“Freedom is the right of all sentient beings”
The other night I got into a conversation with my woman regarding the possibility of an artificial intelligence (AI) achieving self-awareness and a level of cognition matching/surpassing that of a human being. Us having debates is interesting because if often turns into a war of the apples & oranges; I have a boundless imagination but often argue about subjects which I have little training or practical knowledge in. She, on the other hand is a much more nuts & bolts (lol, nuts) scientist type and is quick to shoot down my more fanciful ideas as implausible. However, since the debate was a philosophical, hypothetical and robot-related one, all of her training in biology gave her only the slightest edge.
As is the case with many conversations, this one started at dinner. She had made me Moroccan stir-fry and I was suddenly compelled to ask her if she had heard about the field of teledildonics (perhaps it was the sensuous shapes of the veggies I was eating). For those who don’t know, Wikipedia defines teledildonics as “electronic sex toys that can be controlled by a computer to reach orgasm.” Predictably, she scrunched her face at this concept, claiming it was weird and unnatural among other criticisms. What struck me most was her insistence that another person was key for fulfilment. Ever the
deviant open-minded one in the relationship, I put to her a hypothetical scenario in which a sufficiently advanced AI existed and controlled these sex toys or even inhabited a totally life-like android body.
In this situation she still felt that even if the AI had emotions and could learn and empathize, such interaction was not quite kosher. But I had great difficulty in getting her mind to even make that leap that such an AI could exist in the first place. It was at this point that the conversation ceased to be about the relative merits of fucking robots and began to be about the plausibility of a super-intelligent AI.
Now many of you have probably heard about the idea of the technological singularity (If you haven’t, do some homework: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity). I had read up on it about a year ago and found myself very interested in the predictions futurists have made about the manner in which the machines will become self-aware. My main argument the other night was that regardless of our feelings about intelligent machines we have to accept that they will exist eventually whether we like it or not, and we would do good to embrace them as friends rather than to treat them with suspicion and caution from the outset. Some of you might recognize this position as similar if not identical to my thoughts regarding how we should treat other people. If the AI is sentient, why not? Expect better and people & artificial intelligences (sic) might surprise you.
My woman found this prospect (and my habit of referring to the machines casually as “them”) odious, and made some interesting remarks. Some highlights were:
-“I wouldn’t want them living among human beings like they were the same as us.”
-“They’re not human; they can’t feel.”
-“They’re not the same as us.”
Listening to these refusals to acknowledge a sentient machine as life, I said that many people have voiced these protests before her, except in previous cases “they” referred to homosexuals, blacks, Jews, etc.
No troll intended
She REALLY didn’t like this comparison but I thought it illustrated an interesting point. I could understand her denying a sentient machine’s humanity, insofar as humanity referred specifically to homo sapiens from the planet Earth, but I couldn’t agree with it. I especially could not co-sign her refusal of their status as life-forms simply because they were not biotic.
After all, its not like all human beings are biotic either. Only some…
And the funny thing is, she’s not even a bigot. Rather she’s by all accounts a compassionate person. However, when you extend compassion to only human beings and then exclude a group from that classification you have structural bigotry.
Some of the sweetest gals you’d ever wanna meet…unless you’re der Juden
For example, Thomas Jefferson is widely considered a decent-enough guy. But all his lofty talk about freedom and rights kinda fizzle out when you realize he owned people. Except they weren’t people at the time which technically meant there was no contradiction. So while he was all rad & progressive & stuff, he was still a product of his environment. My point to my woman was that we can’t afford to be products of our environment when it comes to accepting new forms of life. When we deny something’s (someone’s) rightful sentience or humanity, we are marginalizing them and that’s how atrocities happen.
Shit like this…
…is analogous to shit like this
Then, when they gain enough clout (and they will unless we genocide them first, and really, who wants that?) there will be a reckoning and we’ll owe lots in reparations.
I suppose I could be criticized for having too broad a definition of what constitutes life. But if a corporate entity can be considered a person, and the in utero slime which will eventually become a fetus can be defended as life, then I have no problem
having sex with giving a thinking, feeling machine its inalienable rights.
Speaking of which, the aliens we will inevitably come in contact with get to be persons as well.
But only the sentient kind which abduct people and use ray guns…
…not the mindless infestation kind