The concept of self has undergone significant changes throughout its long history. At a time when old controversies on how to best think about the nature of the self are still very much alive, new conceptions are starting to come into focus (data-selves, extended selves) which may once more require radical rethinking.
Human beings, minds and selves are inevitably shaped by their environments, and in return they determine their institutions, governmental bodies, and ultimately political systems. ‘Smart’ devices, virtual agents and generative AI already play an increasing role in the way humans structure their activities and think of themselves. ‘Intelligent systems’ are expected to become more and more autonomous and agentive to the point that they are perceived as potentially posing unprecedented threats. How might this new cognitive ecology where social mining and data-tracking are commonplace and where AI is said to know us better than our partners and friends, threaten privacy, restrict the scope of human action, and change the fabric of society?
On the optimistic side, in our gradual transitioning into a posthumanist world we expect that developing technologies will greatly enhance human intellectual, physical and psychological capacities and afford us new ways of expressing ourselves. The capacity to tackle all forms of diseases relieves us from our dependence on the body and promises an existence free from physical and emotional suffering and (near-)immortality. But with it come considerations that put our current notions of human subjectivity and particularly human embodiment under substantial stress.
On the same token a counterpart question arises for artificial intelligences, machine consciousness and selfhood. There are ethical implications on how to expand the circle of moral concern when extending subjectivities beyond the human species to include non-human or silicon-based agents and their selves.
Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 21 February 2024.