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No. 108: Nov-Dec 1996

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Are We Really Robots?

We imagine ourselves to be different from inorganic nature -- flesh and blood -- certainly not hardware. But the real truth may lie beyond our ken.

But can we really prove that we are not machines? G. Johnson has a few words to say on this subject in his book Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order.

"Thinking in terms of bits has allowed us to develop the field of computer science, in which we learn how to represent the world with patterns of information. So successful are our endeavors that some physicists and computer scientists believe that perhaps information is not a human invention but something as real, as physical, as matter and energy. And now a handful of researchers have come to believe that information may be the most real of all. Simulated creatures would have no way of knowing they are simulations, the argument goes. And, for that matter, how do we know that we are not simulations ourselves, running on a computer in some other universe?
"Nature, it seems, has honed us into informavores so voracious that some can persuade themselves that there is nothing but information."

(As quoted in: Science, 273:443, 1996)

Comment. If we really are simulations, that "computer in some other universe" has taken great pains to also simulate millions of other species and their fossil records! (Could a cybergod do all this?) Fun to think about anyway. Come to think of it, Omar may have had it right when he wrote: "We are no other than a moving row of magic shadow-shapes that come and go."

Well, maybe that's too far-fetched; but what about all those UFOs and their occupants; they are a bit shadowy?! They might be cyberbeings.

From Science Frontiers #108, NOV-DEC 1996. � 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

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