machine souls

via Don, this great short Q&A about Cylons. In a nutshell: they have souls, and they are human by any reasonable spiritual sense of the word.

This reminds me of the recent piece in Wired about extreme atheists like Richard Dawkins. Notable exchange, between the author (an agnostic) and reknowned philosopher Daniel Dennett:

It interests me that, though Dennett is an atheist, he does not see faith merely as a useless vestige of our primitive nature, something we can, with effort, intellectualize away. No rational creature, he says, would be able to do without unexamined, sacred things.

“Would intelligent robots be religious?” it occurs to me to ask.

“Perhaps they would,” he answers thoughtfully. “Although, if they were intelligent enough to evaluate their own programming, they would eventually question their belief in God.”

And therein lies the Cylons’ angst in a nutshell.

6 thoughts on “machine souls”

  1. While waiting to finish my second ISMRM abstract, I enjoyed the Wired article. I’ve always been amused that people like Dawkins have more in common with religious zealots than they realize. 🙂

  2. deadline in 16 hours! If all goes well I will have my abstracts submitted by noon. Assuming the system doesn’t crash. I still feel cheated though. I mean, BERLIN?! after being promised Barcelona?? sigh.

    yeah yeah, MRI blog… maybe i should have an Imaging Open Thread from time to time to release the pressure?

  3. I have one submitted, but my other was just torpedoed. Something about needing data. 🙂 I guess it’ll wait for another conference.

  4. From the derb FAQ

    You can even be an atheist: Marghanita Laski studied 63 cases of religious experience in her 1961 book Ecstasy, and 25 of the subjects were professed agnostics or atheists! Of course, the religious people who had these “numinous” experiences described them in religious terms (“I heard angels singing”) while the nonreligious gave secular descriptions (“I heard wonderful music”). The experiences reported are all uncommonly alike though, even across cultures. It’s obviously the same experience — bright light, beautiful music, a loss of the sense of self (“dissolution”), and so on. It’s just that the mind interprets it according to familiar cultural referents, especially religious ones. If you’re a Christian you see Jesus; if a Hindu, then Krishna or one of those guys; if Chinese, some Taoist vision.

    It’s plainly a real thing, and anyone who writes about the mind has to mention it. Freud called it “the oceanic feeling” (see above). David Gelernter has interesting things to say about it in The Muse in the Machine — including, if memory serves, a plan to build a computer that can have religious experiences!

Comments are closed.