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 Brain Hammer.)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Interview of me on mind uploading

"Upload Your Mind and Live Forever" is an interview of me on mind uploading over at


Well, part of what I’m trying to say is that, like most metaphysical debates, this is going to be irresoluble by argumentation. There’s really nothing that pure reason is going to allow us to settle one way or another. All the evidence that we have we all tend to agree on. That evidence just underdetermines whether computers could have conscious experiences or whether they would be mere copies or actual survival of personal identity.
What I try to do as a way of resolving that metaphysical impasse is to look at it from a Darwinian or evolutionary point of view. The basic point of Darwinian evolution applies to any kind of system where you have things that are replicating and various degrees of fitness that would apply to the things that are reproducing. On this kind of abstract characterization, we could describe various hypothetical systems as having features that would be more fit.
Now one of the features that these computer simulations would have is something we could describe as being belief-like. In particular, these things are going to have the belief that they are going to survive the procedure. Now the metaphysical debate is about whether that belief is true, and what I’m trying to argue is that we can say, regardless of whether that belief is true, that belief would have survival value. Physical systems that have that belief are more likely to make more copies of themselves than physical systems that lack that belief.


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