The transhumanism scrapbook seems to keep growing each week, as this or that news story demonstrates that another incremental step has been achieved. In this case (perhaps... I'll leave you to be the judge), in robotics. The transhumanist assumptions about the coming "singularity" are simple enough: the GRIN technologies, as Dr. deHart and I outlined them in our Transhumanism: A Grimoire of Alchemical Agendas, as easy enough to understand, and, if one recalls the ninth chapter of our book, all designed around the "Frankenstein" moment, when human science achieves the ability not merely to engineer an artificial life, but in Shelley's prophetic vision, its self-awareness and consciousness as well. This poses obvious problems and questions of philosophy, as we all know.

In that context, Mr. A.B. shared the following interesting article about a recent test performed with three robots, one of which apparently exhibitted a crude form of self-awareness:

Uh-oh, a robot just passed the self-awareness test

Let's assume, for a moment and for the sake of argument, that this robot did indeed pass such a self-awareness test, that there is a " tiny self" in there that made these statements. It is hard to imagine, under such circumstances, that this "self" is of the same order as, say, you or me. It's a "lower" self. But once one admits this possibility, the thorny questions don't really go away; they're actually increased, for then the problem becomes one of acknowledging that the "Self" can come in many forms, some more complex than others, and this in its turn implies that one of our most cherished notions - personhood itself - is (1) not restricted to humans and (2) that it is, at least to some degree as yet unknown, not merely a qualitative phenomenon but that (again, to some degree though probably not a total one) it is "quantifiable" in ways we have not yet figured out. In this respect, I am reminded of the curious fact that one Christian church father, one in fact who had a great role in the formulation of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, St. Basil the Great(Basil of Caesarea), once remarked of his use of the Greek word "hypostasis" to designate what we call "person" or "personhood", that it was meant to denote the living (and presumably self-aware) individual, as distinct of the natural soul. It was the context in which he did so that was disconcerting (at least, to people with a particular view of Christian theology or for that matter, of animals), in that he applied the word not simply to "Peter" and "Paul" but to "this horse" and "that horse," implying there was some sort of lower form of personhood at work in the higher beasts, a view disconcerting to the more "mechanical" view of animals that would obtain in some instances in the mediaeval West, and finally be explicitly enshrined in some of the statements of the Cartesians. Basil, in his own unique way, was really saying "we are not alone." (Were I still in possession of my patristics library, I could cite this text, and let the reader evaluate for himself).  All of this reminds me of the episode that left me stunned one morning, as I was going out the door to take my friend Scott deHart's son Bennett to school. As we were leaving the apartment, I always had the habit of turning to Dr. deHart's pet African Gray parrot, Murray, and saying, "I'll be back; you be a good bird."

Murray, who loved to play games with me - including mimicking the sound of my phone ringing whenever I left the room, only to watch me come tearing back in to answer it, only to find the "caller" had rung off, a game eventually given away when Murray, after one such episode, also started laughing! -  on this particular morning, before I could say my usual line, just blurted out the line "I'll be a good bird," which left both Dr deHart's son and I staring at each other with our eyes and mouths wide open, for this was a sentence that Murray had never heard before, and consequently wasn't imitating. He had made it up, on the spot, and in a connection and context that made perfect sense.

Why am I bothering you with all this "theology" and a personal anecdote? Well, back to our little robot:

"Selmer Bringsjord set up a similar situation for the three robots - two were prevented from talking, then all three were asked which one was still able to speak. All attempt to say "I don't know", but only one succeeds - and when it hears its own voice, it understands that it was not silenced, saying "Sorry, I know now!"

However, as we can assume that all three robots were coded the same, technically, all three have passed this self-awareness test.

Well, maybe, but for my two cents' worth, I think the jury is still out. For one thing, one would have to repeat the test, and I would aver, develop other much more sophisticated ones. Eventually, I suspect however, that we will be confronted by the types of situations that Isaac Asimov wrote about in his well-known novel, I, Robot, and dramatized in the Will Smith movie: there may be a ghost in the machine, and I suspect we're all familiar with the phenomenon of how our own personal computers, over time, develop their own strange idiosyncracies and "behaviors". And what this means is that, eventually, we will be confronted with the types of conundrums suggested long ago by Basil, and so tellingly outlined by Asimov. And that in turn is going to mean some reassessments of law itself. Time will tell.

See you on the flip side...

Joseph P. Farrell

Joseph P. Farrell has a doctorate in patristics from the University of Oxford, and pursues research in physics, alternative history and science, and "strange stuff". His book The Giza DeathStar, for which the Giza Community is named, was published in the spring of 2002, and was his first venture into "alternative history and science".


