The Reality Report: Episode 123

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Episode 123

The eighth episode in a series discussing free will with Mark Taylor. Mark brings up Peter Godfrey-Smith's recent book Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. He explains the author's hypothesis that sentience has its origins in the need for the cells in early multicellular organism to coordinate their activities (this began as direct cell-to-cell chemical messages, but was supplanted by the evolution of the nervous system). I briefly bring up the controversial writer Bruce Lipton and his idea (I think) that the brain represents the nervous system's "authoritarian takeover" of all of the other cells. Mark talks about freedom and consciousness as existing on a spectrum from the simplest organisms to the most complex and concedes that our ethical approach to the treatment of other lifeforms depends on this view. I ask about the "next level" of free will - whether transhumanist moves towards life-extension, experience being extended by virtual reality, etc. might bring up important new questions for the topic. This leads to a discussion about how a future transhuman entity, much further along the spectrum, might regard us as we would regard an insect (of no consciousness, non ethically problematic to squash). We then veer off into talking about the ethics of virtual reality, and wondering whether algorithmically controlled soldiers killed in computer war-themed games also have some kind of rudimentary sentience (which would mean an unacknowledged worldwide "digital genocide"). I then remember something I heard a Buddhist monk on TV in the 90s say about artificial intelligence...


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