“Ghost in the Machine” – A famous phrase that never went away

Ghost in the machine is a phrase coined by the Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle in Concept of Mind (1949) to pejoratively describe René Descartes‘ (1596-1650)  dualistic view of the mind-body relationship.

Sting and The Police were becoming cultural icons in the late 70s to early 80s when they released Ghost in the Machine

The phrase has been used by Arthur Koester in his 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine and also by the pop band The Police in their album Ghost in the Machine (1981).  The sci-fi film Ghost in the Machine (1993) depicts a killer whose soul enters a computer system.

In a play on words, episode three of the BBC sci-fi series Torchwood is called “Ghost Machine” (2006) to depict an alien technology that traces emotional imprints and scenes lingering in specific places after they occur.¹

More recently the phrase has been used by artificial intelligence (AI) enthusiasts and critics, specifically by those wondering if machines possess or may eventually possess consciousness.²

¹ These are just a few examples of this phrase being adapted to pop culture. For a more complete list see, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_in_the_Machine

² Recently a Google engineer made headlines when he spoke his own mind on the topic: https://www.google.com/search?q=porgrammers+says+ai+is+conscious&oq=porgrammers+says+ai+is+conscious


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