Abstract
The notion of identity has always been central to the human person's understanding of self. The question "who am I?" is fundamental to human being. Answers to this question have come from a wide range of academic disciplines. Philosophers, theologians, scientists, sociologists and anthropologists have all sought to offer some insight. The question of individual identity has traditionally been answered from two broad perspectives. The objectivist approach has sought to answer the question through empirical observation - you are a mammal, you are a homo-sapien, you are male, you are African etc. The subjectivist approach has sought to answer the question through phenomenological exploration - I understand myself to be sentient, I remember my past, I feel love etc. A recent development in the field of computer science has however shown a shortcoming in both of these approaches. Ray Kurzweil, a theorist in strong artificial intelligence, suggests the possibility of an interesting identity crisis. He suggests that if a machine could be programmed and built to accurately and effectively emulate a person's conscious experience of being `self' it could lead to a crisis of identity. In an instance where the machine and the person it is emulating cannot be either objectively distinguished, or subjectively distinguish themselves how is the true identity of the individual validated? What approach can be employed in order to distinguish which of the two truly is the `person in question' and which is the `emulation of that person'? This research investigates this problem and presents a suggested solution to it. The research begins with an investigation of the claims of strong artificial intelligence and discusses Ray Kurzweil's hypothetical identity crisis. It also discusses various approaches to consciousness and identity, showing both their value and shortfall within the scope of this identity conundrum. In laying the groundwork for the solution offered in this thesis, the integrative theory of Ken Wilber is presented as a model that draws on the strengths of the objectivist and subjectivist approaches to consciousness, yet also emphasises the need for an approach which is not only based on individual data. Rather, it requires an intersubjective knowing of self in relation to others. The outcome of this research project is an African Theological approach to self-validating consciousness in strong artificial intelligence. This takes the form of an African Theology of relational ontology. The contribution falls within the ambit of Christian anthropology and Trinitarian theology - stressing the Christian belief that true identity is both shaped by, and discovered in, relationship with others. The clearest expression of this reality is to be found in the African saying Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.
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