Philosopher Daniel Dennett on AI, robots and religion

John Thornhill in the Financial Times:

ScreenHunter_2619 Mar. 07 18.57Among rival philosophers, Dennett is sometimes depicted as the great “deflationist” for arguing that consciousness is just a “bag of tricks”. Everyone believes they are an expert on consciousness because they think they are conscious. But Dennett is here to tell them they are wrong. He is the spoilsport at the party who points out how the magic tricks are done. Don’t even try him on such concepts such as mysticism, the soul, or God.

So why did he become a philosopher? He says that when he was a freshman at college he read Descartes’ Meditations. “I thought: ‘This is fascinating but it’s wrong. I’m going to see if I can show what’s wrong with it.’ More than 50 years later I’m still working on it.”

Dennett was convinced that Descartes’ dualism — the idea that an immaterial mind interacts with a material body — was a “cul-de-sac”. To illustrate the dualist delusion, he makes an improbable reference to the cartoon character, Casper the Friendly Ghost, who could both walk through walls and catch a baseball with his ghostly hand. “There was a latent contradiction built into the very idea of Casper the Friendly Ghost and basically that’s what’s wrong with dualism. Nobody’s ever solved that problem remotely satisfactorily.”

More here. [Free registration with the FT required.]