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Spirituality, Consciousness, God, Conscious Machines & the Atheist Mind.
But lets say we figure out how to build a conscious machine, should we just go ahead and do it? Considering that there are legions of under- and uneducated persons, all of them owners of conscious brains, in 3rd world countries needing jobs? Skilled and educated youth too, all over the world, often grossly underemployed and disaffected with their lives and feeling their existence is without purpose (at least until some twisted toxic imam or the like starts telling them their purpose is to sacrifice themselves by killing other innocents in the service of their prophet’s purported version of god). Taking into account the necessarily limited resources and huge R&D investments involved, it must be argued that creating a conscious machine seems like a useless and resource-wasting path to follow. Except that free will and lack of motivation means that 99% or more of those biological owners of conscious biological brains invariably seem to be more absorbed with their own basic and carnal wants and needs and even if they were capable, are not particularly interested in doing the jobs or even the training for the jobs we could dedicate real conscious machines to do.
So let’s agree this research will happen and eventually we might all be able to have one of our own. Undoubtedly - and sadly - some of the first will be used in combat zones. So this is where it is relevant to discuss some considerations of having conscious machines: Would having awareness and consciousness expose them to feelings? Fear in the face of self destruction, for example; remorse at causing death and destruction? And what would be the morality of sending a conscious machine that is aware of its own impending demise into certain death? And again, if they became perhaps affordable and common in the general population - what would be the morality of owning a conscious robot (would it seem like a new kind of slavery)? Would a machine’s consciousness be comparable to that of a human ? Would such a conscious machine be able to contemplate what is possible, and have an awareness of its own imperfections, inabilities, and mortality as when essential brain parts might wear out and not be replaceable without wrecking life as that consciousness knew it?
Where does all this lead to though, in our search for our own consciousness and spirituality? We wonder if creating conscious machines might be the link that could teach us about our own journey via evolutionary pressures to the state we have become.
So Here we Are, Still Looking for the Spirituality Factor:
Until we capture consciousness, we’ll continue having a hard time finding spirituality; without one there can’t be the other. If we definitively capture the essence of consciousness, understanding spirituality may well turn out to be simple (our own thesis already stated, is that it’s an enhanced aspect of consciousness that looks into other possibilities, the future, other dimensions and layers of potential, and is probably unique to human beings. And also, that which we call a “soul” is some intense manifestation of part spirituality and part morality). Or perhaps even after we figure out consciousness, spirituality might remain as difficult as corralling a wild quark..
Whither the future?
With so much brain research ongoing even as this is being written, we are surely gathering information which by its sheer volume and diversity, should eventually unlock the key to the true nature of consciousness and where it resides in the brain (if indeed it has specific loci). Perhaps we’ll even find out how it comes about, and finally, how conscious creatures develop spirituality. The studies considered here are just a few of the many now being conducted, which AB.net found significant in the search for consciousness in the brain. We can’t help but think that when we discover the answers we seek it might be due to fortuitous chance or luck, maybe from rigorous research, or from some completely unexpected and unobvious source, so that the parts will come together to crack the puzzle. James Burke’s 1979 BBC tv series, “Connections,” showed that following the obvious line of study isn’t always a bright line to the answers. Sometimes, the right question just isn’t being asked, the right people and the right ideas haven’t been given the attention they deserve. Neurologists probably need to open their minds and work closer with physicists at a minimum, to start making the “connections” that will lead to understanding consciousness and then reach into spirituality.
For atheists in particular, spirituality shouldn’t be about looking backwards. The temperature that is called absolute zero, is so named because as far as we can tell nothing can get colder than that, but so far, no limit has been found for the highest temperature achievable; similarly, we believe there was a beginning of the universe (perhaps with the “Big Bang”), but AB.net’s editor thinks our future is like the undiscovered highest temperature attainable in that it too is spreading forward without limit. We will be taking our spirituality with us wherever we go, perhaps it will develop into a new state and confer upon us new insights, atheists have to learn to deal with their spirituality because just as the world evolved from polytheistic beliefs into a fairly general belief in one “God,” to us it seems the way of the future is for us to evolve beyond a need for belief in this “God.”
What comes next is surely important for atheists to figure out, it is our belief that civilization will continue towards marginalizing religious belief and that this is inevitable although sure to be a slow procedure, there is no need for atheists to even try pushing this, we believe it is an inevitable consequence of our advancement, just as lungs and legs and hands occurred as creatures moved to dry land from the sea and advanced brains occurred in some of them. But as it does so, the gap between religious belief and atheism needs to be filled by something substantial and real and honest and ethical and worthy, even if it takes a long time for this new evolution to happen. Atheists just happen to be at the forefront of what is surely an initially slow movement - overcoming inertia is always hard - and so it’s incumbent upon us to figure out the ways to help any who consider relinquishing ties to religion as science and knowledge and advancements of civilization surely make religions look less viable in the future.
This article is dedicated to the hope we can be up to it.
Next issue, PARTS FOUR & FIVE, will look at Spirituality for the Children of Atheists, and Spirituality in Our Senior Years.
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