Can a computer have a soul? Part 3/3

The idea of a conscious computer has been presented lately in many Hollywood movies such as Her, Ex Machina and Uncanny. Is there a seed of truth to that or is a computer with a soul just Sci-fi that will never see the light of day? Before reading this post any further, take a look the first and second post in this series. ☺️

Previously, I have covered qualia, dualism, identity theories and two materialisms. This time, we are going to dive deep into emergence.


Before we take a look at the main topic which is emergent materialism, it’s important to first talk about what emergence actually means. When you look outside of the window and you see rain, you are actually witnessing an emergent phenomenon. Rain consists of plethora of rain drops falling, only one or two drops wouldn’t form a rain. In emergence, smaller components such as rain drops form together a higher level phenomenon, a rain. 🌧️

Emergence doesn’t limit itself to rain only. It surrounds us. Everything around us consists of atoms, and these low level structures form everything that is visible to us. But if almost everything is emergent why should we be talking about it in the first place? 🤔

There are two kinds of emergence: weak and strong. Weak emergence means that you can predict the emergent phenomenon just by knowing the laws of the lower level phenomenon. By knowing how water molecules work, you can predict that a huge mass of them will form waves in an ocean. Strong emergence, however means that the emergent phenomenon cannot be predicted by the laws of the lower level, e.g. mind.

Emergent materialism

Mind is a strongly emergent feature of the brain. This means that just by looking at the neurons, one cannot predict the existence of a conscious mind, the existence of qualia. This means that mental phenomenon do exist, but they simply cannot be explained by the physical. It’s important to note that this is not a dualistic view because mind is seen as an emergent part of the brain, not as a completely different entity. 😊

What this means for a computer soul, is vague. If we cannot predict mind just by looking at the physical features of the brain, we cannot predict the existence of it in a computational system either.😲 Furthermore, we cannot even be certain that there aren’t any zombies out there. In this context, a zombie refers to a person who acts exactly like any other person, but who doesn’t have qualia. Much like a computer. So, in terms of this theory, we simply cannot know if our finest computers just turn out to be human imitating zombies or conscious beings.


All in all, soul, consciousness, or whatever you may call it isn’t ruled out for computers. Only time will tell what the technology can accomplish. If you are still interested in this theme, I would recommend you to read a book called Philosophy of Mind. 📚

Thanks for following this series of posts till the very end. 🤗

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