Technology and the Future of Persons
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: The Monist, 96(1):37–53, 2013
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Futurologists believe that we are on the verge of merging with our technology. Techno-guru Ray Kurzweil has predicted that by the 2020s, we will have reverse-engineered the entire brain, and nanobots will be operating our consciousness. (Kurzweil 2005)
  2. But we need not venture into the world of science fiction to be staggered by the accelerating pace of technology today. We have already become familiar with cochlear implants that, by stimulating the auditory nerve, allow babies born deaf to hear; and we know something about computer-chip-sized devices that can take brain signals and rout them to robotic limbs, thereby allowing amputees’ thoughts to control their movement. We are nearing the development of retinal implants to treat blindness. I have just read about research at the University of Florida on a new kind of neural implant that does not just receive instructions, but learns along with the brain. (Unattributed 2008)
  3. […]
  4. As a Practical Realist, what interests me in these examples is that they are real-life cases. They are not merely imagined. We do not have to indulge in long-range prediction or in outré thought experiments1 about zombies in order to be astonished by the melding of the biological with the nonbiological. And it is no surprise that these technological developments have raised anew the question of what we really are.
  5. I want to ask: What’s to become of us? Do these dizzying advances presage a future in which persons — traditionally conceived as self-understanding moral and rational agents — have disappeared?

Comment:

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