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4 Brain to Brain Integration and Complete Erasure of the Boundary

4 Brain to Brain Integration and Complete Erasure of the Boundary

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Computer Games, Philosophy and the Online Self

computer, enabling the person owning the brain to issue commands to the computer

with her thoughts alone. This already has a number of applications enabling disabled

patients, for example, to communicate with the outside world and to do things

through the computer in a way that was not possible before. In the case of brain-tobrain integration, then, the brains are linked up in the same way, which opens up

many possibilities. (For more information on the topic, see Hongladarom 2015).

One of the possibilities that I would like to discuss in this section is that with

such close integration of brains there is a possibility that the boundary between what

is taken traditionally to be the self and whatever exists outside the self can be

completely erased, or at least there is a possibility that such a boundary will not be

a hard and fast one, but something conventionally located, such as a line separating

different lanes on a highway. (Paul Verbeek also analyzes the boundary between

human and technology in Verbeek 2009.) This possibility has strong potentials for

gaming and for reflecting about the lines between games and the outside world.

Firstly, in the context of team playing, we could imagine a game between two teams,

each consisting of two or more persons with their brains linked up together, or the

team here might also compete against the computer. The idea is that, instead of

working together as distinct individuals, the team members, with their brains

connected in this way, can function as one unit, thus erasing the time lapse needed

for verbal communication. Even non-verbal communication that usually exists

among team members, such as in tennis double matches, will be superseded when

the brains of the two players are connected in this way. In a sense, then, the two

persons with their brains connected directly could become one person; indeed how

to count them as one or two persons would depend more on what we are counting

rather than something that objectively exists on the outside. On the one hand, there

are obviously two bodies, but when the brains are merged in this way, there is a

sense in which they have become one. I have discussed some of the ethical

conundrums that emerge from such an integration elsewhere (Hongladarom 2015).

Here I would like to discuss more on the implications that brain-to-brain integration

has on computer games and online selves in general, and the first point that I have

been discussing so far is that the boundary between one person and another will be

more a matter of convention rather than something that exists objectively. If this is

the case, then the boundary between the self of the player and the avatar can also be

considered in the same vein, namely that there is no objective boundary between the

self of the player and the avatar either.

Secondly, when persons and their brains are merged in this way, we can imagine

a game where there is an avatar controlled by a team of brain-connected players.

This avatar can then perform all the tasks and compete with other avatars which

presumably are run by brain-connected teams also. There are a lot of conceptual

problems in this scenario that need to be unpacked in order for us to understand

what is exactly going on and so that we can anticipate the situation when it eventually

arrive. Here the focus is not the conceptual ramifications of the relation between the

player and the avatar as we have seen in the earlier section. The focus is instead of

how it is possible for two or more human players to inhabit one and the same avatar,

especially with their brains linked together. When one player decides to move an


Brain to Brain Integration and Complete Erasure of the Boundary


arm of the avatar, does the other have to concur? Or will there be a domination of

one player by the other so that the former will function just like a set of limbs of the

latter only? All these are very important questions, but they cannot be answered

satisfactorily in this section in a chapter on online selves and computer games. In

this section we will consider only the situation where there is a cooperation between

the players who have their brains connected but without one dominating the other.

Domination in this sense is an ethical problem, which requires its own separate

discussion. In case where there is cooperation (in the same way as team members

cooperate with each other in a game, such as in tennis double matches), the players

join forces and the ideal situation would be that any decision made by the team will

be the one made jointly by the team members themselves without any conflict. In

fact in some game situation that requires fast thinking there is no time for the team

members to discuss about the best move. Any decision has to occur very fast. In this

case, it might be conceivable that the decision is made by the two brains thinking

together and coming up with the best move. We can imagine this better if we

imagined that the two brains in this situation actually become one larger brain.

This situation is admittedly very far-fetched and it will be some time in the future

before this becomes a reality. Nonetheless, the point that concerns us at the moment

is the conceptual ramifications of the situation, especially with regards to

metaphysics. Here games are an extension of reality; there does not seem to be an

objective boundary separating the two. In the situation where a team of brainconnected players instantiate a common avatar, we have essentially a three-way

relation. This becomes more interesting when the players are immersed in the game

environment. Here we have two persons merging with each other through their

connected brains, and the merged player in a sense becomes a new entity consisting

of two bodies of the players and two brains (which are joined together). The

emerging player thus finds herself immersed in the game environment, instantiating

an avatar. The metaphysical problem is thus how one is to tell how many persons

there are inside the avatar. On the one hand, the avatar is controlled and is embodied

by the emerging player, but then the latter consists of two bodies linked up through

network connection. At any rate, the lesson that results from this is that the boundary

between persons themselves are not hard and fast. We seem to believe traditionally

that persons are obviously and objectively distinct one from another. The self of a

person stops at her skin, but, in addition to the argument for the Extended Self View

that we have seen, we are seeing here also that in the context of brain-to-brain

integration and gaming, the self of a person is able to extend to another person

creating a new, merged identity, as well as to external objects, such as the game

environment through the avatar. The physical possibility of brain-to-brain connection

and integration points to the conceptual possibility of porous personal boundaries.



