Thinking Machines

71gi1yrJwULMatthew Parkinson-Bennett at the Dublin Review of Books:

Yet the fixation on transcending traditional human existence may have something to do with a failure to appreciate the richness and fullness of lived life. Kurzweil endorses a pathetically inadequate idea of gathering data on a person’s life – photographs, biographical detail, social media activity – with which to reconstruct their personality after death. How hellish an experience would that be, condemned to live forever only what portion of life could be skimmed off the surface and recorded as data? As O’Connell puts it, “Kurzweil’s vision of the future might be an attractive one if you already accept the mechanistic view of the human being.” It’s a vision which leaves little room for the “rich inner life” prized by David Chalmers, originator of the hugely influential “hard problem of consciousness”. With the hard problem, Chalmers throws a spanner in the works of the “mechanistic view of the human being” by showing that it cannot account for the qualitative dimension of subjective conscious experience – “the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C”.

This deep incomprehension extends of course to the political. When asked whether there isn’t a risk that only the wealthiest will have access to the benefits of transhumanist technology, one prominent advocate replies: “Probably the most extreme form of inequality is between people who are alive and people who are dead.” Is that the sort of person who will control the hardware on which our minds are to live in eternal simulation?

more here.