  1. Sandygirl on August 5, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    July 27th – In Argentina, Steven Hawking, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and other experts signed a petition, warning that robots capable of killing while untethered to human operators is feasible within years, not decades. After these scientists make billions of dollars, now they’re worried.

    I wonder if the demons would have begged Jesus to cast their spirits into an AI entity rather than pigs. Luke 8:27. I have a hard time conceptualizing that one. Then Jesus could command the robots over the cliff.

  2. Leon on July 23, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    BTW I am Leo from Christchurch in the members’ area.

  3. Leon on July 23, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    If we assume that we are inherently totally non-local spiritual beings and that we are in a universe in which there are rules of play that are supposed to be adhered to.

    One definite rule would be that all knowledge, all communication, all creativity, all everything, has to be transmitted via the physical medium.

    Another would be that the only permitted identity is the identity of the physical body one is “being”. Or pretending to be.

    Just those two rules. All matters of personhood and/or nature of all living people, animals, plants or ghosts are covered by just these two rules.

    Those of us who have subliminal memories (somehow leaking past the rules barrier) of earlier or more inherent states of spirituality will seek to explore and enhance such abilities. To break the rules, in other words. This is he area of religion, of spiritual growth and development in any and every form. many of us have such a glimmer and pursue this. In other words, these people seek to ignore (disobey) the rules.

    Those of us who – and this is overwhelmingly the majority of life forms and examples – obey the rules and operate mechanically according to the prescribed rules.

    Transhumanists on the other hand, are seeking to re-program the laid in circuitry of the body (its implanted set of rules) and so allow the rules to be changed in that way.

    I believe that the first option above is the only valid path to take.

    • cosmicasuality on July 23, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      The question of duality in this (our) universe/world has exercised minds for a long time, especially the question of good and evil.

      If one of duality, then two conditions apply to determine outcomes as expressed in the good tree/good fruit vs. the bad tree/bad fruit analogy. This reminds one of that Boolean algebra which combines two statements of fact (or logic) to achieve a third statement of truth, much like the binary logic in computer architecture.

      So then:
      good tree(1) plus good fruit(1)= good results(1)
      good tree(1) plus bad fruit(0) = unacceptable result(0)
      bad tree(0) plus good fruit(1) = unacceptable result(0)
      bad tree(0) plus bad fruit(0) = unacceptable result(0)

      Thus a universe with a mixture of good and bad is always in some state of bad/evil. A totally good universe does not exist for us. Just take a look at the results. A totally evil universe would have destroyed itself by now, having nothing good to sustain it.

      No amount of rule juggling will change the situation unless an extra-cosmic, supra-universal agency exists to remedy the situation. The book of John speaks of this agency. Hint: wherever the word ‘world’ appears in the narrative, one should read ‘cosmos’ or ‘universe’, as can be checked in any good concordance.

      All of this can be dismissed if the world wasn’t tracking the way it does.

      • Leon on July 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm

        And if the universe is completely neutral and disinterested? What then?

        Though I must add is that the error in what you write is in the assumption that Spirit/Matter form a duality. They don’t. Matter is a function of spirit, and spirit is neither single nor many. Neither individualised nor composite.

        • cosmicasuality on July 24, 2015 at 11:48 pm

          The comparison given was between which agency (or spirit) produces good or bad results with the conclusion offered that a mixture is not tenable for good outcomes. A book reference was given, but perhaps I should have been more specific. See John 16:28,33; 17:5,11-18,21,23-25. (KJV) Note: Wherever you read ‘world’ in the passages given it appears as the word Kosmos in the greek, meaning cosmos, universe.

          With all the speculative theories concerning our universe, surely one could at least entertain the idea that there is something else available.

          Matter is merely one component/manifestation of our universe.

  4. MxFusion on July 23, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I read this article on another online site and there were several very skeptical comments by people who knew advanced coding. I know less than nothing about coding, but these experts said the so-called “self awareness” could be explained by such means and they explained why. All said they’d like to see the coding of all three AI robots and that the scientists involved were making a huge leap of conclusion.

    I’m convinced that consciousness can’t be quantified and never will be. A case in point is a South Korean physicist, Dr. Daegene Song, who got his Ph.D. from U. of Oxford(Joseph’s alma mater, I believe), who has proven mathematically that “Consciousness does not compute and never will.”

    A link to his original published paper is at the bottom of the article.

