You Can’t Upload Your “Self” Into Virtual Reality

In his 2003 book, Being No One, Thomas Metzinger contends there is no such thing as a “self.” Rather, the self is a kind of transparent information-processing system. “You don’t see it,” he writes. “But you see with it.”

Metzinger has given a good amount of thought to the nature of our subjective experience—and how best to study it. A fellow at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, he directs the Neuroethics Section and the MIND Group, which he founded in 2003 to “cultivate,” he says, “a new type of interdisciplinarity.” To bridge what he calls the academic variant of the generation gap, the group is formed of philosophers and scientists—young and old—interested in psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience.

There’s a long history of conscious self-models on this planet.

When I spoke to Metzinger recently, he explained that the self evolved as a biologically useful construct to “match sensory perceptions onto motor behavior in a meaningful way.” Earlier this year, Metzinger made waves by publishing an article in Frontiers in Robotics and AI that argued that virtual reality technology—the ability to create illusions of

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