[SydPhil] UOW Philosophy Seminar Series: Dr. Max Cappuccio "Would you Upload your Mind on a Computer?"

michael kirchhoff michael.david.kirchhoff at gmail.com
Wed Jul 22 08:45:09 AEST 2015

UOW Philosophy Seminar Series, Spring 2015. All are welcome!

*Speaker*: Dr. Max Cappuccio (Cognitive Science Program, UAE University,
United Arab Emirates)

*Title*: Would you Upload your Mind on a Computer? Machine Functionalism
and the Hard Problem of Content

*Abstract*: These days many philosophers and cognitive scientists seem
inclined to believe that it is just a matter of time before our
civilization will eventually develop a safe and reliable procedure for
“mind upload”, that is the technological process that would allow to
transfer a human mind on a digital computer, hence securing immortality
through a computational simulation. In the face of such optimism in the
future developments of the cognitive sciences, there is a question that
hunts our dreams of eternal life: would you really attempt to transfer your
mind on a computer, if you had a chance to do it and the continuation of
your life absolutely depended on it? Assuming that you are motivated to
live as long as it is possible, your answer probably depends on the
likelihood that the process of mind-upload is successful. Let’s assume that
all the previous attempts of mind-upload *seem* successful: all the people
who underwent it seem happily living a new life in a simulation run by a
super-computer. However, even in that case, before pressing the button that
starts the mind-upload procedure you may want to double-check that the
meaning of “successful” is absolutely clear and that the terms of the deal
contain no hidden surprises. In fact, there are at least two possibilities:
the first possibility, is that the process is successful in creating a
perfect replica of your cognitive system on the computer, the facto giving
life to an AI that is absolutely identical to you. The problem is that,
while this AI thinks, speaks, and recollects exactly like you do, it is
actually not you. The second possibility is that the intelligence recreated
on the computer is not just indistinguishable from yours, but it is
actually yours: in fact, it is not just a replica of your mind; it is your
mind, which has been permanently transferred from your brain-body system to
a machine. Certainly, either result would represent a sensational
technological success, but only the second possibility would offer a
concrete prospect of survival. The first possibility, in fact, would imply
either that there are two “you” in the world now, or that only your digital
copy survived the mind-upload process, depending on whether your mind has
been destroyed or not during the process. Needless to say, it is the second
possibility that you are in interested in, if you want to live forever in
your new digital identify, abandoning your old mortal body. Understanding
what is actually going to happen to you makes a difference if you are
facing a choice of the kind: either you refuse mind-upload and have only a
few days left to live, or you venture to press the button that will start
the mind-upload process, but you are not sure whether this will trigger the
first or the second possibility. In this paper we are going to argue that
the single most important factor in your decision to trust the mind-upload
process or not is the strength of your conviction that minds are contentful
representions: what we are going to show is that, if you unfailingly
believe that your mind’s fundamental functions are constituted by
‘contents’, then you should feel optimistic about undergoing the
mind-upload process. In fact, in that case, you would have reasons to
believe that, if the process was successful, the uploaded mind would not be
only qualitatively identical to yours, but also numerically the same. Vice
versa, if you are skeptical about the widespread belief that the
fundamental functioning of minds involve contentful representations, then
you would have good reasons to have many second thoughts before pressing
the button of the mind-upload machine.

*When*: Wednesday 29 July

*Time*: 3.30-5.00pm

*Where*: 19.G015

*Contact*: Dr. Michael Kirchhoff (kirchhof at uow.edu.au)


*Dr. Michael D. Kirchhoff *
Lecturer in Philosophy
School of Humanities and Social Enquiry
Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts
University of Wollongong NSW 2522
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