Can a computer have a soul? Part 2/3

In today’s world computers are developing at an astonishing pace. Tesla and Google are developing self-driving cars, for instance. Are robots going to develop a soul at some point? This is the second post in this series. Make sure you have read the first post before reading this one any further. 🤖

Last week, I covered qualia, dualism and two identity theories. Today, we have two materialisms on the plate: eliminativism and reductionism. Leaving the emergent materialism for the last post of the series.

Eliminativism

Eliminativism is quite radical in its way of understanding the mind. The theory eradicates the possibility of soul both in humans and machines. Everything is biological. The illusion of qualia is nothing but neurons firing. As opposed to the identity theories from last week, eliminativism doesn’t claim that brain and mental states are identical, it simply claims that mental states don’t exist. 😱

Eliminativism doesn’t explain the existence of qualia, but if it holds, it shows green light to computers being conscious one day. If our consciousness is just neurons firing in the brain, then a computer with a similar enough architecture should automatically be conscious. And there is nothing more mysterious to consciousness than that. 😃

Reductionism

Reductionism doesn’t go quite as far as eliminativism. According to the theory, mental states do exist but they aren’t independent from the physical. This means that there are different layers in the mind, a physical layer of neurons and at the top a mental layer that is conscious. However, the laws governing the mental can be explained on the lower, physical level.

From the point of view of a computer, this doesn’t go too far away from the eliminativism. If mental phenomena can be explained entirely on the physical level, then a close enough resemblance to the human brain in the computer architecture should be enough to give a computer qualia. 🤓

Conclusion

These two materialisms look promising for a conscious computer. However, they don’t do a good job in explaining why we have qualia, why we are conscious in the first place. Join me next week for the final post of this series to uncover a theory that tries to explain qualia. To get more information about the topic, I do recommend a book called Philosophy of Mind.

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