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HumanTech Meetings II. Cyborgs Among Us: Ethics, Identity, and the Future of Human Evolution

HumanTech Meetings II. Cyborgs Among Us: Ethics, Identity, and the Future of Human Evolution

Imagine using technology to completely redesign human bodies and minds, with medical facilities becoming spare parts stores. Is this a feasible vision of our future? This question lies at the heart of our next HumanTech Meeting. We are honored to welcome Dr. Rebecca Gibson from Virginia Commonwealth University and Dr. Aleksandra Łukaszewicz-Alcaraz, an expert in philosophical aesthetics, to lead our discussion.

March 25, 2024
17:00–20:00 CET (UTC+1)
online

Cyborg persons

In our exploration of the person-cyborg paradigm, we delve into the following questions: Is technology reshaping humanity to the extent that we are entering a post-human era? Are we inevitably moving towards the merger of man and machine? And what ethical dilemmas accompany progress when we consider using implants and prostheses not only to compensate for our impairments but also to improve our abilities?

Our speakers will shed light on these questions. Dr. Rebecca Gibson, anthropologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, and author of the book "Desire in the Age of Robots and AI: An Investigation in Science Fiction and Fact" and Dr. Aleksandra Łukaszewicz-Alcaraz, expert in philosophical esthetics and art and cultural theory, and author of the book "Are Cyborgs Persons? An Account on Futurist Ethics," will share their insights on identity, ethics and the future of humanity amidst our increasing integration with technology.

The lectures will be followed by a panel discussion with experts dealing with human transformation under the influence of technology. Together, we will examine the challenges and moral implications of posthumanism and transhumanism.

Dr. Konrad Maj, Head of the Center for Social and Technological Innovation HumanTech at SWPS University, will open the meeting. The panel discussion will be moderated by Joanna Sosnowska, Head of "Jutronauci" project at Wyborcza.pl.

Lectures will be held in Polish and English and will be translated simultaneously.

HumanTech Meetings

We live in an era of innovation, technological progress and digitalization. This current innovation drive may lead to unpredictable psychological and social outcomes. Therefore, it is crucial to establish collaborations between engineers, programmers, IT specialists and social scientists during initial phases of any new projects related to development of new technologies or services. Such collaborations may help to avoid mistakes and can support better development of new ideas.

The project is planned as a series of meetings, gathering academics and professionals from the technology sector from Poland and other countries. Each meeting will include two lectures, one delivered by a speaker from Poland and one presented by a guest from another country. The lectures will be followed by panel discussions, where panelists will represent different approaches to innovation and technology.

HumanTech Meetings is a project of SWPS University's Center for Social and Technological Innovation.

  1. Aleksandra Łukaszewicz-Alcaraz: Expanding the "Kingdom of Ends". Non-human Persons and Their Moral Status From the Perspective of Psychological Research

    In modern social reality, we interact not only with other members of our species but also with various beings of both biological and technological nature. At the same time, we as a species undergo a progressive intentional technological transformation forcing us to ask ourselves whether, being ourselves, we are still human and what that would mean. Species affiliation, which is the stance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is an insufficient basis for protecting the rights of individuals, different kinds of persons or entities operating in society. I believe that it may be helpful to shift our focus from the ideologically loaded concept of a "human being" to that of a "human person." The latter implies the existence of other persons, not only human, yet equally significant. Following Joseph Margolis, I see the human person as an embodied, encultured and enlanguaged being who consciously functions in society. Other embodiments are possible that allow a person to function in society other than just a human one. Cyborg persons (such as Neil Harbisson), hybrid persons, and persons subjected to genetic manipulation (CRISPR children) are undoubtedly persons, although it is difficult to try to impose on them the status of human persons. To address this situation at the ethical level, it is necessary, as a first step, to recognize the possibility of an ethics that includes subjects other than just human beings. This process of inclusion clearly began with Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation" (1975). However, since an animal, like a child, for Singer is a subject of moral reflection (moral subject) and not a moral spawn (moral agent), Singer's perspective is insufficient in this case. For it is necessary to recognize the Other, the non-human person as a person precisely. For Immanuel Kant, what determines the inalienable value of man, whom he viewed as biologically defined, is his rationality. Thanks to it, the man belongs to the "kingdom of ends." Updating Kant's thought by abandoning the absolutization of rationality and moving into the realm of the modern theory of mind, it can be pointed out that perceiving another as similar to us, as having a mind requires recognizing him or her as susceptible, prone to suffering (axis of experience) and also capable, able to act intentionally (axis of causality) (Gray, Gray, Wegner 2007). The research I conducted with Paweł Fortuna in 2022 involved a group of 322 Polish men and women, who compared different subjects—a human person, a cyborg person, a fembot, a social animal robot, and an algorithm—in terms of recognizing them as moral subjects on the grounds of theory of mind perception. The findings revealed that the attribution of moral status is not binary, but gradual, fluid and transitional, differentiating on the scales of experience and causality. Thus, it is conceivable to expand the Kantian "kingdom of ends" so that there is room in it for more beings than just rational representatives of the Homo sapiens species. But how to determine the proper scope is a question for a separate discussion.

