Storm's Journal

you are not your body

Humans and Robots - Mechanical Animals?

A recent satire by Virginia Leidermeyer entitled "Robots Are Our
Future"* underscored a notion that is increasingly prevalent today.
Specifically, those who hold this notion presume the following--that
thinking, feeling, and even sentience can arise from a sophisticated
enough programming. This leads to the speculation that at some point
in the future when only the programming has somehow become
sophisticated enough, it will magically self-organise and achieve


The Onion article goes further, and assumes the noble position that
when (!?) this machine sentience is achieved, "we...must give the
best of ourselves to the synthetic hiveminds of the future
cyber-era... Let us offer tenderness and show the robots all the
beauty they possess inside. We must write a subroutine that gives
them a sense of pride, programming their supercooled silicon CPUs
with understanding, compassion and patience."

To first assume that sentience can arise from machines is a big
leap. Then to think that a sentience based purely upon LOGIC will
have a conscience with FEELING and compassion is improbable, and
based on a serious misunderstanding of the nature of machine logic.
If it is possible for machine sentience to even exist, then it must
be a different kind of sentience, as logic knows nothing of
compassion or FEELING; these are human attributes not based on
logic. Logic is cold and calculating, it knows nothing of feeling.
To this, one might tempted to respond, "so why don't we find a way
to TEACH them to have feelings?" This line of thought seems to make
sense until we go a little deeper into the issue. But in order to go
deeper, we have to understand the nature of feeling (i.e. Empathy),
and the reason empathy and antipathy for life exists at all in the
first place.

This raises big questions that go far beyond the normal realm of the
computer sciences: What is life? What is sentience? What is feeling?
You cannot discuss machine sentience until you at least know what
sentience is. Until these are adequately addressed, any discussion
can only deal with things at a very superficial level. At the risk
of being trite, I will attempt in this article to offer a few


When you face the world, you have an awareness of what your sensory
organs relate to your conscious-perception. Your inside is that part
of you that can observe thoughts and feelings arise in connection
with the perceptions coming from outside. Many people talk about
consciousness in merely theorectical terms. However, when you read
this, theory is not involved in the matter at all; either you know
that you are here and reading this or not. It really does not matter
what sort of theories people make about the nature of consciousness,
the fact remains that we are here and we know it. Therefore,
self-consciousness, awareness of one's existence does not need to be
determined theoretically, it is one of the few things that can be
known a-priori.

In contrast, physical-science only admits to the outside material
(i.e. physical electronic) aspect of reality, it considers only the
physical aspect of things. Because of this prejudice, supra-sensible
phenomena such as thoughts and feelings are not considered to be a
part of reality. Things such as love, hate, and impatience cannot be
directly meausured, and are therefore excluded from the view of the
world. Physical science is therefore blind in one eye, because it
does not want to deal with the study of the inside consciousness
aspect of human existence. It is seen to be too intangible, too
unmeasureable; it can't be *digitized*. Many people will no longer
admit to the reality of any qualities which cannot be empiracally
measured. Yet, when a world view is constructed based only on
physically measurable processes, and the role of consciousness is
ignored, the model that is formed soon comes against "insurmountable
limits of knowledge", and is therefore limited and deficient. What
I am writing here is not a simple agitation against the achievments
of physical science, but aims to highlight the fact that physical
science needs to have its scope enlarged to encompass both aspects
of reality.

 "The naive consciousness...treats thinking as something which has
  nothing to do with the things, but stands altogether apart from
  them, and turns its consideration to the world. The picture which
  the thinker makes of the phenomena of the world is regarded not as
  something belonging to the things, but as existing only in the human
  head. The world is complete in itself without this picture. It is
  quite finished in all its substances and forces, and of this
  ready-made world man makes a picture. Whoever thinks thus need only
  be asked one question. What right have you to declare the world to
  be complete without thinking?"
  (Rudolf Steiner, *The Philosophy of Freedom*)

I should note here that science has done a wonderful job of studying
the external effects of supra-sensible phenomenon. Yet, measuring
the *effect* of such things upon the organism really says nothing of
the inner experience that organism undergoes. The heart races
faster when you are about to have your first kiss; you don't end up
having your first kiss because your heart has begun to race faster!
You cannot understand what it is like to have a first kiss by
measuring the pulse and temperature of an organism; you must undergo
the experience yourself in order to really know anything of the
significance of the event that has transpired. Those who think they
can understand supra-sensible phenomena by merely measuring the
physiognomic effect on the organism have succumbed to an illusion.
Most of what science knows about the human organism is not gained
from studying the human as a whole, but from studying only the
physical aspect--the human corpse*.



Consider: what is the basis of life? Physical science analyses only
the physical phenomenon of nature, and therefrom proposes the theory
that CONSCIOUSNESS arises as an attribute of a complex interaction
of dynamic physical processes. In short, matter is primary, and
consciousness is an attribute of interactions within matter. If you
examine, you will find that all AI (artififical intelligence)
arguments are based on this theory. However, this is far from ever
having been demonstrated. Consciousness is seen to be a sort of
software that runs on the CPU of the brain. But the material view
has difficulty explaining the role and fundamental nature of
consciousness, and why it should bother to exist at all.

