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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 31 2013: I think a number of people are getting caught up in the concept of a man made or artificial intelligence. That is just one of the possibilities and if that seems impossible, then I ask you to consider the next option which has nothing to do with man made, artificial life, or alien life.

    However, this is a hypothetical question, so you will have to accept the premise of this question in order to answer it. The premise is that we have discovered a previously hidden tribe of Neanderthals living in a remote part of Alaska. A TV news crew goes out to film a hunter going on the hunt to kill a Neanderthal. He is filmed killing the Neanderthal. This is all in the United States. Should he be charged with murder?

    Should we be prepared to consider the killing of a Neanderthal with the same penalties as killing a human?

    For those in the United States, remember that the penalty for willful murder of a black slave used to be a fine.

    For those who wish to brush up on Neanderthals: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal is a start.
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        Mar 31 2013: Are you essentially saying that murder, by definition, can only be between human beings, and that the definition of murder can not therefore be extended? If so, then I ask you why we can not extend this definition? In answering this question, I ask you to consider the case of a half-breed human/neanderthal - would that be murder? How human do you have to get before it is murder - only 100% human?

        While there is no debate about the existence of Neanderthals, I believe the concept of Root Races has not yet gained wide acceptance. Fascinating concepts, to be sure, well worth exploring I believe, but not yet widely accepted/

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