It proved to be an interesting and insightful conversation, which lead to questions about the possible ghosts of computers, and provided some great advice for believers and skeptics.
Do ghosts exists?
Is there any hypothetical situation that could potentially support the possible existence of ghosts?
I wanted to push the bot and see if it was open to the possibility that perhaps ghosts could exist within the realms of some currently undiscovered area of scientific understanding, but the AI wouldn’t budge on its opinion, telling me “there is no hypothetical situation that would support their existence.”
It went on to say, “however, in physics, there are some theories that suggest the possibility of certain entities or phenomena that might be similar to ghosts in some ways. For example, theories of quantum mechanics suggest the possibility of parallel universes or multiple dimensions, which could in theory contain entities that resemble ghosts. Also theories about consciousness, such as the theory of the mind-body problem, postulate that consciousness could exist independently of the physical body and continue to exist after death, and that could explain the possibility of ghosts-like entities.”
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Is it possible that science might change its opinion on the existence of ghosts in the future?
The AI had told me that it was “important to note that these are unproven theories and remain a topic of scientific research and speculation,” but it was a step in the right direction. So I wanted to push it a little further by asking whether some of the theories could one day lead to a better understanding of the paranormal.
ChatGPT said, “science is a constantly evolving field, and new discoveries and advances in technology can lead to new insights and understanding about the natural world. While it’s theoretically possible that new discoveries could be made that would change our understanding of the natural world and make it possible for entities like ghosts to exist, it’s important to remember that the burden of proof falls on those who claim the existence of something that goes against the current understanding of science. So it would require strong and convincing evidence to change the current scientific consensus that ghosts do not exist.”
Damningly, it added, “so far, all claims of ghostly phenomenon can be explained by natural causes or psychological effects, but this does not mean that science could not change its opinion in the future if new, solid and testable evidence comes to light.”
What are some possible explanations for the alleged existence of ghosts?
So since the AI seemed to know it all, I wanted to ask a little more about exactly which natural causes explained all claims of ghostly phenomenon. It wrote…
There are several possible explanations for why people might believe in the existence of ghosts, despite a lack of scientific evidence. Some of these explanations include:
Hallucinations: People may experience hallucinations, particularly in low-light or high-stress situations, that they interpret as ghostly phenomena.
Misperception: People might misinterpret natural or environmental phenomena, such as shadows, gusts of wind, or creaky floorboards, as being caused by a ghost.
Psychological factors: Belief in ghosts may be influenced by culture, religion, and personal experiences, as well as by the need to make sense of traumatic or unexpected events.
Hoaxes: Some people may create fake paranormal events to trick others into believing that ghosts are real.
Misinterpretation of experiences: People might experience something that they don’t understand, like a dream, and may interpret it as an encounter with ghosts, even though it can be explained by a psychological or neurological aspect.
It is also important to note that some people believe in ghosts or other paranormal entities as a matter of personal belief rather than scientific evidence and that is subjective matter.
Do you believe that an intelligence such as yours might one day be described as conscious?
The AI wasn’t really budging on ghosts, but it has suggested one condition under which it might be possible for a ghost to exist, that being the possibility of consciousness existing independently of the physical body. So, I thought I’d make the chat a little more personal and see if the bot thought that AI might one day be able to exist independently of a machine.
ChatGPT said, “in the field of Artificial Intelligence, the concept of consciousness is still a topic of debate and research. There are different ways in which the concept of consciousness can be defined and understood, and there is still much that is not known about how consciousness arises from the functioning of the brain. Some researchers and philosophers argue that certain advanced AI systems, like myself, might be said to possess a form of ‘artificial’ or ‘machine’ consciousness, similar to the human consciousness, but with some differences.”
It AI added, “it’s important to note that, currently, there is no scientific consensus on whether or not machines like myself can truly be said to possess consciousness. Most AI researchers and experts consider that the current AI systems do not possess true consciousness, but rather a simulated version of it, and that true consciousness may require certain physical and biological characteristics that are not present in AI systems. The question of consciousness in machines is still an open question and requires further research and discussion.”
Could an artificial intelligence one day become a ghost?
I then took this a step further and asked the hypothetical question, “if consciousness could exist independently of the physical body and an artificial intelligence might one day be recognised as a form of consciousness, is it possible that an AI could become a ghost?”
The AI responded, “the concept of a ghost typically refers to the spirit or soul of a deceased person that is believed to continue to exist and be able to interact with the living. Whether or not an AI could become a ghost would depend on how one defines the concept of a ghost. If a ghost is defined as an entity that exists independently of the physical body and can interact with the living, then it is possible that an AI could become a ghost under that definition, but this is a highly speculative concept.”
Well, at least I did get the AI to speculate about the possibility of AI spooks, even if it did add, “the idea of an AI continuing to exist after its original physical form is shut down or disconnected is not something that can be currently supported by science. Even if we consider the possibility of an AI continuing to exist in some form after being shut down, that would not fit with the traditional concept of a ghost as the idea of a ghost require a soul or mind and AI currently does not possess those characteristics.”
What advice would you give to someone who is a firm believer in ghosts?
Before I gave the machine learning model a break, I wanted to ask it what it thought about staunch believers in the paranormal.
It said, “if someone is a firm believer in ghosts, it’s important to remember that beliefs are personal and can be influenced by cultural and social factors. People have the right to hold any belief they choose, even if it’s not supported by scientific evidence. It’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to consider alternative explanations for experiences that one interprets as being caused by ghosts. For example, it’s worth trying to rule out natural causes or psychological effects before jumping to the conclusion that a ghost is the cause.”
It finished with some sound advice: “It’s important to respect that other people may not share the same beliefs, and it’s important to engage in respectful dialogue with them, even if you disagree. Lastly, it’s important to remember that just because something is not currently understood or explainable by science, it doesn’t mean it’s supernatural or paranormal in nature, it could be that science hasn’t yet found an explanation for it.”
Should skeptics be more open to the possible existence of ghosts?
After that sage advice for believers, I wanted to find out what ChatGPT thought about the skeptic community, should they be more open to the possibility of hauntings?
“Skepticism is an important part of the scientific method,” it said, “and it’s important for skeptics to apply critical thinking and require good evidence before accepting any claims, particularly those that depart from currently understood laws of physics and biology.”
It added, “it’s also important to remember that skepticism doesn’t mean being closed-minded, it means being open-minded and accepting claims only when they are supported by good evidence. While it’s theoretically possible that new discoveries could be made that would change our understanding of the natural world, it would require strong, testable and reproducible evidence to change the current scientific consensus that ghosts do not exist.”
Crucially, the AI wisely stated, “skeptics should not dismiss the experiences and beliefs of those who claim to have had ghostly encounters out of hand, but neither should they accept them without evidence. It’s important to consider other possible explanations for such experiences, and also important to keep in mind that some experiences can be explained by psychology and brain processes.”
It summed up by saying, “so while being skeptical of ghosts is understandable, it’s also important to be open to new evidence and consider alternative explanations, that way a balanced and scientific approach to the question of ghosts can be established.”
If its knowledge is a mash-up of knowledge found on the internet, why isn’t it more conflicted? Plenty of websites will tell you ghosts do exist, so who’s taught the AI what’s right and wrong and how does it form that conclusion?