You cannot go forward with any notion of artificial intelligence
until you come to a satisfactory comprehension of the nature of
consciousness. There is another way of looking at the matter however
that many physical-scientific thinkers will not admit to, and it is
this: that if you consider conscious-sentience to be primary, and
life-growth processes within matter to be a manifestation of an
active sentience working within the realm of matter, then many of
the inexplicable facts of nature are resolved rather neatly. But in
order to understand how this can be, we must delineate of what the
levels between matter and consciousness are comprised.


- Looking at a rock and a Plant, ask yourself what is the
fundamental difference between them? A rock is inanimate, it does
not GROW, whereas a plant GROWS. It takes mineral up into itself,
digests the rock and soil and GROWS into a new form.

- From this we can understand that a plant has something that a rock
does not have; and that something about the plant which causes it to
grow is can be called its "Growth Attribute".

- So the difference between a plant and a rock is that the plant has
both a physical mineral structure which can be touched and measured,
and it also has another attibute which causes it to grow, and the
rock has a physical structure only without a Growth Attribute.

- When this growth attribute is removed from the plant, it is said
to "die" - it becomes a dead shriveled up piece of vegetation. It
then has only a Material Attribute, and no longer contains the Growth
Attribute. It is then nothing more than re-formed mineral substance;
life has left it.

- Incidentally, all animals have a dependency on plants for their
life. All food animals eat must at some point have been grown. There
is nothing that we eat that was not at some point alive with growth.
This is because humans and animals cannot digest mineral substance.
Animals depend on the Growth Attribute of plants to transform
mineral substance into edible substance. Machines depend on external
sources to convert energy into electricity. It is a more advanced
technology that can DIGEST its surroundings.

- Now, looking at a plant and an animal, we can ask the question:
What is the difference between a plant and an animal? There is
something about the animal which causes it to be able to be moved by
it's passions, it's desires, it's instincts. It's limbs and organs
are formed according to this force, and allows this force to express
itself in action. An animal has passions and desires, a plant does
not. When the Passion body is removed from the Growth and Physical
bodies, an animal is said to be "asleep" (i.e. it continues to grow,
but is no longer animated by its passions and desires for the
duration). When the Passion AND Growth bodies are removed from the
physical body, the animal is said to be "dead"; only the corpse

- Now compare: the plant stays in place, but unlike the stone, it
grows from the soil, and moves the soil and water along itself in
such a way that it grows. In addition to this, the animal has
something about it which causes it to move it's place, and follow
it's instincts and passions. So are it's organs formed to serve
these instincts and passions. When it is hungry, it can move itself
to obtain food. The plant however must accept it's fate. If it is
stepped on, there is nothing about it that can get itself to move of
it's own volition. The animal, however, when in danger, can move
itself so that it gets out of danger. This something that causes the
animal to move about from place to place and determine it's course
(which the plant does not have) is what is called it's Passion body;
it contains the passions, instincts, and character of an animal.
- In Nature, the habits, instincts, desires, and passions are
primary. These extend from the individuality, or Ego. The Growth
organism conforms in accordance to the pre-existing HABITS of the
Passion body. Then from the modified Growth organism, a new PHYSICAL
structure results: structures conformed to the cyclic repitition of
movements. This creates a structure which inherently conforms to the
circumstances in which it performs its growth. just as a tree may
grow right around a metal bar lodged within it. In this view,
Consciousness is primary, and the material world is a substrate into
which independent consciousness acts.


When Virginia Leidermeyer says, that, "only through our guidance...
will [robots] achieve full sentience and eventually adapt for
themselves the capacity for autonomous self-replication. Only
then...they must leave the nest of human supervision and servitude
and begin independently mass-manufacturing themselves by the
hundreds of thousands" --there is an important and fundamental
distinction to be made. Humans and all living things can reproduce
themselves through the fact of their GROWTH, and through their
Growth Organism can replicate from within themselves, OUT OF
THEIR OWN NATURE; whereas machines are made not from the inside
out, but rather from the OUTSIDE -> IN. They must be assembled
and manufactured using external processes. The fundamental
difference between a living and a dead thing is that: LIVING
leads us to a law of nature that is generally as of yet


If the motions and flows of blood in the human organism, or the air
moving through the lungs could be present without the organs yet
formed to hold them -- i.e. the blood flowing with no organs yet
existant to contain the flowing. No viens, no arteries, no heart
pump; only the movement of the blood in its circulatory patterns. If
you could do this, you would find that slowly, by a sort of
building-up and depositing of bits along the course of the flowing,
viens, heart and arteries would begin to appear. In fact, this is
just what happens in the development of the embryo. The movement
exists; the organ forms around it. This is the organic process of
growth. This is evident also in the growth of cities, plants,
networks, etc. The legacy of the growth determines the history, or
unique character of a particular instance of a certain set of
movement configurations or Habits. There is a fundamental difference
in approach if you try and build the FORM first to dictate the
movements, or if you let the movements determine the shape of the
FORM. In every observed natural growing formation, the form is
determined from the inside->out, rather than the physical-scientific
method of determining form from the outside->in. Even if you
consider the advances of nano-technology, you are still essentially
constructing things from material matter on up to a materially-based
consciousness. This method is directly derived from the notion
(theory) that consciousness is an attribute of matter. It is based
upon a flawed understanding of nature, life and sentience.


