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Sepideh Majidi: Intelligence Unbound: Navigating the Dynamics of Human-Posthuman Evolution

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

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Intelligence Unbound: Navigating the Dynamics of Human-Posthuman Evolution

Sepideh Majidi

Intelligence, sufficiently disentangled from theological and teleological discourses and properly understood, is its own compass–an ethical, practical, and cosmological artifact of its own labor and destiny. For us humans, wielding that compass necessitates not only human responsibility but also responsibility toward a concrete labor through which intelligence makes and remakes itself. In this sense, intelligence can be said to be guiding human evolution, marking our place in the cosmos, and shaping our worldview. But as intelligence unbinds itself and sheds the human face projected onto it, the human also begins to reimagine its boundaries and constraints, seeing itself at the outer edge of its horizon where the image of the human becomes exceedingly warped, if not foreign. As we navigate the dynamics of human-posthuman evolution, we find ourselves on the precipice of a significant transformation in our conceptualization of intelligence. This transformation extends far beyond the realm of technological advancements. It encompasses a diversification of our conceptual frameworks, an enhancement of our linguistic capabilities, an amplification of our intuitive faculties, and a broadening of our cognitive and experiential capacities. These aspects of human intelligence are all undergoing a profound metamorphosis, shaped not only by technological progress but also by biological adaptations, environmental changes, and tectonic shifts in our historical consciousness, among a multitude of other influential factors.

Rather than simplifying or diminishing the complexity of human intelligence, this evolution expands its horizons. It opens up new perspectives and extends our capacity for perception, comprehension, and interaction with the world. This transformative shift challenges and enriches our current understanding, providing fertile terrain for pioneering exploration and profound inquiry.

Aligned with the principles of philosophical anthropology, synchronized with the evolution of technics, scientific programs, and socio-historical concerns, the symposium aims to encapsulate the self-augmenting and transformative nature of intelligence and its unfolding within the ever-changing dynamic between humans and posthumans, recognizing the inherent tension between them. The framework does not neglect the human element or uncritically assume access to an unbound nature or alterity in the pursuit of posthuman ideals. Instead, it strives to critically navigate this complex dynamic, fully acknowledging the pivotal role of intelligence in reshaping this multifaceted landscape.

The symposium will employ a multidisciplinary approach, drawing on diverse fields, such as cognitive science, philosophy, anthropology, biology, and computation. It will foster interdisciplinary dialogue, critical thinking, and innovative ideas by bringing together heterogeneous perspectives. It will encompass a range of research methodologies, including theoretical analysis, empirical studies, artistic practice, and speculative inquiry, within the context of interactive workshops and collaborative dialogues. It encourages the integration of various theoretical frameworks such as posthumanism, rationalism, transhumanism, critical philosophy, and ethical considerations, among others, to provide a comprehensive exploration of the transformative nature of intelligence and its implications for the human-posthuman dynamic.

Potential Topics to open up the discussion:

The Transformation of Human Intelligence and Its Evolution

  • The Historical and Future Trajectories of Human Intelligence: This topic explores the transformative journey of human intelligence throughout history and its potential future trajectories. It raises philosophical questions that challenge our understanding of intelligence across different historical periods and possible future scenarios. It invites us to reflect on the epistemological challenges inherent in studying intelligence and its implications for philosophical anthropology and ethics. By examining the nature of human cognition, consciousness, and the complex relationship between mind and technicity in general, this exploration stimulates philosophical inquiries that deepen our understanding of intelligence and its broader implications for the human experience.

  • Cognitive, Embodiment, and Consciousness Transformations: Building upon the previous topic, this discussion investigates how the transformations in cognition, embodiment, and consciousness are triggered and shaped by advanced technologies. From neural interfaces, and augmented reality, to quantum computing, these technologies are altering the ways we perceive and interact with the world, redefining our embodied experiences and our sense of self. The topic opens up a conversation about these transformations, their implications for human intelligence, and their role in the evolution toward a posthuman state of intelligence.

  • Cognitive Development Advancements in Technologies: The topic explores the cognitive development of individuals and collectives amidst rapid technological advancements. This discussion explores how individuals and communities adapt, evolve, and enhance their cognitive capacities in response to technological progress. With a focus on the ways in which technology influences learning, problem-solving, and collective intelligence, this topic also explores the role of education, social interactions, and collaborative platforms in fostering cognitive development in the digital age.