    I’m with Emlong’s comments above. That Self-Aware Consciousness can operate outside the brain/body has been proven by numerous veridical OBE’s. Remote Viewing has been proven. The paranormal has been scientifically proven with volumes of papers written up, rejected only by the current reductionist/materialist establishment. All materialist, brain based explanations for NDEs have been thoroughly dismantled by respected researchers.

    So, when an AI robot can do a veritical OBE, perform ESP in comparison to successful humans, Remote View successfully and have an NDE, I’ll be impressed.

    • cosmicasuality on July 24, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Re: consciousness-does-not-compute-and-never-will, didn’t Kurt Godel famously say something to the effect ‘that there is always something beyond that which you can formulate’?

  5. Robert Barricklow on July 23, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    As far as high-octane speculation, I find it intriguing that w/the falling costs of sensors, computer processing, and information storage, along w/b the gradual shift away from symbolic logic and toward more pragmatic statistical and machine-learning algorithms….
    but wait. Did they really shift away from symbolic logic. Or did they go dark. And by dark; not only highly secret, but experiment w/human beings. And yes, experimenting live w/black magic[ancient technologies]. That this technology is not new? Perhaps a superior science that led to catastrophic hubris?
    Experiments on helpless humans is universal where ever there is an absence of democratic/surveillance, which is every where because democracy id failing. Perhaps trying fort & achieving a learning and adapting curve ratio that is explosively exponential? AL[accelerated learning]/that gold standard of infinite evolution at speeds hundreds if not thousands of times faster than anything our species has achieved so far?


    • Robert Barricklow on July 23, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      and further…
      There are many religions that refer to a second coming.
      Will “these” transhumans refer to themselves as the second coming The Messiahs?

      Perhaps the first one could claim he’s Jesus Christ?

  6. goshawks on July 23, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I am reminded of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series and it’s later extensions. In the series’ back-story, AI has taken charge of humanity and has in effect ‘lulled’ humanity into a state of non-creativity. Humanity has been taken-care-of and controlled. (Much like the plot-line in the original “Star Trek” series episode, “Mudd’s World.”) Eventually, a rebellion breaks out (the Butlerian Jihad) and the “thinking machines” are destroyed. Then, they are forbidden. An ironic consequence of this ‘declaration’ is that humans are forced to develop ‘super-skills’ in various sub-categories to replace the AI capabilities.

    Where “Dune” intersects Joseph’s column is in the higher-aspects of human nature. Certain Dune-series individuals gain access to ‘non-ordinary’ states of consciousness. (And more importantly, to use them.) In the series, these states are denied to any machine-based consciousness, almost by definition. (The AI’s are both curious about and fearful of any-such ‘uncontrollable’ state.)

    Here is where the speculation sets in. Could any AI make the jump to non-ordinary states? Or, are they limited to the material realm? Could “TNG Star Trek” character ‘Data’ ever actualize these states? Or, was he forever-limited to being an incredibly-complex machine, but still only a machine? Perhaps, self-aware but not Self-aware…

    Deeper speculation: Given that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old and our Solar System is only 4.6 billion years old, there is more than enough time for an AI (or several) to be ‘born’, outlast or destroy its creators (or be abandoned when the creators jumped to non-physical realms), and be searching for Meaning/Purpose. If one of these ‘alien’ AI’s encountered humanity, what would it do?

    • goshawks on July 23, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Or, in the extreme case, would an alien-AI ‘create’ humanity from-the-‘slime’-up (a combination of genetics, creator-god, and Darwinism), in order to study our emergent non-ordinary nature? (This could explain some seeming very-long-term ‘planning’…)

  7. DownunderET on July 23, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Reminds me of the 1982 movie “Blade Runner” which is all about “replicants” and the trouble with recognition of them. In other words they were exactly the same as us, and if this is what they are working on, then there is trouble ahead.

  8. DanaThomas on July 23, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Well we could invert the terms of the argument. As was also discussed in a recent webchat, 20th century thinkers like G.I. Gurdjieff (and for that matter Colin Wilson) said that most of us, most of the time “live mechanically”, Obviously this has been asserted by traditions such as the Buddhists and others, using different terminology. On the one hand this can make some things easier – like when driving a car, we don’t have to “think out” each action we take, indeed this would be highly dangerous. But mechanicalness means lack of “real”, mind-based (thus both local and non-local awareness). So in theory a sort of “mechanical awareness” could be created since most people live mechanically anyway. But for all the billions of bits of information and even mimicking a neural network in some robot, how far would this type of awareness go?

