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Danger Lampost

Futurist & Technology Consultant,

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What would make a good Turing Test for the Soul?

In the movie "2001, A Space Odyssey", Stanley Kubrick presents us with the HAL-9000 computer with a seemingly human like consciousness. This question pre-supposes that we will be able to create a computing device of a similar sort that would behave to all the world like a human consciousness.

What it feels like to be this consciousness is an interesting question. You could ask it and listen to what it says. Could you trust what it says though?

Alan Turing devised a deviously clever test: You'd sit someone down at a keyboard and ask them to converse with a personality on the other side, and solely through the conversation, determine whether they are talking with a piece of software or a real human.

Let's say we have succeeded in building such a software system that could pass the Turing Test and fool any and all questioners - impossible to differentiate from a real human solely based on the conversation.

Let's kick it up a notch now and ask: What test could you devise to determine whether the software system had a soul? Or to put it another way for effect, what evidence might you present to a court of law to argue that pulling the plug on such a software system was tantamount to murder? Suppose *you* were this software system, arguing with a court of law that they should not pull the plug on you. What arguments would you make?

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    Mar 30 2013: What is a soul? How do you define it? Is it something we can test for in humans?

    One day we may build something that has a consciousness similar to humans, a sense of self, hopes and fears. Interesting question. At what point would these entities be deserving of rights similar to humans?

    I suggest a starting point would be self awareness and the ability to suffer.

    Mind you we treat other humans poorly and other animals even worse. I wonder how much empathy there will be for artificial life (oxymoron?)

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