Let's Make Robots!

Could an artificial lifeform have a soul? A philosophical / logical debate

To begin with, I am not trying to start a religous war here but after reading merser's comment I decided that maybe it's time for a good philosophical debate. Really this debate has 3 parts.

  1. Do souls exist?
  2. If a soul exist, what is it?
  3. Could an artifical lifeform have a soul?

I'm not a religous person so I don't believe in a soul in the traditional sense. If a soul does exist then it would somehow be created by our sentience so how does self awareness persist after the death of the body?

All matter is energy so it would seem that we are a complex energy pattern which, last I knew was theorised to exist in at least 11 dimensions.

Perhaps self awareness allows the energy pattern to adapt when the body dies rather than dissipating. If this were true then I think an artificial life form could just as easily have a soul.

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Wow you just had to drop the big one didn't you Oddbot. Not bad for somebody who thought religion and politics should stay off LMR.
That is really too hard a question to answer. I think if you knew the mind of God you may be able to answer it but no man can know the mind of God as hard as he tries.
It's like the age old debate about what is consciousness. Maybe souls and consciousness are the same thing. I'm not sure.
I wonder if it's possible to pass some soul to an object though by the work of ones hands. Even if it's just a faint image of some aspect of that persons soul.
I don't think there'll ever be a heaven for robots though I'm sorry. It's certainly possible there'll be a religious cult based on it one day though. Lol.

I said at the start I was not trying to start a religious war.

Religion is for wetware. I'm talking about hardware. (I wonder if that excuse would fly in a court of law?).

I will not go into religion because too often I have ended up offending people unintentionally.



Wow Russell,

You are not afraid to step into the big questions are you...LOL?  At the risk of being considered even stranger than some might already think, I will take a chance and reply.

Background:  I was born in the state of Georgia USA, a very conservative, rural, religious place.  I was raised a Presbyterian and lived around a lot of Baptists growing up and so believed what was expected of as a Protestant Christian. As I have grown older, my religious beliefs have evolved and diverged greatly.

These days if I must call myself something, I call myself a deist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism), which means I believe there is a god, creator of the universe.  Call it "The Force" (as in Star Wars) if you like, I am quite comfortable with that description.  The universe in all its complexity and beauty makes me believe it was created by more than chance.  I would call God the Great Engineer.

I believe the Universe exists for God's entertainment and that our purpose is to experience life in the Universe, bringing those experiences back to God when we die.  I believe that everything living is part of god, my soul, your soul, Max's dog, blades of grass, pond scum, all of it.  I consider God the battery that drives the Universe.

Now that I have convinced you I am totally insane, on to the questions.

Do you believe a soul exists:  Yes, at a minimum I believe there is a soul in all living things. 

If a soul exists what is it:  The soul is the life force and is part of God, in that regard I think all living things are part of the 'god spirit'. 

Could an artificial lifeform have a soul:  This is tricky for many reasons not the least being its hard to draw a line about what is living and what is not.  Dog yes, rock no.  But down at the bacteria and virus level, some things exhibit functions we associate with life but not all.  People start as a single cell and with luck grow up to drive a car, watch TV and argue with their family.  When did the soul pop in?  Was it around before they are born?  Its not outside the range of imagination that EVERYTHING is part of God at all times, that in a sense the Universe is all part of God's dream.  If so, there is no reason to doubt that anything and everything may be possible, including artificial intelligence with a soul.

Side Note:  There are some interesting paranormal type events which tend to indicate we are all connected at some level that is not currently understood by science.  Almost everyone knows someone that "knew" something, (death of a family member, someone hurt) before they could have discovered this information.  A study determined that praying for someone to get get better seemed to result in a measurable improvement, even in people that didn't know others were praying for them.  Studies by both the CIA and KGB indicated that pyschic powers could produce true information, but that filtering out correct information and using it was nearly impossible.  All of this I think could be explained by the 'one god one soul' theory.  There is an interesting article that speculates the brain contains quantum structures and that the information gathered in these survives after death.  The link for that one is:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mind.

Conclusion:  Of course I cannot prove any of my beliefs any more than any other religions can prove theirs.  That stated, "Halism" is right!  The other's are Wrong.  All  who do not convert must die horribly and please send me ALL of your money, its evil you know?

If you want to survive the day the BIG ROBOT comes, you only chance is to drown me now in a sea of cash...smiles.


                     Happy New Year,

                                        Hal  (Kingart3)




For what it's worth, good, bad, or otherwise, my beliefs are very similar to yours.  In fact, I was worried I was the only one.  BTW, I was born and raised in GA, too.  Maybe it's the heat?

I don't think your strange or insane. To quote Adam Savage from Mythbusters, you have simply rejected someone elses reality and substituted your own.

I suppose it is because I have been watching Babylon 5 lately that I started thinking about this. I like their argument that we are simply the universe manifest, trying to understand itself.

looking at your link to the Quantum mind reminded me of an article I read about Stuart Hemeroff and the quantum activity in the Microtubules. I think this is what started me thinking that perhaps our consciousness may exist at a quantum level as an energy pattern that if stable could survive physical death of the body.

Obviously there's not a really good way of answering these questions based on evidence. However, sidestepping that slightly, I think that in our daily experience most of us sense that many of the objects around us (especially the ones which we rely on most for comfort or utility or which move) are "ensouled" in a manner of speaking. We have a particular relationship to a car, a computer or a favorite chair that involves specific patterns of reaction and behavior that even the most pragmatic among us come to think of as personality. (The Pope has determined that animals don't have souls, but remember the Pope is the one who put Galileo on trial for heliocentrism-so his authority is apparently not absolute. Look in a dog's eyes when it's begging to be petted and tell me he's right.). Perhaps, whether or not there is such a thing (or class of things) as a soul it is best if we act as though everything is endowed with one-from people to concepts to objects for our own good. A side note-if one goes looking through the Bible for support of the idea that when you die that your soul splits off from your body, is judged and then sent to an other-worldly heaven or hell, one will not find any.

Absolutely agree with you Max on no reference in the bible about the soul living on after we die.
It is quite clearly written that when a man dies his thoughts do perish. Ecclisiastes (9:5)
Ironically Eclisiastes was a philosopher haha.
Of course it is comforting for those of us left behind to think we are talking to the dead though.
Interestingly the Pope should have read his bible more as the philosopher also wrote
"How can anyone be sure that a man's spirit goes upwards and an animals down into the ground?" Eccl(3:21)