“The penalty of not doing philosophy isn’t to transcend it, but simply to give bad philosophical arguments a free pass.”
These are some slides I created when I presented at the Advancing Humanity Symposium hosted by the Stanford Transhumanist Association in 2013.
My presentation was an introduction to the topic of Mind Uploading. I decided to address the various ontologies that are postulated in philosophy of mind and personal identity. I did this so that I could then explore how each possible combination affects the plausibility, and desirability, of Mind Uploading.
In brief, as you can see in the table above, both personal identity views and mind-body problem solutions influence how you judge Mind Uploading.
For example, an Empty Individualist lacks the belief in an enduring metaphysical self over time. Thus, she would consider her digitized mind (also referred to as EM) to be just as alien to her true identity as the person who will wake up with her memories tomorrow anyway.
Likewise, Open Individualist don’t particularly care about the preservation of memories and personality. What matters to them is different. For example, they may care a lot about making as many sentient beings as happy as possible, rather than caring about which bodies get to produce which experiences.
But if Closed Individualism is true, then Mind Uploading is an ethical imperative! Truly believing that who you are starts existing when you are born and stops existing when you die implies that not extending one’s existence indefinitely results in the complete annihilation of a metaphysical being. And that would be sad, wouldn’t it?
When it comes to the Mind-Body problem, the specifics also influence the plausibility (and desirability) of Mind Uploading oneself. For example, if dualism is true, one might have to do a lot more research for successful mind-uploading. One would need, for instance, to decipher the causal and practical constraints imposed by the consciousness side of the metaphysical equation. If, on the other hand, monistic materialism is true, then Mind Uploading should be as simple as creating a sufficiently detailed brain emulation.
And that is not even scratching the surface. In reality, the state-space of both personal identity views and mind-body solutions is much larger than we can conceive. Who knows what kind of ontologies our posthuman descendants will choose to experience on a daily basis…