Better be doing science because you enjoy the day to day minichallenges, because you want to engage your self in a really difficult problem, because you really care about what the world is about and want passionately to contribute in some small part to understanding it, and because you believe that science is the greatest achievement so far of the human race and its long term best hope for survival and enlightenment. --John Moult
I have striven to avoid lot of discussion on metaphysical issues while dealing with technical matters. However, comments have been made that have a deep philosophical signficance and some might consider their justification rather inadequate.
I have mostly avoided discussion on things such as the soul and its relation to self. I would like to encourage those interested in such issues to read The Mind's I by Hofstadter and Dennet, which provides a lot of insight into the philosophical implications behind this entire work. Subjective opinions can then be formed.
What I have proposed here is in some sense a simulation. It's quite literally a virtual reality. There is quite a bit of theoretical basis for implementing the practical aspects of this simulation, which if the theory is correct will indeed lead to modelling of the cell and higher organisms. This certainly is artificial life. So we can be assured of artificial life within a reasonable amount of time. I make the claim repeatedly that this will lead to artificial intelligence as long as our simulation if faithful to biological organisms where intelligence exists. This means the in virtuale cloned computer creature will have emotions and sentience (consciousness).
The basis for this is less sound. What I am proposing is just a theory and I'm in the process of putting it to an empirical test. The theory of the mind itself is not very clear, but that is intentional. Can we ever explain consciousness? We are compelled to recognise it exists even without understanding it or being able to explain it. It seems as though there are these unreachable truths hidden that cannot be expressed by human language. I do not believe we can ever explain it, and this is the basis of my theory.
Several intellectual developments this past century have shaken the very foundations of what constitutes the mind-body relationship. Quantum Mechanics has shown that the mind is deeply implicated in physical processes. Gödel's work has been used here to explain the existence of consciousness. Other ideas have included Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and work by Hawking that makes the existence of god irrelevant. Finally, there is the theory of complex adaptive systems, an approach which I've used extensively in my research, which explains how simple bottom up rules can lead to complex behaviour. It is an amalgam of these ideas (not just from the sciences, but from other areas such as the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts) that I have used to formulate my theory of consciousness. It is fuzzy for a reason.
I do not in any way claim these organisms we create within the computer will communicate with us, though the possibility exists (but if they didn't, how would we know they are intelligent---I will reply to this now by saying "by seeing what they do"). I do not intend for human beings to "plug in" to their computers and explore cyberspace (though this work could shed light on how that could be done).
Time as we know it will not exist for these organisms. All they will know is what has happened, and what is happening. They will wait for what is to happen. They are theoretically immortal.
I have also avoided discussion (as of now) into the "continuous" nature of living organisms and on the imperfect nature of cellular activity. If we build a nondeterministic system, there are bound to be some errors, just as there are errors in our cells. However, the degree of error will be greatly reduced simply because we have the flexibility and the power to refine the system we have constructed. Should we eliminate all errors (such as those that occur during DNA replication, mutations that result in apurination, etc.) that occur in natural organisms? Or should we try to remain true to the cell?
The above issue will continuously rear its head during the course of building our model. Empirical experiments will decide, for the most part, what the most appropriate course of action is. In the chapter on the cell as an emergent self-replicating and self-organising operating system, I title a section "god is in the details" intending multiple puns, including the title of this section. In case there is any confusion, I faithfully remain a staunch atheist.