Can a computer be conscious?

I recently watched the film Ex Machina, which explores questions surrounding the nature of consciousness.  I will comment briefly on some of the philosophical issues it raises, but I won’t describe the entire plot.  Nonetheless, if you’re worried about “spoilers”, now’s the time to stop reading, and I hope you’ll come back here after you see the film.

The premise of the film is that there is a robot (Ava), and its creator (Nathan) wants to know whether it is conscious or not, but doesn’t know how to test this proposition.  He invites a young programmer (Caleb) who is somewhat knowledgeable about such questions to participate in an experiment.  It isn’t, we are told, the classic Turing Test, Continue reading “Can a computer be conscious?”

Does free will exist?

I believe that yes, I do have free will.  By this, I mean I make genuine choices, not predetermined either by God, by the laws of physics, or by some combination of nature and environment.  I felt it was an important question to answer on this blog (because other questions I’ve addressed, such as this one, are related to it), but I’m not going to attempt a comprehensive exploration of this question here, for three reasons.

First, the question has been around so long and so much has already been written about it (for example, start here and branch out), and I don’t think my thoughts on it are especially original.

Second, most of the evidence Continue reading “Does free will exist?”