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Cybernetics, Human Consciousness, & Free Will

Cybernetics, Human Consciousness, & Free Will

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Published by mlzonis
By: Marcus Zonis

Term Paper for Philosophy 305: From Neurophilosophy to Neuroethics
By: Marcus Zonis

Term Paper for Philosophy 305: From Neurophilosophy to Neuroethics

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Published by: mlzonis on Apr 01, 2013
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Marcus Zonis12/3/2012PHI 305 Term Paper
Cybernetics, Human Consciousness, & Free Will
In order to challenge notions traditionally held by the human race, I must enter therealms of extreme possibility philosophizing on points that seem more like science fiction thanplausible reality. I must try and challenge normally held notions, doing any less would be aninjustice to philosophy. I will not only examine thoughts from great philosophers, I shall delvefurther by using ideas that can be found in the manga or graphic novels. The goal is to get at theheart of what it means to have free will, consciousness, and what it means to be human,cyborg, and machine.Descartes was one of the most remembered philosophers of the early modern era, whobrilliantly reflected on the nature of a person. In his work Meditations on First Philosophy,Descartes continually challenged the traditional notions that
what we are
is simply defined byour everyday experiences. Descartes challenges all notions of our bodily senses and mentalthoughts concluding that a human body can be deceived and because of sensory deception theflesh may not exist.
On the other hand, a human’s mind
must 
exist. Why? By trying to disprovethe existence of the mind one proves that there truly is a mental thing. Within the moment themind thinks, it also exists. By trying to unthink itself, it is thinking, and must exist. By usingDesca
rtes’ ide
as on the mind the following points can be claimed: A) it is possible for there tobe mental things without physical bodies, and B) the human mind is not limited to just the
 
human form. These are two components that will play a major role in questioning machine,man, and the importance of free will. Descartes even hypothesizes on the existences of mentalcreatures without physical forms. If such things could exist, is it too fantastic to imagine mindswithout bodies?
Both Chalmers’ paper (
The Extended Mind 
) and Anderson’s paper (
Neuro-Prosthetics,the Extended Mind, and Respect for Persons with Disability 
) introduce and examine theextended mind thesis. The goal of their
thesis is to figure out “where does the mind stop andthe rest of the world begin?” (
Quoted from
The Extended Mind 
) This question and the thesisthat analyzes it are critical to understanding where the line between humanity ends and wherethe machine begins.
I strongly agree with Anderson’s ideas on the nature of neuroprosthetics
.
Specifically, Anderson’s idea that the mind extends beyond h
uman form, to the extent that
mechanic parts that are used by the mind are components of said mind’s body
. Anderson gives
us the example of an old man with Alzheimer’s
. He cannot remember where anything is aroundtown. To aide his survival he uses a notebook to write what features are on what streets. Thismere pad of paper is his
only 
means of remembering how to get where he needs to go.
“Indeed, tearing sheets out of his notebook may be a greater assault on his cognit
ive systemthan removing some of his brain tissue.
” (Anderson 265)
The human who usesneuroprosthetics is still consciously a human, so long as they are the masters of the technologythey use. What about when the neuroprosthetic ceases to be an extension of the humanbody/mind? When the prosthetic becomes a critical asset in defining this human as something
changed 
? Say the human has more metallic parts than natural human parts
 –
what are they
 –
 man, machine, or something altogether new?
 
The first philosophy that will question the nature of what a human mind is without ahuman form are ideas proposed by Masamune Shirow in his work the Ghost in the Shell. Thisseries takes place in a future Earth where the lines between humans and machines has utterlyblurred. What is a person? Who has free will? Do you cease having free will when you ceasehaving a mortal form? Are you still a human if you have no physical form? These questions andmore are examined within his work. The basic
idea Shirow’s work
demonstrates is that a full(body and mind) human is the only capable
source
of a sentient and sapient being. When the
human’s consciousness/mind leaves its organic flesh and enters a meta
llic host it still remains aperson. Within his work, this mind is k
nown as “the ghost”, which
cannot be duplicated ormade through artificial means. If there is a probl
em in the ghost’s
transfer from one shell to thenext the mind will simply disintegrate. In the Ghost Universe, the mind is what truly defines aperson not the body, and artificial intelligence can never truly be a ghost. The reason I havespent so much time mentioning this work is that it poses a possible outcome to thephilosophical dilemma I face. Perhaps the mind is all we need to be concerned with. Shells
might be limited to only playing a role in a ghost’s conception, i
.e. a human is born in humanflesh with a human mind; rather than playing any role in defining the nature of asapient/sentient thing.The philosophical conclusions of Ghost in the Shell leave me with much to think about. Iwill accept that the nature of the mind is critical to understanding what is and what is not ahuman. I cannot accept the claim that both metallic and organic bodies are merely shells.Human forms are critical to the formation of what is a person. Most of the machines displayedwithin this and many other science fiction works are created to appear
human-like
. Clearly the

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