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Posted by on Oct 15, 2013 in Announcements, Books, Personal, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Skepticism | 0 comments

Catching up! (Where have I been?)

RussellDSC03063I’ve been missing in action here for the past… hmm, maybe eight weeks? The story behind that is (basically) just that I’ve been immersed in working on my next book, Intelligence Unbound: The Future of Uploaded and Machine Minds, which I’m co-editing with Damien Broderick. The work on this has been quite intense, as we originally hoped to get the book submitted by the beginning of October. That is going to slip a bit, as, ahem!, some of the contracted contributions have been coming in late, which then causes consequential disruption to planning out of proportion to the lateness. But we’ve still been working hard to go as close as possible to meeting that deadline, and the various chapters are going to be impressive. There’s some great material.

I’m hopeful that it will appear in late 2014.

This is not a book in which supporters of such concepts as machine intelligence and mind uploading have everything their own way. The contributors include people with strongly skeptical voices, among them Massimo Pigliucci. Difficulties and complications are raised even by some of the authors who think full-scale conscious machine intelligence and/or mind uploading may be possible. There is a wide range of viewpoints.

Incidentally, for those who have never had the pleasure of editing a book, it ends up – at least with a book of this kind – taking up as much time and energy as actually writing a book yourself.

First, Damien and I have written lengthy introductory chapters (6000 words each, and a lot of work went into them). More generally, when you are editing a book like this you end up in endless correspondence with contributors and the publisher to make it all work. Obviously not all edited books are the same – e.g. a reprint anthology is very different in its demands, and someone with a large knowledge base of relevant material can even do several of these per year. But (largely) original edited books like this are another matter, especially when the people with whom you’re working are not all professional writers with everything that that entails. E.g. some may need considerable help in expressing their ideas as clearly as possible to a wide audience (and in conformity with publisher’s requirements). Much work goes in that is not seen by the public.

During the blog break I’ve also written a number of pieces of my own. Apart from my introductory chapter to Intelligence Unbound, they include a new article for Free Inquiry, called “Do the best lack all conviction?” This will appear in the December/January issue. Watch out for it. I think this may be my most important piece for Free Inquiry to date.

I’ve also written a new 10,000-word article on religion and science, which I hope will see print in an anthology related to atheism that I can’t say much about yet (apart from anything else, it needs to find a publisher!). I’ve written a 4,500-word article on skepticism in an age of ideology, for a SIN-related book that I hope we can tell you about soon. This draws on my TAM talk and a couple of posts here, but also contains much new material. I’ve also done some work toward my next piece for New Philosopher.

A lot of other things have also have been happening. I have now seen the cover art for my next book (in the sense of the next one that is actually finished and in the publishing queue), Humanity Enhanced, which should be available at the start of 2014. The Amazon link to the book is over here, but it will have to be a matter of “watch this space” as more information becomes available.

50 Great Myths About Atheism has appeared in some places/formats over the past couple of months (the link is to the Kindle edition at US Amazon); and it is starting to get some attention, including a review by Jerry Coyne today, along with the new books by Greg Lukianoff (which looks interesting) and Peter Boghossian (which I’ve read in page proof and can confirm is a very worthwhile book). I gather that the paperback version is in Australian bookshops this week, but US Amazon still only has that edition for pre-order with an announced date of November 4.

I have some other exciting projects to talk about – more announcements soon! – and some more deadlines to try to meet. However, I hope I can now get back to more frequent posting both here and over at Talking Philosophy.