People ask if machines can have souls – And I ask back whether souls can learn. It does not seem a fair exchange — if souls can live for endless time and yet not use that time to learn — to trade all change for changelessness. And that's exacty what we get with inborn souls that cannot grow: a destiny the same as death, an ending in a permanence incapable of any change and hence, devoid of intellect.
What are those old and fierce beliefs in spirits, souls, and essences? They're all insinuations that we're helpless to improve ourselves.
What are our slowest-changing agencies of all? Later we'll see that these must include the silent, hidden agencies that shape what we call character. These are the systems that are concerned not merely with the things we want, but with what we want ourselves to be — that is, the ideals we set for ourselves.
When victims of these incidents [mystical experiences] become compelled to recapture them, their lives and personalities are sometimes permanently changed [but I thought change was good]. The others seeing the radiance in their eyes...are drawn to follow them. But to offer hospitality to paradox is like leaning towards a precipice. You can find out what it is like by falling in, but you may not be able to fall out again. Once contradiction finds a home, few minds can spurn the sense-destroying force of slogans such as "all is one".
Artificial realms like mathematics and theology are built from the start to be devoid of interesting inconsistency. But we must be careful not to mistake our own inventions for natural phenomena we have discovered.
Many of those same theorists [who support Fodor modules] have been lukewarm-to-hostile about Marvin Minsky's Agents, who form The Society of Mind (1985). Minsky's Agents are homunculi that come in all sizes, from giant specialists with talents about as elaborate as those of Fodorian modules, down to meme-sized agents (polynemes, micronemes, censor-agents, suppressor-agents, and many others). It all looks too easy, the skeptics think. Wherever there is a task, posit a gang of task-sized agents to perform it—a theoretical move with all the virtues of theft over honest toil....
The mind is a community of “agents”. Each has limited powers and can communicate only with certain others. The powers of mind emerge from their interactions for none of the Agents, by itself, has significant intelligence. [. . . ] Everyone knows what it feels like to be engaged in a conversation with oneself. In this book, we will develop the idea that these discussions really happen, and that the participants really “exist”. In our picture of the mind we will imagine many “sub-persons”, or “internal agents”, interacting with one another. Solving the simplest problem – seeing a picture – or remembering the experience of seeing it – might involve a dozen or more – perhaps very many more – of these agents playing different roles. Some of them bear useful knowledge, some of them bear strategies for dealing with other agents, some of them carry warnings or encouragements about how the work of others is proceding. And some of them are concerned with discipline, prohibiting or “censoring” others from thinking forbidden thoughts.
Note: This book uses the term "resource" where my earlier book, The Society of Mind, used "agent. "I made this change because too many readers assumed that an "agent" is a personlike thing (like a travel agent) that could operate independently, or cooperate with others in much the same ways that people do.
To understand what we call the Sell we first must see what Selves are for. One function of the SeIf is to keep us from changing too rapidly. Each person must make some long-range plans in orderto balance single-purposeness against attempts to do everything at once. But it is not enough simply to instruct an agency to start to carry out our plans. We also have to find some ways to constrain the changes we might later make-to prevent ourselves from turning those plan - agents off again! If we changed our minds too recklessly, we could never know what we might want next. We'd never get much done because we could never depend on ourselves.