  2. Rebecca Gibson: Are We Medically Post-Human? Moving Fictional Cyborg Technology to the Real World

    While fiction often far outpaces technology, it can provide an impetus for the implementation of technological developments, showing us what may be possible if only we think outside of the devices, treatments, and procedures that currently exist. Yet, concurrently with changing technology, we must envision a change in the mindset of both patients and medical professionals. Much of the medicine of the future, which will be tasked with solving such issues as kidney failure, glucose monitoring, the signs and symptoms of aging, and the loss of bodily senses such as sight, hearing, and touch, will include cybernetic implantation—the integration of mechanical, electrical, or electronics/computer-based technology into the body in a way that augments or replaces body parts that were once organically human. Can we embrace that? Can we become medically post-human? To answer this question, we will look at the world of The Matrix franchise, existing cyborg technology, and ideas of posthumanism and transhumanism.

Keynote Speakers

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
Ph.D. / Assistant Professor
Is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Virginia Commonwealth University (USA). Her published works include “Desire in the Age of Robots and AI: An Investigation in Science Fiction and Fact” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) and “The Corseted Skeleton: A Bioarchaeology of Binding” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from American University, and when not writing or teaching can be found reading mystery novels amidst a pile of stuffed animals.
Aleksandra Łukaszewicz-Alcaraz
Aleksandra Łukaszewicz-Alcaraz
Ph.D.
Holds a post-doctoral degree (habilitacja) in culture and religion studies. She specializes in philosophical esthetics and theory of art and culture. Aleksandra serves as Vice President of the Polish Society for Aesthetics. She is a recipient of several awards and grants, including a Kosciuszko Foundation Scholarship (2017) for research on the philosophy of art culture and esthetics at Temple University in Philadelphia under the guidance of Professor Joseph Margolis. Aleksandra is also the coordinator of the international research consortia TICASS and TPAAE, which carry out projects on visual communication, visual literacy, art and education from an intercultural perspective. Their work is funded by the European Commission under the MSCA-RISE H2020 program. She is the author of the book "Are Cyborg Persons? An Account on Futurist Ethics" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021).

Panelists

Philip Hojme
Philip Højme
Ph.D.

Is an independent researcher who holds a Ph.D. degree in Philosophy from the Graduate School for Social Research, IFiS PAN (Warsaw). His research interests include Biopolitics, Critical Theory, Feminism, Minority Rights, and Trans- and Post-humanism. Related to the topic of this panel, Philip has published the following articles: Transhumanism as Modern-day Necromancy in the GCAS Review Journal, 1(2), 2021; Should We Fear the Future? The Philosophy of Transhumanism in the Collector, 2021; Whose Survival? A Critical Engagement with the Notion of Existential Risk in Scientia et Fides, 7(2), 63–76, 2019.

Konrad Maj
Konrad Maj
Ph.D.

Is a social psychologist, Head of the HumanTech Center at SWPS University in Warsaw and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology in Warsaw. He leads the HumanTech Meetings project and serves as the Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the HumanTech Summit. His research interests focus on the social and psychological aspects of new technologies, with particular emphasis on artificial intelligence (AI), metaverse, and robotics. He was recognized as one of the 25 top alumni of the 25th Jubilee of SWPS University. In 2023, the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education awarded him the title "Popularizer of Science."

The panel will be hosted by

Joanna Sosnowska
Joanna Sosnowska
 

Is a journalist and editor affiliated with the Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and the Wyborcza.pl online news platform. She serves as the Head of the "Jutronauci" project and co-hosts the Techstorie podcast on Radio Tok FM. Previously, she managed Gazeta Wyborcza's tech section for nearly three years and served as editor-in-chief of the technology and gaming sections at Wirtualna Polska, another online news platform. She has also been a part of the Gazeta.pl news website team for many years. Additionally, Joanna briefly transitioned outside of media to contribute to a startup focused on addressing insomnia and nightmares.

Sign up for the meeting

Organizer

Center for Social and Technological Innovation HumanTech

Partners

  • polskie towarzystwo informatyczne logo
  • osrodek przetwarzania informacji logo
  • Zrobotyzowany logo

Sponsor

  • NEO Energy Group logo

Date and location

March 25, 2024 (Monday), 17:00–20:00 CET (UTC+1)
online

Contact

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

the colors and the national emblem of the Republic of Poland

In 2021, the HumanTech Meetings project was granted an additional PLN 250,000 (EUR 52 828,75) by the Ministry of Education and Science (MEiN), as part of the funding scheme “Społeczna odpowiedzialność nauki – Popularyzacja nauki i promocja sportu” (Social responsibility of science – Popularization of science and sport), (project no. SONP/SN/514650/2021), project duration: 2022-2023, total value: PLN 305,472 (EUR 65 251,67).

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