Originally posted on the IEET weblog

Panpsychism and Multiple Realization: The Posthuman Mind pt3

In the event that Panpsychism is true, can Multiple Realization also be true for AI and the posthuman?

Panpsychism - the doctrine that each object in the universe has a mind or an unconscious psyche and that all physical occurrences involve the mental.

Multiple Realizability - In the philosophy of mind, the multiple realizability thesis contends that a single mental kind (property, state, event) can be realized by many distinct physical kinds.(1)

Principle of multiplicity - that which causes variety in the universe as opposed to that which causes unity.

Identity Theory - Brain Processes are identical to mind and vise versa

Functionalism - The definition of mental states in terms of their causes and effects

Not too distant in the future we will see AI, computer simulations, silicon-biological, and purely biological posthumans, etc claim that they are conscious beings with feelings, a sense of self, and the ability to be conscious of the same mental states that we (homo-sapiens) can feel.

Neuroscience is learning more and more about the brain through a list Antonio Damasio mentions in his new book The Self Comes to Mind: neuroimaging including , brain damaged patients, magnetic resonance scanning, positron emission tomography (PET), magnetoencephalography, recording of neuronns during neurosurgical treatments and magnetic stimulation. However in his book he admits that "the mystery of consciousness is still a mystery, although it is being pushed back" (Damasio, 262)

This "mystery of consciousness" may very well be multiply realized in different forms of matter. However brain patterns found by, for example, PET scans show us that there is something important to them for the rise of consciousness. If panpsychism is true, these patterns are unique to biological organisms with consciousness, which would deny AI the ability to claim that it is conscious like we are - unless of course their patterns are identical to ours.

Behavior of an AI, and a silicon-biological being cannot guarantee us that it is feeling consciousness like we are. Brain states and patterns will have to be empirically analyzed from the point of consciousness down to the most basic of neurological patterns.

If panpsychism is true, then it becomes part of the Theory of Everything, and we must then incorporate brain patterns into that theory of the universe. To really understand ourselves we must understand mind and not just the physical nature of the material we are made of in a reductionist way.

My intentions here are not to undermine multiple realization of consciousness just yet, for that would be walking on dangerous ground. If AI can really feel like we do we must grant them the rights that we grant ourselves. The identity theory poses a threat to machine functionalism, but does not undermine the importance of panpsychism. Panpsychism is not a form of identity theory or functionalism, instead its "arguments seek to find analogies between clearly enminded entities and the rest of nature which are strong enough to warrant the extension of mental attributes throughout nature."(4)

Multible realization of consciousness is conceivable, but if consciousness relies on panpsychism patterns we are left with silicon-biological, and purely biological patterns which are identical. It may be that consciousness relies on these patterns and only on these patterns to give rise to unique feelings. Panpsychism then becomes the new dualism, and weakens the theory of multible-realization of consciousness.


(1)Bickle, John, "Multiple Realizability", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/multiple-realizability/
(2)Damasio, Antonio. (2010). Self comes to mind. New York: Pantheon Books.
(3)Putnam, Hilary. (1973). The nature of mental states. Art, Mind, and Religion, 37-48.
(4)Seager, William and Allen-Hermanson, Sean, "Panpsychism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2010/entries/panpsychism.
(5)Photo: http://evenz.deviantart.com/art/dualism-77196550
HTML Comment Box is loading comments...