This is the fourth and final article in my series focusing on issues Peter Watts addresses in his SF novel Blindsight. In the prior three articles, we have looked at whether consciousness can be considered an impediment, whether it would be worth living in a virtual reality environment, the brain and a range of unusual neurological impairments, and lastly, artificial enhancements up to and including transhumanism. This article will discuss a very famous thought experiment called the Chinese Room Argument and the challenge it poses to the computational theory of mind.
This is the third article in this series in which I discuss interesting philosophical issues raised by Peter Watts in his SF novel Blindsight. In this article, we will be looking at steps some of the characters take to alter their behaviours or personalities, culminating in an extreme change that brings us to the disturbing frontiers of transhumanism.
This is the second in my article series discussing philosophical issues raised in the excellent SF novel Blindsight by Peter Watts. In this article we will be looking at the brain. I will focus on the relatively recent idea that the brain is modular and also look at a number of fascinating neurological disorders Watts describes in the story.
The Brain and Neurology
There are three brain- and neurology-related issues Watts raises, which I will tackle in turn. The first concerns the protagonist, Siri Keeton. To prevent the seizures he was prone to as a child, Keeton had to have an operation which effectively involved the removal of half his brain. The effect of this operation was to leave him completely lacking in emotions and emotional understanding, so much so that in the book, he appears to be autistic, although highly functioning.
Blindsight is an exceptional 2006 SF novel, in which Peter Watts raises so many fascinating philosophical and psychological/neurological issues that I couldn’t stop myself from writing a couple of articles dedicated to some of them. As my primary concern in these articles will be the discussion of some of the key issues, I won’t bother with an outline of the plot (for that, you’ll have to read the book; a task I highly recommend). However, a proper discussion of the issues will necessitate a little context which will unavoidably involve sneak peeks of scenes at varying points in the book. Although I will deliberately avoid plot spoilers, if you plan to read the book (which, again, you should – it’s almost worth reading just to see the highly original way in which he has interpreted and brought the vampire myth to life – bonus point to Watts for the ingenious crucifix glitch!), please bear this in mind.