Does a self-driving car have a self? Is there a ‘ghost’, ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’, or even God driving the car? Or is the car driven by a clever bite of software (i.e. a set of rules as algorithm).

Some definitions of self


A more interesting to the denizens of the 21st century is: Does a self-driving human have a self? Is there a ‘ghost’, ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ driving the human? This is the question which the Buddha asked 2500 years ago. (Some few) 21st century humans will ask, ever more insistently: is the human driven by a clever bite of biological software (viz. initially the genes, later the brain as neurological navigation system*), and, indeed, by software that is fundamentally blind?

 If you still believe that the self-driving human (or any other biological system) has a self (alternately fantasised as a ‘ghost’, ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’) driving it, unless the latter are understood as clever bits of software (i.e. algorithms), now is the time to get real!


What does ‘self-driving’ mean? It means self-regulating (to wit, auto-adapting) towards survival.

What does survival mean? It means self-reenergising by receiving and transmitting differential data, contact providing the sense of realness and (fusion) energy.

What does self-regulating mean? Responding (meaning adapting after the fact) automatically to impact (or instruction) by differential data coming from outside or inside.



If ‘soul’ (i.e. (ancient Greek) psyche, the word is of seriously dodgy provenance and beyond translation, save perhaps as ‘auto-pilot’) and/or ‘spirit’ (Latin, meaning: breath (i.e. interpreted as ‘the breath of God’), also Greek pneuma (≈ breath), later Latin animus, i.e. the animating function), both user friendly and comforting (hence placebo) icons, are understood as synonyms for ‘self’**, then obviously the (self-driving, meaning self-regulating) human has neither ‘spirit’ nor ‘soul’.

Few humans, pigmies in the Congo or Christian pagans apart, will attribute a ‘soul’ or a ‘spirit’ (as ‘ghost in the machine’) to a self-driving car or a plane on auto-pilot.


One thing is sure, turning the reflexive epithet ‘self’ into a noun, hence a ‘thing’ (i.e. an ‘as if’ given), is naďve, primitive, indeed atavistic self-deception (admirably demonstrated in the wild metaphysical speculations of both Plato and the Upanishads starting approx. 600 BC).



Which begs the (very ancient) question: If there is no (goal oriented) driver/soul, whither the journey? Or, can a driverless/soulless merely survival rules determined journey be meaningful, fulfilling and joy inspiring?



*… a Biological Navigation System, short: a Bio-Nav.

**… Rather than of continuous (albeit discrete) self-ing (i.e. identifying, thereby differentiating). (Transient) Processes (i.e. verbs, such as ‘self-ing’ or ‘spirit-ing’) are undecided, incomplete and uncertain. Reification (and which happens by slicing or stopping, and which turns a verb into a noun) decides (and so quantises) processes (and by extension verbs) and so makes the decided process quanta (called bits or units) complete and certain so that they can be applied wholly (i.e. at c, so as to create a c2 realness affect). In short, actual/real survival (i.e. as a real identity) happens step (quantum collision) by step (quantum collision).



The Buddha & the Self