Monday, January 5, 2015

Some light reading about aliens

I've really been enjoying this article called Alien Minds by Susan Schneider, a philosophy professor at the University of Connecticut. I've often heard that it's likely that if we ever encounter aliens, they'll be postbiological-- more like superintelligent machines. Schneider sketches out this possibility, noting how humanity is getting more cyborgy already:

" the United States the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has started to develop neural implants that interface directly with the nervous system, regulating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, arthritis, depression, and Crohn’s disease."

And then the article gets even more interesting--Schneider explores what it would be like inside the "mind" of a superintelligent alien. Would they be conscious? This reminds me of this classic piece on personal identity by Derek Parfit. Schneider casually points out:

"...even humans wishing to upload their minds will fail to transfer their consciousness. Although they may copy their memories onto a computational format, their consciousness will not transfer..."

It makes me both sad and excited to try to picture the distant future.

For further reading: The Fermi Paradox, in all its terrifying glory

source for the schneider: kottke!

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