I have often come across several question that have intrigued me.
- Should machine intelligence be recognised as sentient?
- Is it even possible for a machine to be sentient?
- Could it be possible for a sentient machine to possess a soul?
These are very intricate, delicate and obscure philosophical questions that one cannot hope to even begin to explain in a single post. These are questions that the top minds in the fields of Machine Sentience, Machine Cognition and Artificial Intelligence have spent decades researching, investigating and debating. I can hardly presume to possess more knowledge then they do, nor do I. Following is simply my thoughts on the matter. Take them whichever way you wish, comment and reply and let us begin a civil dialogue.
There are a number of ways one could look at this matter. I approached the matter by looking at what exactly sentience and the soul is. These in and of themselves are things still being hotly debated world wide within the academic community and one would be hard pressed to find an academic who does not have a strong opinion one way or the other on these matters.
My own thoughts are thus.
My definition of sentience
I consider sentience to be a state of ‘being able to experience’. To be able to take in information, process it and gleam some meaning from the mountains of neural gibberish one receives from the senses. It is also the state of being able to retain that information, and being able to learn from it. Sentience is thus a state of searching and changing. It is a state of searching for the meaning to all things, the reasons for one’s existence, and the mechanisms by which one functions. It is also a state of being influenced by one’s search and findings. Of changing one’s thought and action patterns based on the input one has received.
Sentience in the machine
When one takes this definition, it is clear that one can have a sentient machine. We already have machines that seek meaning and reason. That take in the information they receive, interpret them and change themselves, their thoughts and their actions in accordance with this information.
The definition of the soul
I consider the soul to be a manifestation of one’s psyche. To be the sum total of one’s experiences, knowledge, memories, aspirations and desires. I consider having a soul as being in a state of desire. To desire more than one currently has, to desire change, improvement, betterment, knowledge, and wisdom. It is to desire new experiences, new memories, it is to desire to change. In essence, it is desire.
The soul in the machine
Once machines have attained sentience, it is only natural that they would begin to seek, to actively desire, and to work towards their desires. From that point, how can one say that they do not have a soul? Just because they are made up of silicon and copper, not carbon and hydrogen, does that make them any less alive than us? Is it that because their neural circuitry runs in straight and diagonal lines – instead of our convoluted neural highway that is at one moment heading towards it’s destination, and the next away – that they are no longer capable of experience?
Are we any different?
But most of all, one should ask if we are any different? If I was to duplicate the human mind. If I was to make a scan of every neural connection in my mind, reproduce them in the copper and silicon format of modern machinery, and run the same impulses through them that my mind runs, would it be any different from a human mind? Would its experiences be any less valid, its desires any less valuable, its needs any less pressing than mine? Are we ourselves not just a series of lines on a carbon board? Are we not just a series of junctions and intersections on the neural highway? Are we not just the constructs of bio-electric impulses surging around within these tiny, fragile skulls of ours?
Who are we, imperfect biological beings, to decide on the existential worth or state of other beings?