Nautilus

You Can’t Upload Your “Self” Into Virtual Reality

In his 2003 book, Being No One, Thomas Metzinger contends there is no such thing as a “self.” Rather, the self is a kind of transparent information-processing system. “You don’t see it,” he writes. “But you see with it.”

Metzinger has given a good amount of thought to the nature of our subjective experience—and how best to study it. A fellow at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, he directs the Neuroethics Section and the MIND Group, which he founded in 2003 to “cultivate,” he says, “a new type of interdisciplinarity.” To bridge what he calls the academic variant of the generation gap, the group is formed of philosophers and scientists—young and old—interested in psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience.

There’s a long history of conscious self-models on this planet.

When I spoke to Metzinger recently, he explained that the self evolved as a biologically useful construct to “match sensory perceptions onto motor behavior in a meaningful way.” Earlier this year, Metzinger made waves by publishing an article in Frontiers in Robotics and AI that argued that virtual reality technology—the ability to create illusions of

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus5 min read
The Dr. Strange of the American Revolution
I ascribe the Success of our Revolution to a Galaxy,” Benjamin Rush wrote to John Adams, in 1812. He wasn’t invoking the astrological. It was commonplace then to associate a bright assembly of people with the starry band in the night sky that Chaucer
Nautilus12 min read
Why We’re Patriotic: Whether it’s our country or our football team, we need to belong.
It started with one man quietly sipping a Tom Collins in the lounge car of the Cleveland-bound train. “God bless America,” he sang, “land that I love …” It didn’t take long. Others joined in. “Stand beside her … and guide her ...” Soon the entire tra
Nautilus10 min readSelf-Improvement
Playing Video Games Makes Us Fully Human: No other media meets our emotional and social needs like electronic games.
I have an agonizing decision to make. Should I save a governing body that has never done a thing for me? It doesn’t even contain a single person from my race. The aliens of the galactic Council decided long ago that my people should not be trusted, t