The soul is a synonym for consciousness … and if we were to consider where consciousness comes from we would have to consider it an emerging property. Brain science is instructive there as we look inside the brain, and we’ve now looked at it in exquisite detail, you don’t see anything that can be identified as a soul — there’s just a lot of neurons and they’re complicated but there’s no consciousness to be seen. Therefore it’s an emerging property of a very complex system that can reflect on itself. And if you were to create a system that had similar properties, similar level of complexity it would therefore have the same emerging property.

Source: Technology is a double-edged sword (Ray Kurzweil Interview at via Slashdot


8 thoughts on “Can Machines Have Souls?

  1. I thought this was obvious, but when machines gain self awareness, envy, greed, sorrow and all those other delightful things that exist but you won’t find with a microscope no matter how hard you look, we’re screwed. They have metal hands. METAL HANDS!

  2. I have been an avid reader of Kurzweil’s since junior high school. I think there will most certainly be conscious machines sometime in the next 20 or so years. The Singularity is Near is a highly recommended book.

  3. What you said in the post is perfectly true. As to whether robots with consciousness are good or bad, it’s up to each person to come to grips with that. In any case, they WILL take over the Earth.

  4. My post is a direct quote from the interview.

    I guess it will depend on what kind of consciousness machines will gain, and how they will use it. We’ll have to wait and see, but it just might be the case that we are not going to witness it in our lifetime…

  5. It may be that we do not create artificial intelligences directly, but enhance our own intelligences. That or we could pursue mind uploading. The worst choice would be to blindly create a being far beyond our own capacity.

  6. Indeed, we are pursuing different ways to improve our own intelligence. Mind uploading is very far into the future because we are only beginning to understand how our own brain works. Yes, we shouldn’t create a superior being without any precautions.

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