Mind-upload. The ultimate challenge to the embodied mind theory

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 16 (3):425-448 (2017)
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The ‘Mind-Upload’ hypothesis, a radical version of the Brain-in-a-Vat thought experiment, asserts that a whole mind can safely be transferred from a brain to a digital device, after being exactly encoded into substrate independent informational patterns. Prima facie, MU seems the philosophical archenemy of the Embodied Mind theory, which understands embodiment as a necessary and constitutive condition for the existence of a mind and its functions. In truth, whether and why MU and EM are ultimately incompatible is unobvious. This paper, which aims to answer both questions, will not simply confirm that MU and EM actually are incompatible. It will also show the true reason of their incompatibility: while EM implies that a mind’s individual identity is contingent upon the details of its physical constituents, MU presupposes that minds can be relocated from one material vessel to another. A systematic comparison between these conflicting assumptions reveals that the real shortcoming of MU is not the one usually discussed by the philosophical literature: it has nothing to do with MU’s functionalist or computationalist prerequisites, and is only secondarily related to the artificial implementability of consciousness; the real problem is that MU presupposes that minds could still be individuated and numerically identified while being reduced to immaterial formal patterns. EM seems committed to refute this assumption, but does it have sufficient resources to succeed?



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Massimiliano Cappuccio
University of New South Wales

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