Rethinking Consciousness, Objectivity, and the Potential for Artificial Intelligence

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Arts and Humanities | Computer Sciences | Philosophy | Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Noreen Herzfeld, Computer Science


Ray Kurzweil, author of The Age of Spiritual Machines, maintains that conscious artificial machines will be possible within the next century, that we will be soon replacing parts, if not all, of our bodies with silicon, downloading information and experiences, cloning ourselves, and living forever in our new bodies. Such predictions spark some fundamental questions: What is consciousness and from where does it come? Can we find an objective way to understand consciousness and the truth of reality? Is consciousness something we can reproduce? And why do people like Kurzweil think so? This project is an attempt to understand and answer these questions, beginning with an exploration of the history of the pervading western philosophy of materialism that supports Kurzweil's assertions and an analysis of materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett's recent theories about artificial consciousness and the similarities between the human brain and computers. In order to create a holistic picture of the current philosophies of consciousness, the project also investigates the perspective of a few of the major eastern traditions. Recent western scientific discoveries and thought appear to point to a convergence between western and eastern worldviews, forcing us to reconsider Kurzweil and Dennett's prognosis for the future for artificial intelligence.