  9. Robert Barricklow on July 23, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Business knows no pity/If it had the power to control the elements, it would grasp in its iron clutches the waters, sunshine, and air & resell them measure by measure at exorbitant prices.
    – W.A. Duncan in The Cherokee Advocate 1892
    Businesss/Transhumanism are partners in crimes against humanity;
    making trillions upon trillions & being glorified for it by medias.

  10. moxie on July 23, 2015 at 9:44 am

    I’m just curious about what kind of “coding” they used for such robots. Does the F.S.C. and its applications have something to do with this? hmmm…

  11. marcos toledo on July 23, 2015 at 8:40 am

    Have you been following the AMC series Humans where a female android-robot who is use as a sex toy turns on one of it’s customers. And goes on a killing spree later and that brings up why a society would create such pseudo creatures in the first place since we have real humans would could these jobs already. Are our oligarchs elites that cut off from any reality to game with all life on Earth to produce such a clocklike world.

  12. Robert Barricklow on July 23, 2015 at 8:25 am

    They’ve come a long way since Shakey, the world’s first electronic person[at least in 1966 ink]. Then it’s onward to so-called self awareness[reputed to be consciousness]. And then towards the engineered IA/AI mix, to become indistinguishable from human. Then to super-human, where “they” become a new species and are self-realized Gods. As Gods, they treat humans like cattle; just as the ancients Gods of long ago.
    Minsky said, “If we’re lucky, they’ll keep us as pets”.

  13. emlong on July 23, 2015 at 8:22 am

    When AI robots can exhibit paranormal powers and experience NDE’s then I will grant that they are at least as conscious as homo sapiens.

    • DanaThomas on July 23, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Good point.

  14. WalkingDead on July 23, 2015 at 6:46 am

    Does self awareness come with a soul, is the question, or do we end up with “Skynet” or “Ex Machina” and a machine intelligence that perceives its very existence or freedom to be threatened by its biological creators.
    A self aware machine may define “intelligence”; but what defines
    If you’re going to play god and create a being you better be smart enough to include empathy, emotion and a sense of right and wrong along with that intelligence; especially if it can think considerably faster than you and has access to the sum total of your knowledge more or less instantly.

    • cosmicasuality on July 23, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      Man is a tripartite being according to N.T.literature—body(soma), soul(psuche), and spirit(pneuma). Animals are body and soul only.

      Destruction of the physical body is ultimately of no consequence; the soul can be damaged or destroyed, which is to be avoided, and and the spirit is not perishable.

      Extensive examination of the meaning of the word ‘soul’, used in context in both the O.T. and N.T., leads to the psyche, the emotions, the sensory apparatus, essentially the link between the physical body and the spirit. Destruction of the soul would represent the loss of one’s life experience with its memories, learning and wisdom. A damaged soul(psyche) has already been achieved by the brainwashing, mind control, psychic driving and MPD associated with those that relish such horrendous methods.

      Loss of body and soul would leave the spirit not cognitive of its surroundings in this cosmos, that is, it would be unconscious or asleep.

      The normal life span of a human being is very, very short compared to the age of the universe or even the span of known history. No one, with questionable exceptions, can remember their previous history prior to birth. Was their spirit asleep and their prior memories, emotions, learning experience and wisdom expunged? Who wiped out the soul?

      Our spirit cannot remember any such thing happening, so it must have been asleep and had its memory bank destroyed at least once. That means those alive today (or those alive any time in history) that cannot recall their origin are (or were) actually re-incarnate.

      The idea of re-incarnation is vehemently opposed by most Western Christianity, presumably because gnostic and other non-Christian belief systems may hold to the same idea. What would Jesus say about incarnation/re-incarnation if it were true? He would end that system and deprive its originator of the system’s benefits.

      So, a long way around Henry’ barn, to answer the question of whether sentience can be achieved, it seems entirely possible if sentience can also be destroyed/manipulated.

      We are coming close to facing the difference between soul and spirit in our times.

      • MxFusion on July 23, 2015 at 5:14 pm

        Actually, there’s a very good case that is made that Jesus taught reincarnation and it was expunged from the Gospels.

        See Herbert Bruce Puryear’s “Why Jesus Taught Reincarnation – A Better News Gospel.”

        • cosmicasuality on July 23, 2015 at 7:02 pm

          Agreed! But not expunged, just ignored.

  15. zephyr on July 23, 2015 at 6:12 am

    I think the parrot story is most interesting.

    • moxie on July 23, 2015 at 9:57 am

      I thought so too, reminds me of my pet star. The thing is, self-organized living systems requires some sort of communication.. in its most fundamental form

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