The Intersection of Technology, Ethics, and Societal Implications

  • Artificial General Intelligence, Ethics, and Post-Scarcity Societies: This topic navigates the triadic intersection of artificial general intelligence (AGI), ethics, and post-scarcity societies. It scrutinizes the potential implications and ethical challenges arising from the development and integration of AGI. The theme centers on how AGI and post-scarcity societies can transform our social structures, economic systems, and human values. Here, the discourse expands to include ethical debates and reflections on AGI's potential roles and responsibilities in shaping society's future.

  • Intelligence, Artificial Consciousness, and Ethical Considerations: This thematic exploration extends into the realm of artificial consciousness. By questioning the notion of machine ethics and the responsibility of intelligent systems, the topic provokes a consideration of the ethical dimensions of advanced technologies. This discourse is particularly relevant as we inch closer to the manifestation of intelligent systems capable of mirroring human consciousness or embodying entirely new forms of consciousness.

  • Ecological and Technological Perturbations: The relationship between humans, technology, the environment, and evolution forms the core of this topic. The debate acknowledges the ecological and technological disruptions that arise from various factors, including human activities, examining the reciprocal impact of technology and the environment on human evolution. The discussion ventures into the potential risks and opportunities presented by emerging technologies, especially within the context of ecological sustainability.

Cognitive Processes and Philosophical Perspectives

  • Cognitive Processes, Emerging Technologies, and Philosophical Perspectives: This section urges us to explore the interplay between cognitive processes, emerging technologies, and philosophical perspectives. There's a keen interest in how technologies like machine learning, augmented reality, and brain-computer interfaces shape cognitive processes and our understanding of intelligence. Equally important are the philosophical perspectives on the nature of intelligence, mind, and consciousness, offering added layers of complexity and intrigue to the discourse.

  • Philosophical Anthropology and the Posthuman Condition: The exploration moves further into philosophical anthropology's domain and how it aids our comprehension of the posthuman condition. The posthuman challenges traditional notions of human identity, agency, and embodiment, requiring a thorough re-examination of its philosophical underpinnings. This discourse probes into how posthumanism impacts society and how we conceptualize human nature, existence, values, and vocations.

  • Conceptualization and Intuitionistic Approaches to Understanding Intelligence: The conversation continues with a look at the varying methods of conceptualizing intelligence and the role intuitionistic approaches play in understanding it. This theme probes beyond traditional cognitive and computational perspectives, inviting alternative frameworks and conceptual models for comprehending intelligence. It underlines the potential contributions of intuitionistic approaches to a more profound understanding of intelligence.

Impacts of Technology on Consciousness, Autonomy, and Agency

  • Agency and Autonomy in the Posthuman Context: This topic grapples with the concepts of agency and autonomy within the posthuman context. It questions how emerging technologies and blurred boundaries between humans and machines affect our perception and experience of agency and autonomy. It also includes an exploration of the ethical implications of delegating decision-making power to intelligent systems.

  • Human-Posthuman Hybridity and Identity Formation: Further engaging with the posthuman theme, this topic discusses the notion of human-posthuman hybridity and its consequences on identity formation. It scrutinizes the process of human identity construction through interactions with intelligent technologies and virtual environments, touching on the complexities of selfhood, embodiment, and the blurred lines between human and non-human entities.

Implications of Unbound Intelligence and Human-Non-Human Relationships

  • Trajectories and Implications of Unbound Intelligence and Human-Non-Human Relationships: Venturing into speculative territory, this topic plots potential trajectories of unbound intelligence and examines the evolving relationships between humans and non-humans. It considers the possibilities of superintelligent systems and their impacts on human society, raising critical issues related to control, responsibility, and coexistence in a world where the boundaries between humans and non-human entities become increasingly blurred. It invites reflection on the ethical considerations and dilemmas that arise when dealing with advanced forms of intelligence and intelligence as a self-cultivating project fraught with oughts and risks.

  • Social and Cultural Impacts of Posthuman Intelligence: This topic seeks to understand how the emergence of advanced intelligence systems could affect social dynamics, cultural norms, and power structures. It assesses the potential for new forms of creativity, expression, and cultural production in the posthuman era.

  • Epistemological and Ontological Dimensions of Posthuman Intelligence: In this topic, the epistemological and ontological dimensions of posthuman intelligence are examined. It asks how posthuman intelligence challenges conventional epistemological frameworks and our understanding of knowledge acquisition and truth. The conversation then segues into explorations of the ontological implications of advanced intelligence systems and their impacts on our comprehension of reality.

