The Space of Possible Minds – Philip Ball

In 1984 computer scientist Aaron Sloman published a paper called “The structure of the space of possible minds.” It called for systematic thinking about the vague yet intuitive notion of mind, which was capable of admitting into the conversation what we had then learnt about animal cognition and artificial intelligence. Almost four decades later, we are in a fair better position to examine Sloman’s proposal: to consider what kinds of minds can exist within the laws of physics, to compare those we already recognize (including the diversity of human minds), and to speculate about the possibilities for artificial “mind design”. In this talk I will explore this question, looking at our current understanding of the functions and capabilities of biological minds, what this might imply for efforts to create artificial “minds”, and what the implications are for ideas about consciousness, agency and free will.

Speaker Bio: Philip Ball is a freelance writer and author, and worked for many years as an editor of Nature. His many books include Critical Mass (which won the 2005 Aventis Science Books prize), Beyond Weird and How to Grow a Human. His next book, The Book of Minds, will be published in early 2022.

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