Computer Games, Philosophy and the Online Self


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In this brief concluding chapter I would like to suggest some directions in which

future research on the online self could develop. As we have seen in the book the

self is a highly complex and multifaceted concept, and as the self has found its presence in the online world, the complexity is more than doubled because there is the

added dimension afforded by the cyberworld with its own multifaceted complexities in many levels. Perhaps, philosophically speaking, the most important direction

for future research lies in the argument for or against the Extended Self View that I

propose in the book. Does it actually make sense to talk of the self as extending

toward inanimate object such as the computer screen? As the argument in the third

chapter shows, I believe it is, but then, as with other philosophical proposals, this

invites further discussions and debates on the issue, which will only deepen our own

understanding of the self, either in the offline or online versions. I have not touched

upon the closely related topic of consciousness much in the book, but it is tempting

to investigate where the consciousness is going to be located if the Extended Self

View is accepted. This is where I think the discussion in the last chapter on computer game becomes relevant. We can seriously talk of ourselves being located

inside the context of a game, through an avatar. In this case the location of our selves

lie not quite inside our bodies as the players, but inside as avatars who are doing

their own things in the context of the game. Thus the question is: Does this imply

that the location of our selves, our consciousness, lies outside of our bodies and

inside the avatar? Is such a talk like this merely metaphorical, or does it have some

germ of truth? These are fascinating questions. I have provided a sketch of answer

according to my own proposal in Chap. 6 and also in Chap. 3, but this only invites

further research, especially on the boundary between the person of the player and

the game, and between the avatar and the person behind it.

Secondly, as we have seen in Chap. 2, the historical account of the concept of the

self is a very rich strand of stories with many similarities and differences. One thing

future researchers might want to take up is to look at the issue in a more historical

manner. Perhaps she might become interested in looking closely at Spinoza’s idea

on the self and see how that helps us understand the online self better. The view of

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

S. Hongladarom, The Online Self, Philosophy of Engineering and Technology 25,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-39075-8




the self in Buddhism is also very interesting, and certainly merits close study which

will illuminate not only our understanding of the self, but other metaphysical notions

too, as well as the problems surrounding the boundary between persons and between

persons and external objects as we have seen. Buddhist philosophy clearly argues

that the self is only taken to exist ultimately only by mistake, in the same way as the

rainbow, whose objective existence is not there (what are there are perhaps only

water droplets and light), but nonetheless perceived to be there and can be talked

about as if it were actually existing. But if this were to be the case, then the online

self is also conventionally taken to be there in the same way, which implies, for one

thing, that the line between the offline and online selves do not exist objectively. I

argue that this Buddhist position helps us understand many of the complexities of

the issues better than its rivals, but then this again invites further discussion and

research. Then in Chap. 4 I outline what traditional philosophy of technology might

have to say about the online self. The content of this chapter is very much a sketch,

as the online self is not a popular topic in the field yet. Nonetheless, the critical

perspectives afforded by the tools of philosophy of technology can yield illuminating insights into how the online self is related to the wider socio-cultural contexts.

The chapter on online friends also provides ample avenues for further research. I

have argued that the highest form of friendship, such as the one described by

Aristotle, does not in principle preclude online friends. Here the online selves interact with one another mostly through the social media, and I have argued that such

interaction could lead to a form of friendship that is genuine and beneficial to each

other. This is based ultimately on my earlier argument that there is no real separation between the offline and the online worlds. If the highest form of the good does

exist in one world, then it is very likely to exist in the other world too. Further

research certainly is needed for empirical investigation of my philosophical speculation here. This would be very interesting and beneficial. Perhaps a way empirically to measure the level of friendship (whether the friendship is at a low level, or

higher in the Aristotelian sense, for example) could be developed, and this would be

a great accomplishment in itself. And once such a tool is developed, it can then be

used to measure the level of friendship that exists both in the offline and online

worlds. If it is found that the level of quality of friendship is consistently lower in

the online world when compared with the offline world, then one could interpret the

situation in such a way that the situation here still needs some way to go before it

can arrive at the ideal. The fact that one cannot find an actual situation where online

friends achieve the highest level of quality does not show that it is impossible to do

so. Alternatively, one might take another route and argue that, since empirical

research shows that online friendship cannot achieve the same level of quality as its

offline counterpart, then online friendship must be inherently inferior. Either way

this would be an exciting avenue of research and discussion.

