Science

What Does it Mean to Have a Mind?

Posted 8 Feb 2007 at 20:49 UTC by steve Share This

Psychologists from Harvard University have reported on the results of a study of 2,000 people who answered a list of questions about the following entities: "a 7-week-old fetus, a 5-month-old infant, a 5-year-old girl, an adult woman, an adult man, a man in a persistent vegetative state, a frog, the family dog, a wild chimpanzee, a dead woman, God, and a sociable robot." They gained some interesting new insights into how humans perceive the idea of mind. Rather than the tradional view that we perceive mind as a continuum, the researchers now believe we perceive mind along two distinct dimensions: "agency, an individual's ability for self-control, morality and planning; and experience, the capacity to feel sensations such as hunger, fear and pain." The project is searching for answers to questions such as whether or not a robot could have a mind; or whether a machine could do something morally wrong. If you'd like to try the survey yourself, they offer an online version.

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