Could a robot have a soul?

#2
Hi Typoz, I think if you're outside the UK, BBC player doesn't work. I don't think there's a podcast for this show either. Sounds interesting though.

You know someone will ask you to define "a soul" don't you? :D
 
#3
Hi Typoz, I think if you're outside the UK, BBC player doesn't work. I don't think there's a podcast for this show either. Sounds interesting though.

You know someone will ask you to define "a soul" don't you? :D
Sorry, I hadn't thought about the availability outside the UK.
If anyone is interested, there's an MP3 version here.

As for the definition, it's true we need to have a rough idea of what we mean in order to talk about something at all. But I don't have any precise definition in mind. The idea can float around a little and settle where it fits best.
 
#7
are souls manufactured on the material plane - no.

a soul being the guiding principle behind form.

form
being material.

Sure, robots are made of material parts - but there is no guiding principle that holds those parts together.

Who is to say that in the future, as we advance ,discarnate souls may be able to utilize a material robot as a temporary vehicle , just as they can via a medium during trance etc.

as they say: We are souls with bodies , not bodies with souls..
 
#8
As for the definition, how about this, randomly quoted from an NDE account. Though that was the original context, it might serve just as well for our normal everyday existence:
I was just "in" this state of being; I knew I was me, but not me as a human with a body.
or to use Parnia's version,
whatever it is that makes you, you.
I don't think we should aim for anything too esoteric here, it has to be pretty much a mundane concept, otherwise we might tend too much towards a particular theoretical or philosophical or religious background, and end up getting distracted by the associated trappings of those respective frameworks.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#9
Or to use Parnia's version,

"whatever it is that makes you, you."

I don't think we should aim for anything too esoteric here, it has to be pretty much a mundane concept, otherwise we might tend too much towards a particular theoretical or philosophical or religious background, and end up getting distracted by the associated trappings of those respective frameworks.
If we use Parnia's version, then there is no reason a robot cannot have a soul. However, I think his version is devoid of content.

~~ Paul
 
#11
Assuming the robot had a computer brain, for it to 'feel' properly human, one thing it would need, is the 'illusion' of free-will. (I'm avoiding the argument over whether free-will IS an illusion or not)

And I've only done a child's level of programming myself, but it seems to me like it would be very hard to 'program' an illusion where what is 'false', becomes 'true' (or feels true)
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#12
Assuming the robot had a computer brain, for it to 'feel' properly human, one thing it would need, is the 'illusion' of free-will. (I'm avoiding the argument over whether free-will IS an illusion or not)

And I've only done a child's level of programming myself, but it seems to me like it would be very hard to 'program' an illusion where what is 'false', becomes 'true' (or feels true)
My guess is that if the robot could not sense the steps in its decision-making process, then the decisions would feel free to it. Without a cause-and-effect chain, the decision would feel like it came out of thin air and yet also feel like it was made by the robot. Hence, free will.

~~ Paul
 
#14
Just a small nudge here: has anyone any comments regarding the content of the broadcast?
This is an excellent show with no agenda. Very interesting and entertaining. Good find Typoz!

More primary than free will is a sense of self, a sense of "I," or "I am."
We don't need to give the robot a "sense of self" just program it to behave as if it has one. Which may or may not be the case with ourselves. ;)
 
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#15
Assuming the robot had a computer brain, for it to 'feel' properly human, one thing it would need, is the 'illusion' of free-will. (I'm avoiding the argument over whether free-will IS an illusion or not)

And I've only done a child's level of programming myself, but it seems to me like it would be very hard to 'program' an illusion where what is 'false', becomes 'true' (or feels true)
In terms if AI, I've not gone much beyond the child's level either. But I have done years of programming as a way of making a living, and the more I learn, the more I see computer logic as essentially simplistic, at the level of switching on or off an electric light.

The radio program discussed concepts such as robot emotion or robot empathy, even robot feeling pain, but essentially it described mimicking the external appearance of some human behaviour, but no-one seriously suggested the robot would actually "feel" anything.
 
C

chuck.drake

#16
This is entirely allegorical, but I will add it anyway. There is an OBE technique, that is a visualization technique where you keep returning to a chosen visualized setting. You concentrate on it briefly and then let it go and then come back. It's cyclical.

