Re: computers have no souls!

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Fri Jan 28 2000 - 13:49:09 MST

On Fri, 28 Jan 2000, Damien Broderick wrote:

> All nonsense, she cried, you just want a world of soulless cyborgs. A
> computer can't do anything of its own accord, a computer can't have
> consciousness. Oh? Why not? *It's not alive! It can only do what it's
> programmed to do. I'm a sociologist! I'm a utilitarian! I'm a sociologist
> and I'm here to tell you that computers can't do anything unless they are
> programmed to do it.* And so on.
Clearly a lack of awareness of genetic algorithms, neural nets, etc.

> I mentioned that she was also programmed, by genes and culture, and she got
> highly indignant. I was trying to pretend she was a machine!

Denying the truth doesn't make it untrue.

> She did things *just because she wanted to*! She'd broken away from the
> restrictions of her social upbringing etc etc. Not very much, you
> haven't, I said, and her face swelled attractively.

Exactly. Where would the "motivation" have come from to do what
she *wanted to do* if not from her genes or environment?!?

> No, I said, what I mean is... you're speaking English now,
> aren't you? You're wearing clothing not unlikely the garments
> we all wear. I see no Zulu hat upon your head.


I want to applaud and acknowledge your willingness to engage in this.
I did something not dissimilar from the audience in a New York bookstore
about a year ago, where the author was "touting" the after-death
"white-light"... and I was commenting about cryonics and the possibility
of "not" dying.

People just don't get it and the *only* thing that can shake them
out of their mud-pits is an earthquake of monumental proportions
(meaning you have to challenge everything they believe). They
will get defensive. There will be people for whom subtle approaches
will work. At the same time there will be people for whom rationale
thinking will prevail. Save the rationale thinkers. The rest are
doomed anyway (though, in testimony to my more "sensitive", "reformed",
"other-aware" self -- I truly, truly wish it were otherwise.)

As a suggestion -- When a person gets "defensive" or "agitated" --
point that out and ask them "What are you afraid of?". People
can be afraid of change, but mostly they are afraid of death
(because change threatens to increase their chance of death).
Then point out that these technologies are likely to decrease
the chance of death and prolong their longevity. Then they
either have to deny your assertions, reprogram their mindsets
or resort to irrationality.

Attack the denials on factual or probability basis, accept the
reprogramming, and coldly point out the irrationality as such.
Allow people to stew in their own soup after you have provided
ample room to climb out of the pot. The survivors will get it.
The people who are dead anyway will not.

We all are "agents" of natural selection.


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