I will be at this conference in Rio de Janeiro later this week.
Here’s the abstract for my talk:
Sentience beyond the human: what might it mean? Maureen McHugh’s science fiction short story, “The Kingdom of the Blind,” adresses this dilemma. The story concerns a computer programmer who comes to suspect that the software system for which she helps provide technical support just might be “aware.” The story is something of a speculative realist fable, as it moves from the epistemological question of how we might know that a piece of software is sentient, to the ontological one of what such sentience might be, in and for itself, apart from any correlation with our own thought, or our own ability to understand it and communicate with it. The story does not provide any definitive answers, but it suggests the possibility of a different (nonhuman) model of thought: one that is non-cognitive, non-intentional, non-phenomenological, and “autistic” (taking this latter word without the usual pejorative connotations).