I suppose another way to ask it is, is it possible for a computer to feel?

  • 2
    First, answer an easer question. Is it possible that your next door neighbor can feel? How do you know? Once you have a good test for your neighbor, you can apply the same test to a computer. Otherwise you're just a meat chauvinist, as Scott Aaronson puts it.
    – user4894
    Jul 20, 2016 at 23:27
  • I've not heard that term. Interesting. The answer to the easier question is to shoot your neighbor in the foot through the structure(s). A computer or robot would or could, like the person, emit communications indicating problems and need for a fix. Jul 20, 2016 at 23:41
  • Smart skin technology has been being developed these years, from which robot gets pressure signal from the skin and response to it. The response can be programmed such that, when the pressure is local and high, robot arm will be move away faster. This makes a robot "feel" and "response" to environment. A desire can be programmed similarly. For example, a robot is programmed looking for energy when its energy level is low.
    – user115350
    Jul 21, 2016 at 4:30
  • Perhaps I didn't understand your comment. How would shooting your neighbor in the foot show that he can feel? Certainly he gives off the appropriate physical signs of being in acute pain. He jumps around (on the good foot) and howls in pain and periodically screams at you, "Why did you shoot me in the foot?" But subjectively, he doesn't feel a thing. He has no subjective experience at all. He's a philosophical zombie. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_zombie
    – user4894
    Jul 21, 2016 at 5:58
  • So shooting people in the foot is not a good way to determine if they can feel or not. Even if it was a good method, you should still avoid it. You can contemplate the reasons for that in your jail cell :-)
    – gnasher729
    Jul 21, 2016 at 9:35

1 Answer 1


What we define as feelings is something that's determined by our brain structure, chemistry (ultimately DNA). Anything that has a similar brain structure and chemistry, would to some extent experience similar feelings to us (especially the animals we're closest to like chimps and bonobos).

But a machine, made up of sensors and computer chips, even if it was self aware it would have feelings completely alien to us. It's a kind of arrogance that we have that makes us think the feelings we feel must be universal, as opposed to something that's just unique to us and created by our biology. It is possible for a AI to feel, but it's impossible for us to be able to feel the things an AI could feel, and likewise for them with us.

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