Conscious? Maybe you’re fooling yourself.

The Turing Test asked if a computer program could fool a human into thinking they were speaking to another human. As put forward by Alan Turing, an early pioneer of computer technology, the test asked if a computer pretending to be conscious could fool a genuinely conscious being into believing it was actually speaking to a conscious being. If you asked “yeah, but what’s consciousness?”, you’re onto the right track. Put simply, the Turing Test states that the impression of consciousness is indistinguishable (and therefore identical to) actual consciousness.

That’s a statement with major implications, especially for students of religion: if Turing is right, there is no soul. Only complexity, and one day, complex machines will do what human minds do. It’s a question many programmers are deeply concerned with. And if this clip is taken at face value, that includes questions about god, incomprehensible metaphysics, and sarcasm.

Cornell’s Creative Machines Lab decided to put two versions of Cleverbot, their solution to the Turing Test, in conversation. I love how suspicious they are of each other.

Because if that cleverbot came out with the term God on its own, Religious Studies is going to have to reassess a lot of its assumptions, isn’t it?

My favourite lines:

– “What is God to you?”

– “You say you’re not helpful, therefore you’re a meany!”

– “Don’t you want to have a body?”

P.S. My old friends would say that there already exists a sarcastic, unfeeling machine capable of passing for a human being… but enough about me…

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One thought on “Conscious? Maybe you’re fooling yourself.

  1. Laukenshlanphu August 31, 2011 / 10:10 am

    Together we are robots. I am not a robot, I am a unicorn.

    so even computers have delusions of grandeur?

    Tell them I spat my chicken onto the keyboard and they are both to blame, robots or unicorns.

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