But at some point, if done properly the visualized setting will "come alive". And basically it will become 3D and instead of just visualizing a bookcase, for example, you can walk up to the bookcase, and you can scan the titles and their will be some kind of titles there to choose from. And you can choose a book and open it and there will be something inside the book. You can smell the book and feel the grain of the leather. When you turn you are in a room that is part of a larger structure that is part of an environment. In the words of the person who presented the technique, the setting is now giving out a lot more information than you are putting in. It's like the difference between a match and a house on fire. You aren't actively visualizing any longer. You aren't "doing" anything consciously to create the environment. You are existing in a reality that at least for the moment is self sustaining and renewing and is creative.

Until a machine can do that--can give back more than the programmers put in, then it is still just a machine. Otherwise it is just as mentioned above--a glorified light switch.
 
#17
My guess is that if the robot could not sense the steps in its decision-making process, then the decisions would feel free to it. Without a cause-and-effect chain, the decision would feel like it came out of thin air and yet also feel like it was made by the robot. Hence, free will.

~~ Paul
Clever. You would HIDE the master programming. But if our robot is intelligent as he should be, then he'll eventually notice the patterns of action he always seems to follow, and also notice that the rest of the universe is cause and effect - but he himself, is not. Like many of us humans do, he will recognize the possibility of an illusion, and then our robot will take a closer look at his own "programming", don't you think ? (we should assume that he is only surrounded by other robots similar to him (having free-will), and also similar creatures (animals) constructed out of the same material (metal or cytoplasm) but apparently lacking free-will)



In terms if AI, I've not gone much beyond the child's level either. But I have done years of programming as a way of making a living, and the more I learn, the more I see computer logic as essentially simplistic, at the level of switching on or off an electric light.
Agreed. Anthony Kenney, the great agnostic philosopher, compared a computer to a box of light switches. Here he is in a debate featuring Richard Dawkins.
It's very relevant to what we're discussing - (and may in fact have been posted on this site before)

The radio program discussed concepts such as robot emotion or robot empathy, even robot feeling pain, but essentially it described mimicking the external appearance of some human behaviour, but no-one seriously suggested the robot would actually "feel" anything.
Again, agreed. But it's intellectually beneficial to explore these extreme hypotheticals, even if it only gives us a greater appreciation for our very own human, unique situation. (For example: 'free-will'. . . I know MANY people who take their freedom of choice for granted - until they are threatened with losing it.)

I was under the impression that THIS thread's hypothetical, assumed that future science could frankenstein a creature that was EXACTLY like a human, except for the fact, obviously, that we 'created' it.

So simply for the sake of argument, we'll assume that the robot DOES have feelings and an inner stream of consciousness (complete with symbolic language) and even a coherent bank of memories in which his own past actions of independent free-will have logically led him to his current situation. Of course these memories could all be manufactured by us -- think of the Replicants in the movie Blade Runner . . . . .

Now, aside from the insane level of difficulty (and virtual pointlessness) of creating a robot EXACTLY like a human - a human who has the "illusions" of free-will, self-consciousness and an extra-material 'soul' -
we are only half-way there. For the robot to truly feel like a human with a soul, we're going to need to HIDE every last bit of the work we've done, so that the programming is never revealed. So when the robot seeks out the truth of his origin, he cannot find proof of any answer. To be "truly human", means to live with the confounding and constant contradiction of feeling at once that you were designed by a careful and loving creator - AND - that you are an unnecessary addition to the machinery of Nature. It is this flustering dichotomy that fuels our collective mental engine.
 
#18
What if, instead of building the robot with transistors, we instead built its brain with neurons, wired together exactly like that of the human brain?

Is there anyone who would doubt that this robot has a "soul" in exactly the same way that you and I have souls?

It would be a "biological robot," just like you and me!
 
#19
To be "truly human", means to live with the confounding and constant contradiction of feeling at once that you were designed by a careful and loving creator...
You really feel that way? I have no illusion that I was designed by a "careful and loving creator." Does that make me less than truly human?

And if I thought that, I'd want to have a talk with that creator about these damn feet that he gave me!
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#20
Clever. You would HIDE the master programming. But if our robot is intelligent as he should be, then he'll eventually notice the patterns of action he always seems to follow, and also notice that the rest of the universe is cause and effect - but he himself, is not.
Wait a minute. Why isn't the robot a slave to cause and effect?

Like many of us humans do, he will recognize the possibility of an illusion, and then our robot will take a closer look at his own "programming", don't you think?
If he can, sure. So are humans as we try to understand neurophysiology. That doesn't mean he would be successful.

(we should assume that he is only surrounded by other robots similar to him (having free-will), and also similar creatures (animals) constructed out of the same material (metal or cytoplasm) but apparently lacking free-will)
Why are we assuming this?

~~ Paul
 
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