Discussion:Can Androids have Minds?

Can Androids have Minds?

Philosophy of Mind.

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Your quizzes and discussions this module will ask you to assess whether sophisticated androids can have a “mind.” Think about movies such as Ex Machina, Short Circuit, etc. What theories might support the idea that an android can have a mind? For what theories would it be logically inconsistent that an android could have a mind?

Remember, this is a thought experiment to think about the concept of “mind.” So, these questions are not about what is physically possible today, but what is logically compatible with thinking about whether androids COULD have minds. In what conditions must an android meet to have a mind? Must the android be made of organic material like neurons? Must the android have neurotransmitters like serotonin in order to feel joy? Must the android have hormones such as adrenelin in order to feel fear or anger? Could a sophisticated computer made of inorganic material be said to have a mind, thoughts, desires, or beliefs? Could we think of a computer to “believe” it has a virus, “desire” to fix itself, and thereby run an anti-virus program? What would a Dualist say? What would a mind/body identity theorist say? What would a functionalist say?

As you go through the next weeks’ activities, keep in mind that there may not be a “right” answer– it all depends on your explanation.

For a deeper understanding of this interesting question, I recommend watching Star Trek: Next Generation, “Measure of Man” available on Netflix. This is arguably the best Star Trek episode in the whole cannon. A sophisticated android named “Data” is on trial for his life and must convince the judge that he is sentient (intelligent, self-aware, and conscious), otherwise the scientist Maddox will dismantle him. Below is a summary.

In the Star Trek The Next Generation episode The Measure of Man (Season 2, Episode 9 available on Netflix, CBS All Access, and other streaming services) the android Lt. Commander Data undergoes a trial to determine if he has the right to choose whether or not to undergo an experimental procedure. Click here for a complete summary of the episode. In order to have this right, Data presumably would have to have a mind in the first place. What do you think?

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