Influence of Technology on Creativity, Aesthetics, and Human Enhancement

  • The Aesthetic and Creative Potentials of Artificial Intelligence: This topic examines how intelligent machines, algorithms, and generative systems contribute to new forms of artistic expression, aesthetics, and creative processes. The conversation focuses on the intersection of artificial intelligence and creativity, including the role of machines as co-creators, challenging conventional ideas about the boundaries of art and authorship.

  • The Future of Intelligence: Speculative and Futuristic Perspectives: As a concluding topic, this one engages with speculative and futuristic perspectives on the future of intelligence. In the spirit of the works penned by the likes of Olaf Stapledon and Stanisław Lem, this topic encourages imaginative and forward-thinking discussions on potential directions and possibilities of intelligence evolution and cultivation. Examining speculative narratives, science fiction, and future scenarios stimulates creative and critical thinking about the long-term trajectory of intelligence and its potential transformations.

Every topic investigates various aspects of intelligence and its evolution, crafted to balance theoretical discussion and practical exploration. Encompassing a range of research methodologies and encouraging interdisciplinary dialogue, the symposium aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the dynamic interplay between human and posthuman entities. The goal is not just to gain knowledge, but to inspire participants to think critically, creatively, and courageously about the future of intelligence.

Suggestions for reading materials

Transformative Nature and Evolution of Human Intelligence:

  • "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human" by V. S. Ramachandran

  • "Sparks of Artificial General Intelligence: Early experiments with GPT-4" by Sebastien Bubeck et al.

  • "A Path towards autonomous machine intelligence" by Yann LeCun

Artificial General Intelligence, Ethical Dynamics, and Post-Scarcity Societies:

  • "Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies" by Nick Bostrom

  • "The Economic Singularity: Artificial intelligence and the death of capitalism" by Calum Chace

  • "Computational Logic and Human Thinking: How to be artificially intelligent" by Robert Kowalski

  • "Would you pass the Turing test" by Adrienn Ujhelyi, Flora Almosdi, and Alexandra Fodor

  • "AI 2041" by Chen Qiufan and Kai-Fu Lee

Cognitive Processes, Emerging Technologies, and Philosophical Perspectives:

  • "Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines" by Patrick Grim

  • "The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self & Soul" by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett

  • "Talking about large language models" by Murray Shanahan

  • "Intelligence and Wisdom: Artificial Intelligence meets Chinese Philosophers" edited by Bing Song

  • "The bias cut: toward a technopoetics of algorithmic systems" by Daniela Rosner

Intelligence, Artificial Consciousness, and Ethical Considerations:

  • "Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots" by John Markoff

  • "The Black technical object" by Ramon Amaro

  • "Cyberfeminism and artificial life" by Sarah Kember

  • "Did you look that up? How retrieving from smartphones affects memory for source" by Jessica Siler and Kristy Hamilton

Philosophical Anthropology and the Posthuman Condition:

  • "Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human" by David Roden

  • "How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics" by N. Katherine Hayles

  • "Quantum Reality and the Theory of Sunya" edited by Siddheshwar Rameshwar Bhatt

Transformations in Cognition, Embodiment, and Consciousness:

  • "The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience" by Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch

  • "Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity" by Thomas Metzinger

  • "Internet of Bodies" by Ritika Chaturvedi et al.

Conceptualization and Intuitionistic Approaches to Understanding Intelligence:

  • "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought" by Douglas Hofstadter

  • "SPLADE: Sparse Lexical and Expansion Model for First Stage Ranking" by Thibault Formel et al.

  • "Understanding computation" by Tom Stuart

Agency and Autonomy in the Posthuman Context:

  • "Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong" by Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen

  • "The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence" by Ray Kurzweil.

Trajectories and Implications of Unbound Intelligence and Human-Non-Human Relationships:

  • "Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" by Max Tegmark.

  • "Highly accurate protein structure prediction with AlphaFold" by J Jumper et. al.

Ecological and Technological Perturbations: Humans, Technology, Environment, and Evolution:

  • "The Techno-Human Condition" by Braden R. Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz

  • "Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine" by Norbert Wiener

Cognitive Development of Individuals and Collectives in the Context of Advancing Technologies:

  • "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" by Nicholas Carr

  • "Superposition, Memorization, and Double Descent" by Tom Henighen et. al.

  • "The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind" by Marvin Minsky

  • "Blindsight" by Peter Watts.

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