The other day I saw someone ask if a robot could have a soul. The question was a rhetorical one, and they were making the point that if you ignore the possibility of a sentient robot having a soul, well that was not a good look. The thing is, I’m an atheist, so I don’t believe the robot could have a soul, but apart from the soul I think I largely agree with the point they were trying to make. It’s not about the soul as such, it’s about how you treat others, and specifically how you treat sentient beings not like you. And this got me to thinking, and I ended up thinking some pretty dark thoughts. So here I shall lay out my theory, as an atheist, of what the soul is.
This is a topic that has been on my mind for a while. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I am in no way qualified to make determinations about the topics that this post is going to touch on. But this is going to be an overview of what I believe on the matter.
Some time ago I wrote a blog post asking the question “Who are you really?” It didn’t come to any real conclusion, it only expressed the fact that it was a topic I had been thinking about. I didn’t immediately stop thinking about it, but it drifted out of the forefront of my thoughts to the point that I still haven’t really got a good conclusion. But I have been reminded of the topic recently by an article on LWN about issues Debian is facing with key signing. Now the issues that Debian is facing very much reflect the issues I had that led to my previous blog post. How do you trust an identity? What value does that identity hold in itself, and what value can you ascribe to associated details.