In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man,” Captain Picard asks a scientist wishing to dissemble commander Data to prove to him that he is conscious. The fact that the scientist cannot demonstrate something that appears so obvious is exactly Picard’s point — if a robot could think in all the ways that we do, would it not have the same feeling of “I”?
In my latest Because Science, we take a look at how the problem of consciousness is tackled by the new film Chappie. Because Chappie is not just an intelligent robot, it’s a thinking and feeling robot, the movie deals directly with what philosophers call “The Hard Problem of Consciousness.” In other words, how can a bundle of neurons have an inner life seperate from just sensing and responding to information from the outside world? Spoiler alert: we don’t know, but something just like a Chappie could help us understand why.
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