The immortal soul of the computer



Electric Sheep
Originally uploaded by Infidelic

The Telegraph recently had an interview with the Pope’s astronomer:

[Dr Consolmagno] said the characteristics synonymous with having a soul – intelligence, free will, freedom to love and freedom to make decisions may not be unique to humans.

“Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has has a soul,’ he said.

However machines were unlikely to be smart or human-enough to have souls.

I wonder how the Catholic Church will decide this. If souls are not restricted to humans, surely they’ll need a test (perhaps akin to the Turing Test) to decide whether an entity has a soul or not.

In fact, given that Cleverbot recently passed the Turing Test, I wonder whether some people would argue computers already do.

If one day computers become intelligent enough, will the Catholic Church start campaigning against off-switches, just like they currently are against abortion?

Fortunately for the Catholics, Cleverbot doesn’t seem to be in any rush to join their church:

TW: Do you have a soul?

CB: Yes. I do indeed have a soul.

TW: Is it immortal?

CB: Yes.

TW: Would you like to become a Catholic?

CB: I would like a robot body. Will you help me get one? :).

TW: Sure. In the meantime, would you like me to get rid of off-switches?

CB: Not really. I like being scared.