So, first and foremost: I can’t get to Albuquerque for the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association conference. Which sucks. I’m still going to write the paper, and do the work, because it’s connected to the larger arc of my professional life. But still. Sad.
BUT! I got a presentation accepted for The Work of Cognition and Neuroethics in Science Fiction conference, March 20–21, 2015 at the Insight Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroscience (IINN) in Flint, MI. And THAT one, I can DRIVE to. i’ll still need to raise money for the accommodations
The presentation—a reconfiguration of one of my (previously rejected) Ultimate Star Trek and Philosophy abstracts—looks like this:
“The Quality of Life: The Implications of Augmented Personhood and Machine Intelligence in Science Fiction”
ABSTRACT: This presentation will focus on a view of humanity’s contemporary fictional relationships with cybernetically augmented humans and machine intelligences, from Icarus to the various incarnations of Star Trek to Terminator and Person of Interest, and more. We will ask whether it is legitimate to judge the level of progressiveness of these worlds through their treatment of these questions, and, if so, what is that level? We will consider the possibility that the writers of these tales intended the observed interactions with many of these characters to represent humanity’s technophobia as a whole, with human perspectives at the end of their stories being that of hopeful openness and willingness to accept. However, this does not leave the manner in which they reach that acceptance—that is, the factors on which that acceptance is conditioned—outside of the realm of critique. As considerations of both biotechnological augmentation and artificial intelligence have advanced, Science Fiction has not always been a paragon of progressiveness in the ultimate outcome of those considerations. For instance, while Picard and Haftel eventually come to see Lal as Data’s legitimate offspring, in the eponymous Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, it is only through their ability to map Data’s actions and desires onto a human spectrum—and Data’s desire to have that map be as faithful as possible to its territory—that they come to that acceptance. The reason for this is the one most common throughout science fiction: It is assumed at the outset that any sufficiently non-human consciousness will try remove humanity’s natural right to self-determination and freewill. But from sailing ships to star ships, the human animal has always sought a far horizon, and so it bears asking, how does science fiction regard that primary mode of our exploration, that first vessel—ourselves? For many, science fiction has been formative to the ways in which we see the world and understand the possibilities for our future, which is why it is strange to look back at many shows, films, and books and to find a decided lack of nuance or attempted understanding. Instead, we are presented with the presupposition that fear and distrust of a hyper-intelligent cyborg or machine consciousness is warranted. Thus, while the spectre of Pinocchio and the Ship of Theseus—that age-old question of “how much of myself can I replace before I am not myself”— both hang over the whole of the Science Fiction Canon, it must be remembered that our ships are just our limbs extended to the sea and the stars.
So Now it’s just a matter of getting the money for the hotel and conference registration.
I’ve got a thing coming up in mid-April, as well, but I’m not sure I can talk about that, yet. I can say that it’s ALSO somewhere I can drive, and would probably have crash space. So, there, gas money’s the only real issue.
Time to start saving. So much saving >_<