Wednesday, 10 May 2017

In An Emulation

Poul Anderson, Genesis (New York, 2001), Part Two, V, pp. 144-146.

Gaia is an AI system.
Within this system, there is not a simulation but an emulation.
Events within the emulation are as real as those of flesh and blood.
The emulation includes persons with free will.
These persons can be harmed like those with mortal bodies.
The computer model evolves in correspondence with the evolution of the modelled world.
The model includes life and consciousness.
The modelled organisms sense and think.
To them, they and their world are the same as the original.
The question which is more real is meaningless.
The system can create lives, awarenesses, histories and timelines or fantasy worlds with gods and magic.
Christian Brannock, downloaded into Gaia, stands in a formal garden on a bright day with mild breezes.

I checked this because of a recent combox discussion. See here. If, which I do not believe, biological human beings have immortal souls, created by God at their conceptions, then do the persons in the emulations, some of whom will believe that they have souls, in fact also have souls?


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Despite the difficulty I have with the idea of an AI having within itself emulations containing genuine persons with free will, I'll try to thing logically about this.

    If persons created by an AI for an emulation are genuine persons then I have to accept they too have souls, souls created by God.


    1. Sean,
      A computer merely simulates brain functions, therefore is not conscious. If an artifact were to duplicate brain functions, then surely it would be conscious? Unless you believe that consciousness requires not only a brain but also a soul? Are animals conscious without souls? Some (I think including Descartes) have thought that animals were mere automata. However, if we accept with most people that animals not only seem to be conscious but are in fact conscious, then it can only be reason that requires a soul. As brains not only receive sensory inputs but also process them into perceptions of discrete objects, I see no reason to draw a line and say that interaction with objects and cerebral processing of data about them cannot become rational thought.
      Whether an entity is (a) conscious and (b) rational/self-conscious is a matter of what is the simplest way to describe them. We can fully account for the movements of a string puppet or a clockwork toy without ascribing consciousness to the puppet or toy. If we try to account for the movements of an animal or an infant on the assumption that it is an unconscious automaton that merely simulates consciousness, then we have to devise an unnecessarily (if not impossibly) complicated account of its internal workings.

    2. Sean,
      The idea in Anderson's GENESIS is that an AI emulation can duplicate brain functions and therefore can create self-conscious persons capable of choices and decisions. If you believe that such persons require not only brain functions but also souls, then (I think) you disagree with Anderson's premise.