Brayford, Kieran Martin (2022) In our own image: materialism’s impoverished image of humanity and what this means for our technological future. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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In this thesis, I seek to temper the commonly held faith in our technological endeavours. Recently this has taken the form of seeking to create humanlike technologies. In part one, I argue that progress in this is derailed by the image of humanity advanced by metaphysical materialism and its methodological commitments. I begin by arguing that materialism gains common assent by way of its proximity to the Promethean attitude intrinsic to capitalist and communist dogma—the idea that the totality of the natural world can be utilised to improve our quality of life. I then argue that materialism’s image of humanity is impoverished as it cannot do justice to several features of human subjectivity—namely, consciousness, free will and selfhood. I then draw upon the difficulties in formulating a reasonable understanding of materialism to further demonstrate that there are no reasonable grounds for endorsing the metaphysic. This culminates in the argument that strong-AI—i.e., that replete with a mind—is impossible in the materialist paradigm. In part two, I explore and evaluate the impact that the Promethean attitude and its weakly-humanlike technological products may have on several fields—healthcare, finance, warfare, work and government—to ascertain the social utility of the attitude. I conclude by warning that such technologies will likely make us wealthier and healthier, but at detrimental cost elsewhere—most prominently, with regard to our agency—and thus, should we not take due care with these technologies, they are capable of creating a future at-odds with the best interests of humankind.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Humanity, Technology, Materialism, Artificial Intelligence, Subjectivity
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Political and Global Studies
Contributors: Tartaglia, J (Thesis advisor)
(Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 17 Mar 2022 12:53
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2022 12:53

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