20 Feb 2009

Bostrom, "Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up," 5 Cognition

by Corry Shores
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Will we better understand our posthumanity once we obtain posthuman levels of cognition?

Nick Bostrom

"Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up"

V. Cognition

Another posthuman capacity is greatly enhanced cognition. Most people desire better cognitive abilities.

Society devotes an enormous portion of its resources to education. We also drink coffee to boost our mental acuity. And we regret losing concentration from neglecting full and regular sleep. So we must all want to improve our cognitive capacities.

Yet, posthuman levels of cognitive enhancement are extraordinary. Perhaps we just want mild improvements. Bostrom will persuade us otherwise with two considerations.

Those with talents such as musical skills usually try to improve them. This could be because those who excel reap greater rewards. Yet Bostrom suggests otherwise. Imagine people condemned to solitary confinement. These people already showed certain talents. In their confinement they were allowed to have books or tools of their crafts. Bostrom argues that they would probably develop their skills even without external rewards. This is because there is something inherently valuable about boosting our cognitive abilities.

So if people value obtaining as much cognitive enhancement possible, then posthuman levels of enhancement must be intrinsically valuable as well.

Nick Bostrom. "Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up." Forthcoming in Medical Enhancement and Posthumanity, eds. Bert Gordijn and Ruth Chadwick (Springer), 2007.
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