Philosophy

PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

Speaker: Dr Robyn Repko Waller (University of Sussex)

Title: (Free) Agents and Neurotechnology: Where are agents in the brain and how can we find them?

Abstract: Brain-computer interfaces have been heralded as enabling the disembodied agent to consciously command her world, whereas the detection of motor intentions via neuroimaging has been taken to expose the illusion of conscious control by embodied agents. Intriguingly, both research programs rely on decoding algorithms, operative over the same kinds of neural activity in motor regions, to ‘read’ intentions to act. What explains this divergence of attitudes? Do decoding algorithms hold promise to harness and expand our agency or, on the contrary, threaten to eliminate it? To answer these questions, in this talk, I will, first, explore the nature of agents, actions, and intentions to act from a philosophy of action framework. I will then advocate for a cautious optimism about agents, even conscious and free ones, grounded in the broader neuroscience of action literature. Finally, I will gesture, methodologically, at how enhanced focus on ecologically valid neuroscientific paradigms of agency, inclusive of dynamic conditions, skill-based learning, and complexity, could better get at agents and intentions in the brain.

Further information

We are a group of researchers from diverse backgrounds in the above-mentioned groups (and beyond) who aim to gain an interdisciplinary yet deep understanding of the threads that bind the human mind and the world. In particular, this seminar series focuses on the nature of cognition, metacognition and social cognition. We’ll be tackling questions such as, what does it mean to think? What does it mean to think about thinking? And, what does it mean to think about one’s own thinking versus thinking about the thinking of other people? Please come along!

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Contact details

Tillmann Vierkant

Nov 29 2023 -

PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

2023-11-29: (Free) Agents and Neurotechnology: Where are agents in the brain and how can we find them?

Lecture Theatre F21, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