Saturday, August 15, 2015

Metaphysical Daring as a Posthuman Survival Strategy

For those of you who have been holding off on getting your brains destructively uploaded, I have a couple of bits of good news. There's a new video and a paper draft available for my project, "Metaphysical Daring as a Posthuman Survival Strategy," forthcoming in a special issue of Midwest Studies in Philosophy on science fiction and philosophy edited by Eric Schwitzgebel. Gander at the draft at this link. Here's the abstract:
Believing that one can survive having one’s mind “uploaded” to a computer (while having one’s brain destroyed) may be better than the contrary belief in a sense of “better” determined independently of the belief’s truth. Different metaphysical views about a person’s persistence conditions can be ordered on a scale ranging from extremes of metaphysical daring to extremes of metaphysical timidity. Further, the adoption of more daring metaphysical views may confer survival advantages to posthuman adopters and their descendants. Regardless of whether their views are true, the metaphysically timid who refuse to upload may go extinct and be supplanted by their more daring posthuman descendants. This possibility can serve as a basis for contemporary humans to endorse posthumanist values and projects, including a willingness to subjecting themselves to mind uploading procedures.
The video has just been made available by the University of Texas, Arlington, where I presented this stuff in 2014. If you want to skip around in the video, here are the main landmarks: Kenneth Williford's very nice introduction ends around 03:20. Following the talk is a Q-and-A that starts around 31:39.

Hermanns Lecture Series 2014 - Philitechia - Dr. Pete Mandik from English Department, UTA on Vimeo.

And here's an interview with me about this stuff from "Upload Your Mind and Live Forever."

(Cross-posted at Alternate Minds.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dennett on Mandik on Dennett and Rosenthal

Out now is Content and Consciousness Revisited: With Replies by Daniel Dennett edited by Carlos Munoz-Suarez and Felipe De Brigard. My chapter in the book is "Conscious-state Anti-realism." Dennett's reply to my chapter is on pp. 218-219, viewable below as well as at this link containing all of his replies.

Here's an excerpt from my chapter:
Dennett’s most famous argument for his first-person operationalism (hereafter, FPO) proceeds by pointing out the alleged empirical underdetermination of theory-choice between “Stalinesque” and “Orwellian” explanations of certain temporal anomalies of conscious experience (Dennett, op. cit., pp. 115-126). The explanations conflict over whether the anomalies are due to misrepresentations in memories of experiences (Orwellian) or misrepresentations in the experiences themselves (Stalinesque).
David Rosenthal (1995, 2005a, 2005b) has offered that his Higher-order Thought theory of consciousness (hereafter, “HOT theory”) can serve as a basis for distinguishing between Orwellian and Stalinesque hypotheses and thus as a basis for resisting FPO. The gist of HOT theory is that one’s having a conscious mental state consists in one’s having a higher-order thought (a HOT) about that mental state.
I’ll argue that HOT theory can defend against FPO only on a “relational reading” of HOT theory whereby consciousness consists in a relation between a HOT and an actually existing mental state. I’ll argue further that this relational reading leaves HOT theory vulnerable to objections such as the Unicorn Argument (Mandik, 2009). To defend against such objections, HOT theory must instead admit of a “nonrelational reading” whereby a HOT alone suffices for a conscious state. Indeed, HOT theorists have been increasingly explicit in emphasizing this nonrelational reading of HOT theory (Rosenthal, 2011; Weisberg, 2010 and 2011). However, I’ll argue, on this reading HOT theory collapses into a version of FPO.
Here's Dennett's reply (click image for larger image or click here):

Here's a video synopsis from back when my project was a contribution in Consciousness Online 4 (2012):

And as a video bonus, here's my rundown of Dennett's theory of consciousness:

Monday, August 3, 2015

My review of Intelligence Unbound by Blackford and Broderick

Out now at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews: my review of Intelligence Unbound: The Future of Uploaded and Machine Minds, edited by Russell Blackford and Damien Roderick.

This work collects contributions to the growing literature in what might be dubbed "singularity studies," where the singularity in question is the technological singularity, a hypothetical future moment when the rate of change of human technology reaches a speed that surpasses human capacities to predict and prepare for further changes. On the presumption that technological increase follows an exponential curve, the singularity is the knee of the bend, the point beyond which the graph abandons the nearly horizontal for the nearly vertical. Despite the danger that merely human cognition won't keep up with post-singularity events, perhaps cognition that is either artificially enhanced or wholly artificially constituted will be able to thrive in post-singularity times. But if such cognitive systems appear on the scene, we must wonder what implications this will have for humans of the sort currently predominant. Can wholly non-human super-intelligent minds be tamed or otherwise coaxed into friendliness toward their human creators? This is the core question of super artificial-intelligence (super AI). Can the essence of what presently counts as a human be preserved in a wholly artificial substrate? This is the core question of mind uploading. These core questions, as well as equally important and intriguing related questions orbiting the cores, are engagingly tackled in a variety of styles by the tome's contributors.