The Forest Spirits of Today Are Computers

George Musser: Panpsychism — the proposition that consciousness is fundamental and ubiquitous — is one of humanity’s oldest ideas. It has cycled in and out of fashion in Western philosophy and has been enjoying a resurgence of late. For many neuroscientists and philosophers, panpsychism will be an essential feature of a theory of consciousness: Whatever mechanism creates the human mind need not be limited to humans. But I’m talking about a different kind of panpsychism — artificial panpsychism. All the computers with which we surround ourselves are starting to be endowed with a rudimentary sentience. We are placing minds everywhere and instilling seemingly inanimate objects with mental experience. To my knowledge only one thinker — the computer scientist and science-fiction author Rudy Rucker — has described panpsychism as a phenomena we might create, although even he doesn’t think it very plausible. I would go further and say, not only is it plausible, it is happening.

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