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I met Terry through a Goodreads group and had the honor of working with him on a project. It’s with great pleasure I welcome Terry Persun as today’s guest blogger.

Take it away Terry.

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Do Robots Have Souls?

For anyone who has read The Soul of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder, I’m not talking about soul in that way. I mean a soul like what we assume humans have. If humans have a soul at all, which hasn’t really been proven scientifically. So, we quickly get into some pretty muddy water with this question.

Let’s say that you believe that only humans have a soul. That animals and plants and insects and fish all live a soulless life. If that’s what you believe, then we’re done with this question. But, if you can assume that anything that is alive has a soul, then we may be getting somewhere. Now we only have to decide whether or not a robot (or other machine) is alive.

Don’t use the old “pull the plug and it stops” excuse here. Bears hibernate for months, some fish can be frozen over the winter and be thawed and then live again. If robots had batteries, they could slow their systems (or sleep, as my computer does if I leave it alone for a long time) and “wake up” when needed again. Life can be measured in a lot of different ways, but truth be told, it’s only alive or dead dependent on what rules we place on the explanation. Plus, solar energy could keep robots working, or we could devise a protein generator similar to our own human one.

If I were to say that anything that can perform the physical act of movement is alive, then a robot may be alive and a tree may not be. It’s all in how things are defined. So, I’m going to say that everything—rocks, bugs, fish, the kitchen table—has a soul. There, according to this definition, a robot has a soul. I may need to redefine what a soul is, but that’s just another way I choose to look at it.

It’s like a lot of the questions we ask ourselves. We get to change the answer based on our definitions. Politicians are good at this sort of thing. “If they’re not with us, they are against us.” Yeah, no room for a neutral party there. And no room for any gradation. It’s all digital: yes or no. I look at how we classify animals and think that we could have adjusted our classifications any number of ways. Animals that walk on two legs and animals that walk on four…or six, or eight.

We could say that Robots that are used for human interactions have souls and those that are merely used to carry out a particular function do not have souls. Maybe the robot as a whole has a soul, but each component has no soul. So, I might have a soul, but if my arm is cut off, it doesn’t have a soul separately. Whole things have souls, but not parts of things. And if that’s true, then a tree might have a soul, but the branches we trim from it don’t, and the leaves that fall don’t have souls either.

If I were to answer this question, though, based on my own beliefs, I’d say that everything has a soul in some way or another. I like to think that everything folds back into the Earth and is changed. Like scientists believe about energy: it can be changed, but it is always present.

Fun things to think about, for sure, but I doubt we’ll ever have a true answer that can be proven.

What do you think? Do robots have souls?

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In Newcity, everyone is content. Bad feelings are not allowed, because your monitoring chip will alert the police to bring you in for treatment. Getting better is mandatory. Unchecked emotions made the world outside Newcity dangerous, unruly, and violent. At least that’s the official story in Newcity. Keith knows something is wrong. Strange visions lead him to become one of the few who escapes Newcity. He finds freedom and companionship outside, but pressure building to revolt against the city’s insidious regime of social control. Leadership is thrust upon him, with only his visions for guidance, only a small band of friends for support—and the fates of both Newcity and the outside world at stake. Cathedral of Dreams is a compelling tale of a dystopian future and personal heroism.

An archetypal American story of self-discovery, set against the turmoil of post – Civil War America, Sweet Song tells the story of the mixed race son of a white landowner and a black house servant. Leon, raised black but an outcast from both cultures, finds himself suddenly on his own — and passing for white. Wrestling with a divided heritage in a world where honesty, even with friends, might prove fatal, he falls in with dispossessed thieves, mill workers, saloon keepers, musicians, businessmen, thugs, freedom loving idealists and malevolent racists — a vivid panorama from America’s past. This tender, raw, provocative novel speaks from the heart about where we’ve come from and who we are.

Bio: Terry Persun is a full-time writer, with two published poetry collections: Every Leaf and Barn Tarot. His published works also include six novels through small, independent presses.

Persun’s latest novel, Cathedral of Dreams is a finalist for the ForeWord magazine Book of the Year Award. His literary novel, Sweet Song won a Silver IPPY Award this year.

You can find Terry on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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