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← Is Science Killing the Soul?

Elwood Herring's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by Elwood Herring

Hi all.

Reading this has got me thinking: if consciousness is simply a by-product of a complex organ such as the brain, then would it be possible for a sufficiently complex machine to become conscious?

I know this question has been asked many times before, but it seems to me from reading this that either:

1) Consciousness occurs in any sufficiently complex organism, which must therefore (by that definition) include artificial devices such as computers. I'm specifically thinking of Star Trek's "Data", especially in the excellent episode Measure of a Man, but there are plenty of other examples. ("No.5" from the movie Short Circuit is another good one.)

or 2) Consciousness is an illusion as described by Dawkins as the "Soul 1" type above; the theory that there is something non-material about life, some non-physical vital principle.

If you discount no.2 then you have to accept no.1 - machines can be conscious. Maybe not yet, maybe not in a hundred years, but eventually, maybe?

I haven't read through the entire debate yet, but I wanted to write my thoughts down while still fresh in my mind. I'm also familiar with the "Chinese room" analogy (please google it if you don't know it).

As a sidenote, I just want to mention I've been a lurker here for a long time, but I've been a "fan" of Richard Dawkins now for over 20 years. I've read Unweaving the Rainbow, The God Delusion, Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind and many other similar books, and I'm a staunch (ex-catholic) atheist (just so you know where I'm coming from!)

Sun, 25 May 2008 07:30:00 UTC | #175066