The last chapter focuses on the role of online selves in computer games. Here I

have mainly analyzed the situation and followed the main literature in the field. I

also argued that the Extended Self View appears to do a better job at explicating

some difficult conceptual issues that are involved, such as the relation between the

avatar and the player. I also include a section on a new development in scientific



research where information is directly shared between brains. The brain-to-brain

integration technology holds a lot of potential for the future. Here the discussion

needs to be speculative, as the technology is still at a very early stage. Research on

this topic could include conceptual analysis of what it is to be a person—if brains

are merged in this way, then does it mean that there emerges a new, superperson

consisting of two brains, or one enlarged brain arising from merging the original

two? The question has strong ethical dimensions too, though I did not take this up

in the chapter. Nonetheless that would be a fascinating topic for research in the near




Aarseth, E., 157–159

Akrasia, 20

Alētheia, 85

Alexander, 43

Anaximander, 18

Apeiron, 18

Aristotle, 9, 14, 21–24, 39, 66, 70, 118–124,

126–128, 133–135, 137–140, 142, 166

Artificial agent, 106

Ātman, 41

Avatar, 12, 15, 80, 81, 111, 112, 147–154,

156, 157, 159, 161–163, 165, 166

Aydin, C., 7


Bakardjieva, M., v, 101–103

Barresi, J., 17, 20

Bestand, 86, 93

Bijker, W.E., 100

Borgmann, A., 12, 84, 92–94, 100, 112

Brahman, 41

Briggle, A., 132

Buddhist philosophy, vi, 4, 10, 41, 44–46, 52,

72, 166

Butler, B., 6, 11

Butler, J., 56


Chalmers, D., 7, 9, 12, 27, 75, 76, 80

Cicero, 129

Clark, A., 7, 9, 12, 27, 75, 76, 80

Club Penguin, 147

Cocking, D., 8, 14, 130–135, 138–140,


Cohen, J., 8

Cosmides, L., 68

Csíkszentmihályi, M., 153


Damasio, A., 4

Dennett, D., 73

Descartes, 9, 22–25, 28, 29, 37, 66

Dreyfus, H., 12, 84, 97–100, 112, 113


Ellul, J., 13, 84, 88–90, 108

Enframing, 85, 86, 88, 113

Ess, C., v, vi, 35, 39

Essentialism, 101, 102

Eudaimonia, 118, 120, 121

Extended Mind Thesis, 8, 12, 13, 77, 79, 80,

108, 141

Extended Self View, 7, 11, 15, 51–81,

142–144, 154, 156, 163, 165, 166

Externalism, 11, 66, 67, 75, 120


Facebook, 1, 2, 5, 6, 13, 14, 35, 40, 48, 65–68,

74, 81, 88, 89, 91, 92, 94–96, 101, 108,

110, 117, 124, 125, 127, 130, 131,

141–143, 147

Feenberg, A., 12, 84, 100–102, 113, 114

Fictionalism, 157–161

Five Aggregates, 42, 44

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

S. Hongladarom, The Online Self, Philosophy of Engineering and Technology 25,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-39075-8



