Synthetic Souls and Silicon Brains

21 March 2019. I am currently wrestling with an old problem and finding out that the huge literature that I assumed must exist – doesn’t.

Credit Shutterstock

Some years ago I was debating the difference between brain and mind with my friend and colleague Professor Steve Simpson (now Head of Zoology at the University of Sydney). We both agreed that mind was almost certainly an ’emergent’ product of the number of neurons in the brain and the number of potential connections that they can make. Technically this phenomenon is known as exaptation – a term coined by Steve Gould and Richard Lewontin to describe structures that arise in the body as a by-product of more orthodox adaptive processes.

My literature research has done nothing to change my mind, but to date two inescapable facts seem to be emerging. First, very few people seem to be tackling this problem and until we get an answer AI is still a pipe dream. Two, there is a qualitative divide between a superfast computer – even one that uses machine learning algorithms such as Deep Blue which beat Gary Kasparov (once) at chess – and a machine that thinks.

And as for soul, my working definition is that the soul is the sum of altruistic tendencies of the mind and their interaction. And no, the soul does not persist after death – how can it if the brain has stopped functioning?

I’m leaving this page open for comments and would welcome reasoned argument.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *