David Chalmers at Edge:
I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of technology on philosophy, and how technology can illuminate or sometimes even transform philosophical questions. These are exciting times right now in technology, with massive advances the last few years in artificial intelligence and virtual reality that’s got them in use on a wider scale than ever. Both of these technologies raise very deep philosophical issues. What’s artificial intelligence? That’s an artificial mind. What’s virtual reality? That’s an artificial world. This is great for a philosopher because philosophy, as I see it, is all about thinking about the nature of the mind, the nature of the world, and the connection between them. Thinking about artificial minds and artificial worlds can shed a lot of light on the mind and the world more generally.
I’ve thought a lot about the mind and consciousness, and when you’re doing that it becomes very natural to think about artificial intelligence. Could a computer have a mind? Could it be conscious? What kind of mind would it have? I’ve also thought a lot about technology augmenting the mind—like smartphones as extensions of the mind. Thinking about those questions about technology has helped philosophers get clearer on traditional questions about just what it is to have a mind.
Lately, I’ve been getting especially interested in questions about the world and about artificial worlds. It turns out that thinking about artificial worlds can help to think about many of the central questions in philosophy—the nature of reality, our knowledge of the external world, the existence of god, the mind-body problem, even the meaningfulness of life.