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Interdisciplinary conference im 

house of the university

"And such a brain that is supposed to think excellently..." - Biological death or artificial survival?

Interdisciplinary perspectives of existence, death and self-determination

December 11 - 12, 2020


Dusseldorf: House of the University

Those for the 11th-12th The conference scheduled for December 2020 begins with a literary-historical topos that seems to anticipate the relationship between life and death, human and artificial intelligence far-sightedly: Goethe's Wagner character appears in the second part of his Faust drama as a scientist who uses an in vitro creation of man in the laboratory undertakes. The figure thus created, known as "Homunculus", combines the hybrid character of scientific progress with its criticism in equal measure. The following verses from Wagner are paradigmatic for this: "And such a brain that is supposed to think excellently / Will also do a thinker in the future." The "thinker" or scientist designs the future "brain", whose performance he uses the respective technological-functional principles pretends. Such a scenario is often associated with the development of artificial intelligence, neural networks and advances in medical technology. Opportunities and risks are equally linked here. Because in the near or somewhat more distant future, questions will become virulent that see the corporeality of humans being undermined by such technologies. Do they enable people to expand their self-determination and exert influence on their body, for example in the course of palliative and curative measures, or do they depotentiate their corporeality, for example in the course of a transfer of the ego to a mechanical and digitally coded one that has often been the subject of recent debate Base? Which medical-ethical questions are raised when new technological possibilities revolutionize the existential framework and the limits of existing definitions of death seem to be shifted?

 The discussion about the questionable feasibility of such technological fantasies, by means of which humans can increase their intelligence, interact with artificial intelligence or even get rid of their mortal body and upload it to a machine surrogate, requires reflection on their basic requirements. For this purpose, philosophical-historical problems can be updated, which essentially concern the relationship between mind and body. What are "mind" and "body" and how do they develop? Does spirit only appear in embodied or embodied form? Can a dividing line be drawn between them at all without losing essence of self? Can "ghost" be created artificially? Or is it a deceptively real illusion created by artificial intelligence in interaction with people? Then it would also be necessary to ask which forms of intelligence must be distinguished (e.g. cognitive, emotional or social) and according to which ethical principles, parameters or even maxims (?) such artificial intelligences would have to act in order to interact successfully with humans.

Such technologies require an opening of existing professional boundaries for interdisciplinary dialogue and thus also a reassessment of existence, being human and person, of the ego as well as of human and artificial intelligence. The conference would like to sharpen the complexity of these topics to a provocative alternation: "Biological death or artificial survival?" and self-determination. In the fields of cognitive science, psychology, neurology and psychiatry, lectures are planned that will approach the phenomenon of human intelligence and the talents associated with it from different perspectives and contrast them with existing artificial intelligence, showing similarities, differences and limitations. To what extent do new media influence the development of human intelligence? Do they promote self-determination in the sense of increasing influence on the living environment, for example through virtual reality, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and language assistance systems and the constant availability of information?

Or do they pose a threat to the development of early childhood and adolescent intelligence, since creative and cognitive processes are delegated to autonomously acting, artificial systems? What's the difference between being able to play the violin, learning Chinese, or carving a wooden mask on the one hand, and technologies that can produce these skills, which we sometimes dedicate ourselves to, more efficiently, faster, and better (?!) on the other? Is the focus on the finished product/artefact or is it the creative activity itself? What does it mean when such skills take a back seat in the course of changing technological and media behavior (e.g. through touchscreens, language systems and social media) and what effects can be anticipated for human intelligence?

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