Science Fiction and Philosophy edited by S. Schneider

Filed under:Philosophy,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on December 4, 2013 @ 8:11 am

Science Fiction and Philosophy edited by S. Schneider

This is another of the popular culture and philosophy books, but not part of that series. Perhaps comparing it to that series is a mistake, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. Although similar at some levels, it didn’t have the same depth as the other series.

The book posits that science fiction is closely tied to philosophy. Science fiction often poses questions originally posed by philosophy. Sometimes these questions are raised directly, and other times they just form a foundation for a story. One of the strengths of this book is that is lists the stories most of the works are drawn from, this makes for easy reference and one can find the books for more information.

One interesting approach taken by this volume is that each section begins with a science fiction short story that exemplifies the topic of that section. It really helps bring home the point.

The book touches on topics such as machine intelligence, the possibility of super intelligence, what machine ethics might mean, personality and personhood, and time and the logic of time travel. Naturally, the book discussed Asimov’s laws of robotics, why they are insufficient, and what is needed in their place.

A couple of the topics didn’t touch much on philosophy. The authors used the opportunity to discuss their own research and goals. I found these of interest, but overall detracted from the book. They felt out of place and sometimes didn’t even discuss real philosophy.

Although I found the book enjoyable, I cannot recommend it either as science fiction nor as philosophy. I’m inclined to seek another book on the same topic for comparison, I feel a much better job could have been done.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace