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The First MindsCaterpillars, Karyotes, and Consciousness$
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Arthur S. Reber

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190854157

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190854157.001.0001

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Can Robots Be Conscious?

Can Robots Be Conscious?

(p.1) 1 Can Robots Be Conscious?
The First Minds

Arthur S. Reber

Oxford University Press

The long-standing philosophical argument generally known as “hardware independent functionalism” is presented. This position maintains that consciousness is at its heart computational and any artifact that carried out all the causal functions of a mind would become conscious. This position is critiqued and shown to be hopelessly flawed. There is a long discussion on the “other minds” problem (i.e., “How do we know whether another entity, organism, person is in fact conscious?”). Included is an equally long review of Tom Nagel’s famous question (“What’s it like to be a bat?”) applied to robots and this is followed up with a review of John Searle’s “Chinese Room”—a thought experiment, now over 35 years old, which lays bare the futility of the functionalist’s position. It is acknowledged that there is a firm, almost compelling tendency to endow artifacts like human-appearing robots with sentience, and the reasons for this are discussed. The chapter ends with a summary.

Keywords:   robot consciousness, other minds problem, mind of bats, mind of bacteria, artificial intelligence, Searle’s Chinese Room, Star Trek’s Data

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