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“I'm afraid, Dave.” In Stanley Kubrick's classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the computer HAL uttered these provocative words as it was being shut down. They remain provocative to this day: Can a computer really experience emotions such as fear? Can it really have an I that is afraid to be shut down? An I that is the subject of genuine conscious sensations? Or must a computer, no matter how sophisticated its program and convincing its behavior, be forever devoid of conscious experiences? These are key questions about computer consciousness, questions still debated by experts and explored in blockbuster films. This entry discusses some of these questions.

The Brain as Computer

Some experts answer, “Of course a computer can be conscious. The human brain, for instance, is ...

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