Shel wrote:More scientific fantasy of course, but it seems artificial intelligence is not too far away. Such sentient beings would most likely have an on/off switch, don't you think?
If it has a switch, it is a machine, not a being. If it is conscious, it is a being, not a machine. I think it would be immoral to create a being by any means other than procreation. Because how could the being give consent to being artificially created? It would put such a being in an intolerable situation (remember BladeRunner?)
Besides, I think 'artificial intelligence' is an oxymoron, like dry water, or perhaps, as you say, a fantasy, like anti-gravity or faster-than-light travel.
The point about conscious states, knowledge, and judgement, is that they are all in some sense, not able to be reduced to anything physical. I know you might say that the brain contains or generates such things, but I don't regard this as proven. The brain is part of a nervous system, which is embedded in a body, which is part of the environment. The act of thought is not in one particular location, exclusively, even though, clearly, the brain plays a role in it.
In any case, I'm sure it is a mistake to say that the disposition of a set of molecules constitutes an act of thought. You might say that it represents an act of thought, but that is what symbols do, like these words I am entering here. In order to understand the meaning, a conscious subject needs to read the symbols and say 'hey I think that's wrong', or whatever. No computer ever does that, in my view. A computer is a large set of switches. That is all. I have debated this on Philosophy Forums at length and it is controversial. Many scientific types really insist that the mind is no different to a computer. in fact it is an article of faith for them. But I regard that as a philosophical failure. The problem is, modern thinking does not have an ontology
. It doesn't recognize that a being is not the same as an object. Most of the time when I say that, I get baffled expressions, but I am confident it is true, although it is one of those kinds of things that is hard to prove. So I summarize it in various aphorisms, like, 'being is not an object' or 'the source of existence is not amongst the things that exist'. Of course to most scientists those sorts of statements simply do not compute.
Which is the point, in a way.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi