• Member Since 25th Mar, 2015
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The Hat Man


A man with a love of top hats and the finer things in life. Like aged rum. And UNICORNS.

More Blog Posts315

  • 3 weeks
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    My pal Zontan over at "Quills and Sofas Speedwriting" wrote a cute, very funny story. As a challenge, I wrote a continuation! He loved it and decided to publish it (with my permission of course)! If you like my comedic, feelsy writing, I'm sure it'll be up your alley. (Also, check out Zon's other stories when you get a chance, like Truth

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  • 3 weeks
    Rest in Peace, Mr. Imahara (Tribute)

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  • 9 weeks
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  • 21 weeks
    Story Recommendation: "Good Changes, Mostly"

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  • 22 weeks
    New Story: "The Spirit of Radio"

    Hey folks, just letting you know I put up a polished version of a speedwrite fic I did a while ago. I'm rather proud of it and it did win said contest, so that's something. It's a bit different from my usual writing style, but I think it came out well. Plus, there's an oblique reference to The Iron Horse in there, if you're up for that. :raritywink:

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Nov
21st
2015

"Do I have a soul?" · 6:55am Nov 21st, 2015

First, a cryptic little announcement: I got some good news in the mail recently and I'm hopeful that it'll mean good things for "The Iron Horse." We'll see soon enough. :raritywink:

Now, on to the main point of this blog post. In the most recent chapter, Turing Test asks a question I'd planned to have her ask Twilight ever since I was planning the story out in my head:
"Twilight Sparkle, do I have a soul?"

I figured a lot of folks would think this was a reference to "Mass Effect," but the concept of artificial beings and souls and asking that question is pretty common. It's mentioned in "Mass Effect," but it's also mentioned in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in my favorite episode "The Measure of a Man," and even the MLP fandom's own "Friendship is Witchcraft" mentions it:

Cheerilee: Now, can anypony tell me the difference between a robot and a cyborg?
Twist: Ooh, ooh, ooh! Robots don't have souls!

Heck, the term "soulless automaton" is a stock phrase in sci-fi.

So, after reading about theology and coming across the the term, Turing begins to wonder a bit more about it and what it means to her. Now, I don't want to get into a religious debate in the comments (though if you all want to, go right ahead :trollestia:), but I've always found the question of what does and doesn't have a soul to be interesting. As a child, I asked my mother if she believed that dogs and cats have souls and was shocked when she said no. But then I considered where the cutoff would be... do cows and pigs? (And if so, do I have to stop eating bacon cheeseburgers?) Do dolphins? Sharks? Goldfish? Cockroaches? Paramecium?

The truth of the matter is that nobody really knows, and that includes for humans. Or ponies. Whatever. Turing Test's namesake, Alan Turing discussed the matter in his paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence," which formed the basis for the concept of a "Turing Test" and laid out the terms of the Imitation Game. Turing said:

In attempting to construct such machines we should not be irreverently usurping [God's] power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children: rather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing mansions for the souls that He creates.

(Thanks to my pal JFalk for providing that quote, by the way.) Although in fairness, Turing wasn't always on point. He did also ask

How do Christians regard the Moslem view that women have no souls?

which, believe me, is not what Muslims believe. The point he was making, that a single view on souls is arbitrary and nobody agrees 100% anyway, still stands even if his example was horses:yay:t.

This is mainly why I had Twilight not express her own view, but rather to say that she believed that, if souls do exist and ponies do have them, then she believes Turing has one.

But the thing I'd like people to appreciate is that the answer to the question isn't really that important (since nobody can answer it anyway). The question itself was what really mattered.

Notice that throughout the narrative, Turing has progressively questioned more about herself and how she is perceived by others. Very early in the story, she responds positively to Twilight giving her a name. Later on, she figures out that she isn't accepted by others in Ponyville due to her appearance and slowly becomes more frustrated by it. With each emotion she has, she gets a little more personality and becomes more self-aware of who she is and what her place is in the world.

Now, here's the distinction: she's always perceived that she isn't accepted by others very well. She's chalked it up to looking different, acting different, or not being "aesthetically pleasing." After the museum trip, though, she actually gets a taste of how others perceive her. She starts to understand why others reject her. She sees the more primitive automata and feels no connection: they're just things.

Turing understands for the first time that others see her as a collection of machinery and moving parts and metal and things in the shape of a pony, but still just a thing that is imitating real ponies. She begins to wonder if she really is nothing more than a bunch of parts, her emerging consciousness a mere illusion. The question "Do I have a soul?" to Turing means "Am I a thing or am I a being?"

And thus, her consciousness awakens further, another signpost on her journey.

Welp, enough rants for now. Just a reminder that I'm still working on something for National Novel Writing Month and it might be a slightly longer gap until the next update. But nothing too long. :twilightsmile:

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Comments ( 13 )

I'd love for Turing to meet some over sentient machines like Johnny Five, who is alive, Data, Legion, LQ-84i (also known as Blade Wolf), Claptrap, Mega Man X, Optimus Prime, R2-D2 and maybe Vision. Just all of them at a party or a support group from thinking machines would be awesome.

For me , and that just my own ...ah... little simplistic theory let's say... everything is at it's core a machine , a combinaison of parts acting logically (be it that they are biological or mecanical). What define a being is the ability to use "free will" or rather to act illogically while having all the data needed to act logically.
That's not perfect , I know , but that's not really my field of expertise.:twilightsheepish:

If you're self-aware enough to question if you have a soul, then you probably do have one, no matter what you're made of.

If you can wonder if you have a soul, you have a soul. Simple, but I think it's effective.
I've always thought humans having souls was why were sapient, compared to animals.

As a child, I asked my mother if she believed that dogs and cats have souls and was shocked when she said no. But then I considered where the cutoff would be... do cows and pigs? (And if so, do I have to stop eating bacon cheeseburgers?) Do dolphins? Sharks? Goldfish? Cockroaches? Paramecium?
The truth of the matter is that nobody really knows, and that includes for humans. Or ponies. Whatever.

Hit the nail on the head. There is no physical evidence, or even reason, to assume we have anything other than our physical matter making us up. The only reason people even think we have souls is because ancient humans who didn't understand the universe made up an explanation without data to support their claims. There isn't anything special or mystical about humans, or at least nothing supernatural, so why would we have souls, if they actually existed, and other animals do not?

Now, thinking about this scientifically, which is literally the only way to figure out something correctly in an unbiased and logical way, we know for a fact that the soul cannot be your mind, because your mind can be destroyed and altered as the physical brain is manipulated. A soul is considered immortal, so that is a huge design flaw for a soul and cannot be what most religions consider a soul. So what would a soul be if it existed? What even is the point of a soul if you don't even exist as you you were after you die? Heck, the only afterlife, that I know of, that doesn't technically contradict what we know about the world is reincarnation, strangely enough. Still not likely due to what we know, but it is more likely than what exists.

Treating an idea almost as old as humanity itself that has zero evidence or hint that it exists as fact for no reason other than it sounds appealing isn't just illogical, it is downright childish. It's akin to finding a 100 meter wide hole in the ground and guessing that it was filled with a massive diamond, without looking at the surrounding material and making a logical deduction that it must have been, in fact, dirt. You can't really prove there wasn't a huge diamond, but it is very unlikely and doesn't really make sense.

If we find repeatable experimental or observational evidence that the soul exist, I will believe it in a heart beat. Until then, materialism makes the most sense. It's still fun to pretend it exists in fiction, because fiction is made as an escape from reality, but other than that it is illogical to assume something without any scientific evidence.

A man was attacked by a theif. Another man and a robot come to assist, and succeed in catching the theif. After the thief was put behind bars, the town celebrated the act of the brave hero. He was the one to help out a stranger of his own volition. The man knew this and reveled in the praise.

But during the celebration, the robot looked on, sensing a break in logic. During the revelry, the robot looked on, silently celebrating in the man's accomplishment. During the day afterwards, the robot looked on.

3558165 If you are in a universe where souls exist (as I would suspect the MLP verse is,) I think that is as solid a metric as can be found (unless whoever goes around distributing souls is a total dick about it.)

If you are in a world where souls do not exist, but a robot is in distress wondering if they have one, then I think it is an adequate way to ease their mind, since convincing them of the truth probably won't do them much good.


3558245 Everything you said is true in the real world, but it is worth pointing out that in a world like MLP, it would be legitimately surprising if souls didn't exist.

...that could actually be an interesting story idea. First contact between humans and ponies. Ponies can detect their souls with magical medicine and prove the existence of their afterlife, and brain damage can cause loss of function, but never direct changes to memory or personality. All tests on humans come back negative, the ponies are horrified that their 'any being capable of asking if it has a soul must have one' belief has been proven false.

I've only seen an idea like this once on Fimfiction and it was poorly handled.

3558654

First contact between humans and ponies. Ponies can detect their souls with magical medicine and prove the existence of their afterlife, and brain damage can cause loss of function, but never direct changes to memory or personality. All tests on humans come back negative, the ponies are horrified that their 'any being capable of asking if it has a soul must have one' belief has been proven false.
I've only seen an idea like this once on Fimfiction and it was poorly handled.

38.media.tumblr.com/5ffd6631fe8f7907ad226e3b5aad4c85/tumblr_inline_njyahjvCrB1sn6scg.jpg

3558245
(N.B.: I am a Pagan, a trained shaman, and a magic-worker, as well as otherkin with gender issues, but I also know that most magical and spiritual experiences are either personal gnosis or deliberately manipulating one's own psyche.)

There isn't anything special or mystical about humans, or at least nothing supernatural, so why would we have souls, if they actually existed, and other animals do not?

Well, nothing special or mystical that other animals don't have, anyway. I believe in the existence of the soul, and I believe that soul and mind are not the same thing; the body is a container and resonator for the soul/spirit, and the soul extends itself into the body during the incarnation process. Sentient mind is the process of integrating data and information into knowledge from a self-aware perspective. I also happen to believe in reincarnation, as an observational thing rather than any religious matter.

Now, thinking about this scientifically,

Don't say these words if you don't have a hypothesis to propose for refinement, a model to test, or evidence to present. You have some apt questions which you use to imply your argument, but you do not proffer anything but philosophy for philosophy. Give me substance, my good pony. Give me a theorem for your geometry!

What even is the point of a soul if you don't even exist as you you were after you die?

Who said you exist the way you are now, at any time except during incarnation? Perhaps the soul is not a copy of one body and/or mind, but the sum of its own experiences.

Your metaphor of the hundred-meter hole in the ground is somewhat apt, but the direction of your focus is not, and essentially misleads into a strawman argument. I do not conclude that there was a diamond in the hole, but rather, that something has made the hole; either some process of the structure or some outside actor has done this. We have no evidence that anything but ordinary dirt and stone (or flesh and bone) belonged in the hole, but the structure has been compromised and some vital activity is now not present. The soul as I have observed it is part of the function of that vital activity, not a generic mass that fills a hole. One may have soulless mind (a computer or automaton), but not mindless soul, as soul itself is essentially a function that describes mindfulness.

Positing that souls exist, and that humans have them but lesser animals do not, one would need to ask what difference there is between humanity and lesser animals.
An obvious difference might be that humans can be concerned with the concept of ethics, to have the ability to choose how we should behave, while animal behavior is controlled by instinct and conditioning/training.

One might suppose that the soul is associated with that difference.
Turing Test has made several difficult behavior choices, so I'd guess she has a soul.

Now, here's the distinction: she's always perceived that she isn't accepted by others very well. She's chalked it up to looking different, acting different, or not being "aesthetically pleasing." After the museum trip, though, she actually gets a taste of how others perceive her. She starts to understand why others reject her. She sees the more primitive automata and feels no connection: they're just things.

Turing understands for the first time that others see her as a collection of machinery and moving parts and metal and things in the shape of a pony, but still just a thing that is imitating real ponies. She begins to wonder if she really is nothing more than a bunch of parts, her emerging consciousness a mere illusion. The question "Do I have a soul?" to Turing means "Am I a thing or am I a being?"

And thus, her consciousness awakens further, another signpost on her journey.

If an entity - biological or mechanical - can look at itself and wonder at and question its own nature... the entity isn't just a "thing" anymore...
I really hope that we get some discussions like that in the upcoming chapters!

3558981

Who said you exist the way you are now, at any time except during incarnation? Perhaps the soul is not a copy of one body and/or mind, but the sum of its own experiences.

I mentioned that reincarnation is the only one that doesn't actually contradict what we know now, because I am in essense talking about the Christian idea of the soul.

Now, thinking about this scientifically,
Don't say these words if you don't have a hypothesis to propose for refinement, a model to test, or evidence to present. You have some apt questions which you use to imply your argument, but you do not proffer anything but philosophy for philosophy. Give me substance, my good pony. Give me a theorem for your geometry!

I was dubious about saying scientific here, because I was concerned that someone might say exactly what you said here. Turns out I was correct and should have just said logically. I could give an ordered hypothesis and do an experiment, but it has already been done before and the results were inconclusive. Hard to look for something that most likely doesn't exist.

Also, I mean soul in the literal, as in an object that is your mind seperate from the brain and indestructible, not metaphorical sense.

Turing understands for the first time that others see her as a collection of machinery and moving parts and metal and things in the shape of a pony, but still just a thing that is imitating real ponies. She begins to wonder if she really is nothing more than a bunch of parts, her emerging consciousness a mere illusion. The question "Do I have a soul?" to Turing means "Am I a thing or am I a being?"

Thats really deep like wow good job.media.giphy.com/media/7rj2ZgttvgomY/giphy.gif

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