Minds, Machines, and Molecules

Philosophical Topics 48 (1):221-241 (2020)


Recent debates about the biological and evolutionary conditions for sentience have generated a renewed interest in fine-grained functionalism. According to one such account advanced by Peter Godfrey-Smith, sentience depends on the fine-grained activities characteristic of living organisms. Specifically, the scale, context and stochasticity of these fine-grained activities. One implication of this view is that contemporary artificial intelligence is a poor candidate for sentience. Insofar as current AI lacks the ability to engage in such living activities it will lack sentience, no matter what its coarse-grained functions. In this paper, we review the case for fine-grained functionalism and show that there are contemporary machines that fulfil the fine-grained functional criteria identified by Godfrey-Smith, and thus are candidates for sentience. Molecular machines such as Brownian computers are analogous to metabolic activity in their scale, context and stochasticity, and can serve as the basis of AI. Molecular computation is a promising candidate for artificial sentience according to contemporary philosophical accounts of sentience.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,660

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

15 (#703,660)

6 months
5 (#136,433)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Similar books and articles

Supermachines and Superminds.Eric Steinhart - 2003 - Minds and Machines 13 (1):155-186.
Minds and Machines.Hilary Putnam - 1960 - In Sidney Hook (ed.), Dimensions of Minds. New York, USA: New York University Press. pp. 138-164.
Godel's Theorem and Mechanism.David Coder - 1969 - Philosophy 44 (September):234-7.
Minds, Machines and Godel.F. H. George - 1962 - Philosophy 37 (139):62-63.
Minds, Machines and Gödel.John R. Lucas - 1961 - Philosophy 36 (137):112-127.
Guest Editor's Introduction.Varol Akman - 1998 - Minds and Machines 8 (4):475-477.
Logically Possible Machines.Eric Steinhart - 2002 - Minds and Machines 12 (2):259-280.

Author Profiles

Marta Halina
Cambridge University
Tim Brunet
University of Windsor

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations