Susan Schneider is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at the University of Connecticut, a fellow with the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and a member of the Technology and Ethics Group at Yale’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. Her books include The Language of Thought: a New Philosophical Direction, Science Fiction and Philosophy, and The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Her work centers on the nature of the self and mind, which she examines from the vantage point of issues in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and applied ethics.
How would intelligent aliens think? Would they have conscious experiences? Would it feel a certain way to be an alien? It is easy to dismiss these questions as too speculative, since we haven’t encountered aliens, at least as far as we know. And in conceiving of alien minds we do so from within – from inside the vantage point of the sensory experiences and thinking patterns characteristic of our species. At best, we anthropomorphize; at worst, we risk stupendous failures of the imagination. Still, ignoring these questions could be a grave mistake. Some proponents of SETI estimate that we will encounter alien intelligence within the next several decades. Even if you hold a more conservative estimate, the stakes for our species are high. Knowing that we are not alone in the universe would be a profound realization, and contact with an alien civilization could produce amazing technological innovations and cultural insights. It thus can be valuable to consider these questions, albeit with the goal of introducing possible routes to answering them, rather than producing definitive answers. So, let us ask: how might aliens think? And, would they be conscious? Schneider will say something concrete in response to both of these questions, drawing from work in philosophy and cognitive science.
Time: 9 pm
Location: Ukrainian Institute of America / Concert Hall