Reviewed by Bryan Appleyard, Times Online, February 17, 2008
“What is it like,” asked the philosopher Thomas Nagel, “to be a bat?”
Come to that, what is it like to be a laptop? Both bat and laptop behave rationally and both appear to have an interior life to which we have no direct access. Is there a real experience of being either?
The issue is not what it would feel like for you to be a bat/laptop, but what it feels like for a bat to be a bat. And even if you could miraculously become a bat for five minutes, could you report back on the sensation, given that it involved being a bat not a human? Probably not. We have, therefore, no access to the phenomenon of being a bat. Human knowledge, science, stalls in the face of the inner life. And, as our machines acquire their own inner life, our inadequacy will become ever more apparent.
Maybe not. Maybe there is no such thing as the feeling of being a bat. To have such a sensation, a bat would have to possess some degree of subjective awareness and we have no evidence that it does. A bat does not know what it is like to be a bat. This leaves only human self-awareness. We seem to know what it’s like to be human.
Entire review is here.