Pawel Pachniewski

Research Statement

The coming decades constitute a particularly turbulent transition period for our civilization, one that may be difficult overcome. I think any civilization on the eve of radical self-modification is not ready for for that transition. So one half of my research is focused developing insights on what that will look like and how to anticipate it, how to get through it, how to mitigate risks, and even how to learn from it today. A large part of the other half of my research is foundational work on mind and brain, math, computer science and philosophy. I am interested in understanding our current selves, our current world, our future selves and our future world. I approach almost all problems multidisciplinarily, taking both science and philosophy into account in most cases. As far as I’m concerned, one cannot do without the other, especially in the case of big open questions.

To manage these difficult inter-disciplinary topics, I often come up with new concepts and terms. One way to look at my work is to see it as conceptual engineering for the future and future-proofing our ideas so we can more securely move forward as a civilization. Of course a good part of this can be highly speculative, and with in that sense I try to anticipate what is currently not science, but may become fringe, proto and ultimately science proper.

At my core I am furiously curious about the nature and limits of life, existence and the universe. Some questions and issues that interest me: The Fermi-paradox, abiogenesis, the definition of life, future minds, the bounds of intelligence, foundations of math, artificial general intelligence, consciousness – What is it? How to resolve or dissolve the explanatory gap? The mind-body problem? Can we make sense out of free will? What are essential parts of minds? What other minds could there be? How does the brain manage to run on 25W?

The relation of computation to sentience and experience: the phenomenology of computation. Transhumanism, civilizational development and transition phases, body augmentation, meta-ethics – What impacts will technology have on society? Are existential risks imminent? Can impeding existential risks teach us something about the Fermi-Paradox? How will values change when we start drastically augmenting ourselves?

How will we cope with the introduction of new (artificial) sentient and beings? How can one build an artificial intelligence that can understand like a human and beyond? How does one ground symbols? What is intelligence? How does one test for intelligence in a species-agnostic way? What cognitive architectures are possible? What constitutes a mind?