Overview of Research:
Project #1- The Philosophy of Emerging Digital Technology: There are currently three active research projects I am pursuing. The primary research project I am engaged in examines how emerging digital technologies are poised to affect the mind from a metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological perspective. This project was borne out of work that I conducted on how lifelogging technologies impact personhood from the standpoint of different theories of personal identity (see my paper ‘Could You Merge with AI? Reflections on the Singularity and Radical Brain Enhancement,’ published in The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI (2020)).
My Ph.D. dissertation, entitled A Virtue Epistemology of Brain-Computer Interface and Augmented Reality Technology, builds upon this work by examining emerging digital technologies (specifically neurotech and mixed reality devices like smart glasses) from the standpoint of virtue epistemology instead of the metaphysics of personal identity. The project’s overarching aim is to discern how these digital technologies are equipped to influence the cultivation and maintenance of intellectual virtue, focusing on the virtues of intellectual perseverance, intellectual autonomy, intellectual humility, and open-mindedness. This work involves analyzing such technologies from the perspective of both techno-optimism and techno-pessimism. With respect to the former, the project draws on the extended mind thesis to explore how and to what extent neurotech and mixed reality technology can metaphysically extend knowledge and intellectual virtue. From the perspective of techno-pessimism, I illustrate how such technologies threaten to exacerbate existing epistemic problems associated with surveillance capitalism, data mining, and personalization algorithms.
Thus far, the dissertation project has given rise to two publications in the journals Synthese and Philosophy & Technology, an article currently under review, and two manuscripts in-progress. The publication in Synthese (called ‘Neuromedia, Cognitive Offloading, and Intellectual Perseverance’ (2022)) analyzes how neurotech is equipped to negatively impact the intellectual character of agents. First, I illustrate how excessive cognitive offloading of the sort incentivized by a device that Michael Lynch calls ‘neuromedia’ threatens to undermine intellectual virtue development from the standpoint of the theory of virtue responsibilism. Then, I examine this epistemic threat as it applies to the virtue of intellectual perseverance, arguing that AI-powered cognitive enhancement devices like neuromedia may increase cognitive efficiency at the cost of intellectual perseverance.
The publication in Philosophy & Technology (called ‘Augmented Reality, Augmented Epistemology, and the Real-World Web’ (2022)) addresses some epistemic threats posed by near-future augmented reality devices. I argue that mixed reality technology threatens to exacerbate three existing epistemic problems in the digital age related to surveillance capitalism that I call the problems of digital distraction, digital deception, and digital divergence. The paper draws on a range of empirical research on augmented reality technology and offers a phenomenological analysis of virtual objects as perceptual affordances to help ground and guide the speculative nature of the discussion. In addition to this article, I have a commentary piece on mixed reality called ‘HoloFoldit and Hologrammatically-Extended Cognition’ forthcoming in the journal Philosophy & Technology in which I construct an argument in favor of ‘hologrammatically-extended cognition’ based on the veracity of virtual realism and an argument against it based on the veracity of virtual fictionalism. In coming years, I plan to do more work on the ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics of VR/AR, with special attention to existing use cases and ethics of the metaverse.
The article under review (entitled ‘Algorithmic Opacity and Extended Epistemology’) examines the possibility of extended epistemology in the context of AI cognitive assistant devices. I contend that, while possible, the actual manifestation of extended epistemology is infeasible in AI cognitive assistants that feature algorithmic opacity. I analyze how algorithmic opacity renders AI cognitive assistants resistant to extended epistemology and argue, on virtue epistemological grounds, that there should be a right to an explanation of algorithmic decision-making. In future work, I will further explore the epistemic implications of the extended mind thesis as they pertain to the virtue of intellectual humility, as well as the ethical implications of the extended mind related to hacking, data privacy, and cybersecurity. Finally, one last strand of work within my primary research project that I am pursuing is a high-level conceptual analysis and evaluation of techno-optimism and techno-pessimism per se, wherein I will critically examine different optimistic and pessimistic arguments regarding the future of technology, ranging from transhumanism to neo-luddism.
Project #2- The Problem of Machine Consciousness: A secondary research project investigates how different topics in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of cognitive science can shed light on the problem of machine consciousness. For example, my article ‘The Cognitive Phenomenology Argument for Disembodied AI Consciousness’ (published in The Age of Artificial Intelligence: An Exploration (Vernon Press, 2020)) draws on cognitive phenomenology, embodied cognition theory, and the higher-order thought theory of consciousness to construct an argument for the possibility of disembodied AI consciousness. Currently, I am working on a manuscript tentatively titled ‘Superintelligence and the Evolutionary Function of Consciousness’ that makes use of literature on the evolution of consciousness to motivate the possibility that an AI superintelligence may choose to outmode its own consciousness on the grounds that consciousness either has no adaptive function or that its function can be performed at a more efficient rate by nonconscious systems.
Project #3- The Metaphysics of Consciousness and Intentionality: The final research project is on the metaphysics of consciousness and intentionality. My article ‘The Extended Mind Argument Against Phenomenal Intentionality’ (published in the journal Phenomenology & The Cognitive Sciences (2021)) uses insights from the extended mind literature to construct an argument against the phenomenal intentionality thesis, the view that consciousness grounds intentionality. The article submits that the following three propositions, when properly understood, constitute an inconsistent triad: (1) the extended mind thesis is true, (2) the extended consciousness thesis is false, and (3) the phenomenal intentionality thesis is true. I motivate (1) and (2) in an effort to refute (3). Moving forward, I aim to return to research from my undergraduate days on non-traditional solutions to the hard problem of consciousness like panpsychism and Russellian monism and explore how these solutions dovetail with Buddhist philosophical approaches to the mind.
Links to Publications: