The Self-Improvement Machine: a talk by Alexander Horne (Cambridge)

November 3rd

It will take place at Hörsaal 2H NIG 2.Stock on Thursday, November 3rd 2022, 14-15.30.


Suppose that in the not-too-distant future, scientists invented a self-improvement machine. The machine adds a chip into your brain which contains lots of new information and helps you conform more readily with the norms of epistemic and practical rationality. As a result of the procedure, many of your priorities, interests, values and tastes are quite different from what they were before entering the machine. Despite the obvious benefits, I am reluctant to step into the self-improvement machine. That is, I am reluctant to risk losing my present attachments, values, preferences and desires even where I know that losing them in the machine meant they were irrational. This sounds odd and yet, I suspect I am not alone in feeling a degree of disquiet at the prospect of undergoing such a procedure. My hunch is that exploring the source of this disquiet can help us better understand the relationships between agency, identity and self-improvement of the more "organic" variety.

Everyone is welcome.