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machine brains

Joe Kilner jjmk2 at hermes.cam.ac.uk
Sun Feb 7 13:06:58 EST 1999

There is a very simple question as to why animals fight to survive  - the
one's that didn't have died off already!  And that's all there is to it.  We
are not living in a world where all possibilities exist *now*, we are living
in one that has been developing for millenia.  There is no way that an
animal can be successfull in a temporal sense (i.e. exist for a prolonged
period of time) unless it is equipped with a will to survive - even the
longest lived animals can not live longer that the potential eternity that
reproduction bestows upon an animal.  Those that fight to survive exist,
those that don't are killed off by the ones that do.  All quite simple
really.  And the animal doesn't have to know anything about it, bacteria
have a will to survive in that they reproduce as much as possible - not that
they think about it much!  The reason we exist is because other people had
these urges to procreate - doesn't mean anything really it's just a property
of a self perpetuating system, the ones that "self perpetuate" best last

So you could say that viruses act a higher level than humans but you would
be wrong.  Viruses just act a different scale.  There is no better or worse,
just different methods - the viral path has led to incredible speeds of
reproduction and incredible numbers of individuals, while the human path has
lead to poetry and war and individual life lasting a bit longer.  Who is to
say which is better.  And who other than us (i.e. humans) cares anyway?

As to a machine shutting itself off - why would it want to do that?  There
is nothing external to this little system called planet earth that would
suggest to me that the desire to procreate is any way good.  Survival and
procreation are not meanings of life - they are just the way that life
extends itself temporally (as well as spacially) into it's environment.  Any
machine we design will do what we design it to.  If we design it to think
like a human then it probably will have this urge for self perpetuation and
if it can't fulfill it then it may well shut down - but design something to
be intelligent and concious is not necesarrily the same as designing
something to think like a human (the human mind is just the only one that we
have any insight into...)


William Thomas wrote in message <79k2n9$7en$1 at garnet.mint.net>...
>All of the soul, no soul philosophical debate is interesting, however I
>think both camps are missing a more basic and important question.
>Why do things fight to survive? This is the one trait that the big meat
>brained (an potentially 'souled')animals and the little (and I think most
>would agree, 'unsouled') viruses share. The virus does not have a brain, so
>it could be argued that the survival instinct is not a brain function, but
>something else - but what? And while you are at it, if the purpose is
>to survive, and pass down DNA, then it could be argued that the virus
>functions at a much higher level that the human.
>Until we understand the survival function, and the questions that go with
>it, wouldn't any machine that we DESIGN shut itself off if it had the
>chance? After all, why expend energy if not to survive and pass on DNA?

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