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An Argument Against Qualia (and some stuff about Robots and Consciousness, too!)

April 22nd, 2008 2 comments

Samuel Butler’s speculation (in Erewhon‘s Book of the Machines) that machines could eventually develop consciousness was something of a joke, but the debate on robot consciousness has developed into a major issue in philosophy of mind, psychology, and neuroscience, as well as becoming a huge pop-culture phenomenon. The Matrix details robots taking over the world; I, Robot does something similar; Bicentennial Man portrays an increasingly human-like robot; AI does the same, except with a very human-like child. If the human mind, as science has begun to reveal, is nothing but a very extremely complicated interaction of material elements, why can’t a computer reach the same level of complexity and hence achieve consciousness? There’s no doubt that they could eventually look and act like human beings, but the question remains whether they can, for example, have the same moral rules apply to them as apply to human beings, or even simpler, actually have experience and not be “zombies.”

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