience (CHAIN) starts from the intuition that the challenging problems confronting the most advanced sciences of our era, especially neuroscience and artificial intelligence (AI), are not actually unrelated to the philosophical questions that have been driving human thinking and activity since time immemorial. To the contrary, they are connected in a very direct way. The four questions that we have raised as representing the above intuition are those concerning the nature of consciousness, Self, sociality, and rationality. All of these questions come from the humanities and social sciences and have developed in a variety of ways from the time of ancient philosophy to the present day. At the same time, they are questions that modern neuroscience and artificial intelligence are now trying to answer. At the intersection of these disciplines of the humanities, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence is a rich field of knowledge.
Answering these questions will in turn help us face the fundamental question of what it means to be human. At first glance, this effort may seem like a detour. However, by facing these fundamental questions, I believe we can answer some of the most pressing questions of our time.
Let me offer some examples. Environmental issues are not unrelated to human desires. Desire is at once a form of consciousness and something that is deeply connected to our Self. Another example: A global pandemic has arisen at a point in time where humanity is more connected to one another than ever before and the web of sociality is starting to encompass the whole world. The need for "social distancing" as a countermeasure shows, ironically, that “social cohesion” is the condition for a rapidly spreading pandemic. We can't live without society. Yet, what if that very society is about to become a threat to us right now? There are no easy and straightforward answers. This is why we need to question what is truly reasonable for us, that is, what is rational in a deeper sense, not in a conventional sense.
CHAIN was founded to explore these contemporary questions with both cutting edge science and philosophical insights. We welcome researchers, aspiring students and companies from all over the world to join our endeavor.