Floridi, L., v, vi, 12, 13, 52, 53, 55, 71,


Fossheim, H., 160

Foucault, M., 132

Frier, S., 110, 117

Fuller, S., 67


Ganeri, J., 17

Geiger, I., 35

Giles, J., 46

Goffman, E., 35, 133

Goldman, A., 11, 67


Happiness, 19, 28, 118–121

Heavy Rain, 158, 159

Hegel, G.W.F., 9, 35–38, 70, 74

Heidegger, M., 12, 13, 24, 40, 84–88, 90, 93,

96, 97, 100, 112, 113, 143

Heraclitus, 19

Hi5, 1

Hongladarom, S., 6, 48, 80, 107, 130,

161, 162

Hume, D., 30, 46, 47, 53


Locke, J., 6, 9, 11, 28, 29, 33, 34, 37, 54,

56–58, 61, 62, 64, 75

Longino, H., 67

Lucilius, 132


Magilio, P., 76

Marble Madness, 150

Marcuse, H., 12, 13, 84, 90–92, 112, 113

Martin, R., 17, 20

Matthews, S., 8, 14, 130–135, 138, 142

McFall, M., 133–136, 138

Menander, 43

Merleau-Ponty, M., 7, 150, 151, 154

Meskin, A., 160

Metzinger, T., 3, 4, 140

Milinda, 43, 44

Miner, R.C., 128–130

Montaigne, M. de, 129, 130

Multiplicity Thesis, 110–112

Munn, N.J., 137, 138

MySpace, 1, 130, 143


Ihde, D., 12, 84, 86, 90, 94–97, 100, 114


Nâgasena, 43, 44, 66, 69

Neuroscience, 3, 5

Nietzsche, F., 14, 18, 41, 47, 127–130, 143

No Radical Discontinuity Thesis. See Radical

Discontinuity Thesis


Kant, I., 9, 29–37, 45, 47, 69, 98

Kellner, D., 90

Kelly, M., 93

Kennett, J., 139, 140

Kierkegaard, S., 14, 47, 98, 99, 127–130

Kirsh, D., 76

Klein, S.B., 68

Klevjer, R., 15, 149–151, 153, 154, 156–158

Korsgaard, C., 33

Kurzweil, R., 25, 63


Olson, E.T., 11, 13, 54, 55, 61–63, 76–78, 80

Online agency

accountability, 13, 103–105


debate, 66, 67

essentialism/constructivism debate, 101,


responsibility, 13, 102–105, 107

Osmos, 159

Owens, J., 21


Larsen, T.M., 160

League of Legends, 147, 161

Leibniz, G.W. von, 32

Lewis, T., 80

Linderoth, J., 151–153

Lippitt, J., 139


PacMan, 147

Pahl, R., 139

Panaïoti, A., 130

Pantip.com, 2

Parfit, D., 11, 13, 54, 58, 61, 63, 64, 79

Parmenides, 19


Personal identity

biological account, 11, 54, 56, 61–63, 79

bodily account, 11, 52, 54, 55, 61,

66, 73

externalist account, 7, 8, 11, 45, 51, 52,

75–80, 83, 108, 112

internalist conception, 11, 32, 37, 52, 68

memory account, 6, 7, 9, 55, 56, 58, 64,

65, 76

narrative account, 11, 55, 56, 63, 102

psychological account, 7, 11, 54, 56,

59–62, 66

Plato, 20, 23, 24, 135

Pong, 147, 150

Privacy, 76, 101, 109, 140, 141

Protagoras, 19

Proust, M., 71, 74


Quine, W.O., 63


Radical Discontinuity Thesis, 110–112

Rawls, J., 9, 33

Reid, T., 57, 58, 61, 64, 65

Robson, J., 160

Rodogno, R., v, 111, 112

Rosemont, H. Jr., 38, 39

Rosen, C., 143, 144

Rozendal, K., 68


Sageng, J.R., 160

Scanlon, T., 9

Schechtman, M., 11, 55, 63, 64, 69, 111

Schopenhauer, A., 47, 48

Searle, J., 31


Chinese philosophy, 9, 10, 38–40

essentialist conception of self, 17

Hegelian conception, 9, 10, 35

Indian philosophy, 9, 10, 18, 38, 40–45,

47, 58

Kantian conception, 9, 34, 35, 37, 44,

45, 98

self-as-object, 33

self as second order awareness, 5, 6

self-as-subject, 5, 32, 72

self in Greek philosophy, 18–23, 38, 41


self in Modern Western philosophy,

23–29, 118

Seneca, 132

Sherman, N., 120, 135

Shields, C., 22

Ship of Perseus, 55

Ship of Theseus, 55

Siderits, M., 17, 46

SimLife, 147

Simulation, 147, 157, 158

Slacktivism, 123

Socrates, 18–20, 115, 135, 136

Søraker, J., vii, 138

Soul, 9, 18, 20–25, 39, 41, 44, 58, 59, 68, 81

Spinoza, B. de, 9, 25–28, 35, 37, 38, 106,

107, 165

Stone, B., 110, 117

Subactivism, 101–103

Suger, 94


Tavinor, G., 160

Taylor, C., 17, 24

Technē, 84

Technique, 88, 90, 129

Technological determinism, 89, 90, 100,

105, 114

Thailand, vi, 1, 2, 13, 125, 132, 143

Thales, 18

Thompson, E., 17

Thrownness, 40, 143. See also Heidegger

Tomhave, A., 46

Turkle, S., 114


Velleman, J.D., 68

Verbeek, P., 162

Virtuality, 95, 157


Walton, K., 160

Ward, D., v, 110

Wiegel, V., 103, 105

Williams, B., 54

Wolfendale, J., 111


Zahavi, D., 17

Zuckerberg, M., 117

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