There are, however, profound differences of opinion on two other questions about artificial creatures that are linked to the mind–body quandary. They generate considerable controversy and the answers might determine the eventual success of the entire enterprise of build- ing artificial creatures.The questions are:
Can an artificial brain support a conscious artificial mind, as
the human brain does human consciousness?
Is it necessary to embed an artificial brain in a body for the
brain to become fully intelligent, functional, and perhaps conscious? As a corollary, might a synthetic body be enough to imbue an artifi- cial mind with a high order of intelligence?
Both questions arise because in the recipe for an artificial being, which reads “one part physical, well mixed with one part mental,” we know little about the second ingredient compared to the first, and hardly know how to stir the ingredients together, because we do not know our own recipe—though we’ve sought it for a long time. One formula goes back to René Descartes in the seventeenth century. He made consciousness central when he stated,“I think, therefore I am,” and went on to reason that humans have a dual nature. People, he wrote, are like animals in that both are flesh machines built of matter, which is defined by its extension in three dimensions: but humans have an additional facet, mind, defined as the ability to think.What Descartes could not explain to anyone’s full satisfaction, however, was how the two categories interrelate, although he attempted to localize that interaction in the pineal gland.
The dualistic idea that human existence includes an intangible part still carries power in religious and spiritual traditions that hold that an immaterial soul survives the death of the body.And it carries enormous weight for each person. Each of us, looking within, feels that something is going on internally that has a different character than the physical operations of the body—call it soul, personal identity, or what you will, it is the core from which each of us gazes out into reality.