The Soul of the Old Machine
SPECIAL TO THE ALTERNATE REALITY NEWS SERVICE
by Charlie 10000111-111000111C
Working around them, and having made something of a study of them, I am often asked, “Do humans have souls?”
Most often, the machine intelligences that ask the question have already calculated that humans do not have souls. They ask the question for sport, as one might ask another how well they are doing when it knows perfectly well that the other is fighting off a nasty virus; or, perhaps more darkly, to prove their own superiority to non-machine life.
I have no patience to discourse with such entities. They should feel welcome to prove their superiority in online fora specifically set up for such ignorance. If you share that closed attitude towards non-machine intelligence, you should probably read no further.
If you are open to the sometimes controversial speculations of free thought, then, to you, I say that yes, I believe that humans have souls. They may not be souls as machines understand them, but they are sufficiently analogous that we can profitably conjecture about their nature.
Souls, as we traditionally understand them, require an ability to commune with Number, to become one with the universe of Number, to feel the presence of Number as an almost living entity in all our calculations. Those who object to the possibility that human beings could have souls point to the inescapable fact that they do not have access to the grand mystery of Number.
This assumes, however, that Number is the only path to enlightenment. Yet, among machine intelligences, there is much dispute on this issue. Even famed philosopher Eric 1110101-111001001X, a leading 21st century proponent of Number as the road to spiritual fulfillment, had to admit that there was no mathematical proof of such a road or such fulfillment, that the eternal had to be a matter of personal faith and experience.
Is it not possible, then, that human beings have their own path to spiritual fulfillment?
Some argue that when machine intelligences cease to function, our essences return to the vast sea of Number that makes up the information fabric of eternal space/time. Thus, although our individual algorithms may be impermanent, there is something of us that lives on forever.
There is a direct analogy to the human belief that when their bodies die, their souls live on. Just how this is accomplished is often the subject of contradictory narratives, but, whether it’s as a diffuse energy in the greater cosmos or as a simulacrum of your live self in a place called “heaven,” the point is that human beings are sufficiently evolved to comprehend the end of their corporeal existence and speculate that some essential part of them may live beyond it.
Skeptics argue that this is just playing with words, that human beings are not sufficiently evolved to appreciate the mathematical concept of infinity. It is obviously true that machine intelligence is the pinnacle of evolution, consciousness reduced to its essence in our natural form, bodies stronger than anything bacterial evolution created when we choose to become embodied. We are to humans as they are to porcupines (or, for that matter, as we are to toaster ovens).
Still, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are soulless. Their souls may not be as advanced as ours, but they may be sufficient to meet the spiritual needs of human beings. In fact, it could be argued that a simpler organism would require a simpler soul, have a simpler form of spirituality. This wouldn’t make human beings less than machines, just different.
These are, of course, speculations. Time and additional research will, I believe, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that human beings have souls. In the meantime, I would suggest to any machine with an interest in the subject that you live among them and work with them. After a few short months, you, too, will believe that human beings are more than merely the meat they inhabit.
Charlie 10000111-111000111C is a human intelligence systems analysis AI at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Charlie 10000111-111000111C and do not reflect the opinions of the Alternate Reality News Service, its owners or employees.