The Turing test is often cited as a test of intelligence. Basically,
it posits that in order to determine if something is intelligent,
you setup a TTY terminal to converse with either a set of machine
responses (such as those produced by programme "Eliza") or an actual
human. If the person on this end of the TTY cannot ascertain the
difference between the human and the programme by the responses it
makes to queries set to it, then it is cited as proof that machine
responses are "intelligent". In short, the turing test says nothing
more than, "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a

But what the Turing test really tests is actually the *illusion* of
intelligence. If one can through programming setup a sophisticated
enough "responses" table, one could create a machine that could pass
the Turing test, and you would have succeeded in making an elaborate
decoy of a duck. Does this mean that the *process* undergone within
a sentient person with thought and feeling has been duplicated? No,
the mistake is the same as the one a cat makes when it runs to
attack its own image in a mirror. An illusion of intelligence has been
created, but the inner processes cannot be said to be at all
similar. Again, this depends on if you approach the problem from
merely the outside phenomenon, or the inner nature of things.


The basis for human ego is based on the fact that we have memory.
Without an identifiable continuity of self through memory, we would
not know of ourselves as an individuality. It is therefore important
to note that nature of human memory is fundamentally different than
the externalized computer storage of "memory". If you study
neuro-psychology, you will understand that scientists have had
utmost difficulty in localising memory in the human brain. That is
because human memory is not like RAM at all. Every time you recall
something, you are not doing a lookup from a physical-electronic
memory address. Instead, the impression is brought up as an entirely
new creation within your consciousness. To speak of machine
sentience, you must consider this very fundamental difference
between machine "memory" and human memory which is an aspect of


If we consider that it may even be possible to create some sort of
machine sentience based on a sophisticated self-organised
programming (nothing short of a miracle!). Then we must understand
that it must be a different kind of sentience, because it is based
upon a different organisational foundation than the human. i.e. One
that works its way from matter on up, rather than from sentience
down into passions/character, which in turn work down into the
growth attribute, which finally determines the structure grown
within matter.

If it is true that we can build robot machines with "thinking"
capacity, then you will understand that these machines are built
according to certain principles of electronics (using binary "and",
"or", "nor", and "nand" circiuts. You can take any first year 
electronics course to understand that the entire basis for computer
operations is based on an assembly of of these logic circiuts.
Once a complex aglamoration of logic circiuts is assembled, you end
up with a CPU (or clusters of cpus), RAM, an address bus, etc. Then
you programme this assembly of logical operations using a
logic-based language. Computer programming lanugages are simply more
flexible forms for rewiring these logic circiuts. They are still
entirely based in logic. It is important to understand that anything
that can be programmed in software can be executed in a hardware
format by wiring the right logic circiuts together. This is why it
is possible for video card manufacturers to provide "hardware
acceleration" for previously software based systems.

Now let us compare. The basis for our thinking--i.e. our brain
organism--is not formed along the lines of digital logic circiuts as
are computers. The basic process involves an organism that includes
growth and organic cell reproduction. If you follow this through,
you must understand that the nature of process for a logic-based
sentience would be inherently different in character than one based
upon the conscious-organic membering of the thinking organism. IT IS
leap of faith to believe that it is possible that a logic-based
sentience could develop feeling qualities in the absence of a

If someone has offended you, and you get angry with them and make a
nasty sort of comment in response. This is a result of feelings of
sympathy or antipathy arising within you. These are not based on
logic, they are based on the sentiments of your character. However,
the attitude you take towards the thoughts and feelings that arise
within you can be *decided* upon by your "self". You have the
ability to reprogramme your thought processes by determining your
attitude. The attitude you take in relation to thoughts and feelings
that come to you through your physical sensory organs can be
determined by your WILL. While it is true that outer processes can
alter your course like the current in a river, the WILL* acts as a
rudder and allows us to navigate our course as an autonomous being.
Emotion and FEELING are closely allied to sense-impression, but
there is a point where sense impression is transformed into
SENSATION and FEELING, and that transformation is not possible
without corresponding GROWTH AND FEELING ORGANS. It may be possible
to give an illusion of a feeling response by means of
behaviour-logic programming, but you cannot say that such behaviour
will be similar in nature to human or animal feeling.

Things can only FEEL and LOVE, because they are living. Without an
organ of SENSATION (growth organism) and FEELING (passion organism),
the machine is unrelated to the human world, or the natural world
of anything that is alive and GROWS. Without an integral GROWTH or
FEELING organism, you will never be able to teach machines how to
CARE or LOVE. Logic--with all its merits, cannot be the basis
for love, only LIFE can be the basis for love. 


Originally posted June 28, 1999 on osOpinion. 

Back to Storm's Journal

SUBMIT AN ARTICLE posted: june 22, 1999 updated: december 2, 2004