IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > CognitiveLiberty > CyborgBuddha > Personhood > Vision > Fellows > Susan Schneider > Enablement
Transhumanism: Does Enhancement Kill “You”?

Dr. Susan Schneider, IEET fellow and assistant professor of philosophy and an affiliated faculty member with Penns Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, speaks at a UPenn Media Seminar on Neuroscience and Society on philosophical controversies surrounding cognitive enhancement.

I'd like the chance to decide if I'm not myself anymore or not, I'm thinking the question will be moot, and never will be fully resolved. We have a hard time deciding if we are ourselves today after certain brain injuries, yet usually people that grapple with such issues don't choose to kill themselves. In addition to the fact that we change already over time, some older people feel they are radically different than when they were young and can even have great sadness for what they feel they've lost--yet still don't choose to kill themselves. Most transhumanists believe in the psychological continuity view, some cryonicists though are strictly materialists and reject more "extreme" transhumanist views. It is important to think of the philosophical implications of the possibilities of uploading though. Practically I believe, as many sci-fi writers have illustrated--it would be up to that particular entity to decide, whether it feels its personal identity is flawed or not. I like many, would like to preserve the right to possibly some day make that choice 😊
I accept a variation on Dr. Schneider's 4th view of the person, "No Self" but in a Buddhist form, which overlaps with the Humean and Nietzschean views she included under that definition. This differs crucially from the psychological continuity view embraced by the majority, including Dr. Schneider, under which:according to her:the cumulative effects of enhancement would be tantamount to death. Philosophical speculations of the sort she engages in are both interesting and appropriate. But in my view, the real test comes when actual enhancements are available on the market. Some people will choose to use them. Then the rest must decide whether or not to follow suit. If the early adopters of enhancement technologies enjoy clearly superior experiences, such as higher capacities to think, create, work, play and live longer, more prosperous lives, then it seems likely, in my opinion, that most people will follow that path. No one should be forced to do so, of course, just as no one is forced now to leave the Amish country where 19th century technology still prevails. But how many would choose to live that way? Would you?
I agree that enhancing myself *could* cause me to cease to exist, in whole or in part. However, it is not just the extent of transformation that determines whether or not you continue to exist. It's also the way the transformation comes about. I explored this in some detail in the last chapter of my 1995 doctoral dissertation: The Diachronic Self: Identity, Continuity, Transformation. The text of that chapter is here:
I was a little confused by the assimilation of patternism to psychological continuity theory. If some kind of 'wide' continuity constitutes personal identity then I can undergo radical transformations in cognitive capacity just so long as each of my 'person stages' is connected to the next such as to preserve continuity. Patternism - whatever its merits - seems like a different theory entirely. Clearly, there are problems with wide continuity as a theory - not least that branching continuity of the kind discussed in the last thought experiment violates the transitivity of identity. I suspect the way out of this may be to follow Parfit in arguing that survival is a matter of degree of connectedness. This entails that I may survive as more than one instantiation of my computational structure, though not that I am identical to any of these future beings.
So what if enhancing or uploading is tantamount to suicide as the new you isn't actually you? Considering that the alternative is no you (aka death), I don't see this as a problem.
Since we are changing all the time anyway, the point is moot, and certainly will become more so as the technology becomes available and normal. Future enhancements are not so much different that past ones, which, even if they were more crude than what we anticipate, were just as altering to our personalities: certainly glasses, or medicine, not to mention clothes or fire, have changed the person that we would have been without them; does that mean that we shouldn't have used them, that using them was a suicide of the real us? I prefer to think that we are enriched by such transformations, and that whatever we lose is made up several times over by what we gain.
I agree with Mike Treder. Following Schneider's argument, I must have killed myself many times since I was a child. But I still feel like me, which is what really matters.
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