The author in 2022 testing the psi effect on a random number generator with engineers from the Princeton University parapsychology lab.

Artificial Intelligence and the Crisis of Materialism

Mitch Horowitz

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is back in the news after a Google engineer was recently suspended for postulating that an artificial-intelligence chatbot might have a “soul.” This debate, and others like it, may dominate philosophy in the unfolding century.

So far, however, the AI dispute is one that Western society has proven ill-fit to address. The problem lies somewhere between 19th century religiosity and the the 21st century cult of “reason.”

Let me me dial back the clock for a moment. As someone dedicated to probing whether the mind possesses extra-physical abilities, I determined several years ago to survey what might be considered the finest literature in the field of New Thought, or the extreme idealist school that holds to the principle that thoughts are causative.

The best literature in New Thought tends to go back to its earliest days in the late 19th and dawning 20th centuries, so I read the work of philosopher William James (who called New Thought the “religion of healthy-mindedness”), his immediate student Horatio Dresser, minister and philosopher John Herman Randall, and other late-to-early 20th century metaphysicians. Excluding the work of James, I came away disappointed, finding that many writers relied on familiar but undefined terms like spirit or soul, the very thing that the Google…

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Mitch Horowitz

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China