New Book From Professor Steven Shaviro
Steven Shaviro, Professor of English and DeRoy Chair at Wayne State University, has published a new book, Discognition (Repeater 2016). Dr. Shaviro uses contemporary science fiction novels and stories to explore questions about consciousness. Chapters cover topics such as thinking like a computer, alien or even a slime mold.
DIscognition Author Steven Shaviro Discusses Science Fiction and its Role in Human Consciousness
My new book, Discognition, looks at science fiction in order to think about questions of consciousness. Each of us knows that he or she is conscious; and most of us take it for granted that not only human beings are conscious, but animals like dogs and cats are as well. But how far downwards does consciousness go? Are lobsters conscious? Are trees? Are bacteria? We don't really know. But the enigmas go further. We don't even understand our own intelligence and mental activity. We live in a golden age of neuroscience; every year, we learn more and more about the functioning of the brain. And yet, despite this accumulation of knowledge, nobody really knows what consciousness is, or how it works. Philosophers and scientists disagree on even the most basic issues. We have no idea how to get from the brain to the mind: from electrochemical processes in our neurons to things like feelings and thoughts and experiences.
In such a situation, maybe science fiction can help. In Discognition, I approach these basic questions through novels and stories by five contemporary science fiction authors: Maureen McHugh, Ted Chiang, Scott Bakker, Michael Swanwick, and Peter Watts. These writers speculate about human intelligence, artificial (machine) intelligence, and alien intelligence.