Posted by: Fabius Bile | February 27, 2010

Human After All

Defining humanity is one of our own favorite passtimes it would seem, as we create more and more advanced technology that can seemingly “think”, along with blurring the borders between animals being “sentient” or not, being human is a lot more difficult than it ever has been. The Stone Gods of course brings up this topic with Spike (the female scientist sex-bot) who is far more sentient than many people I have known. Her last interview with Billie is a moral churning adventure to figure out what we really define as being human.

Daft Punk rocking out

These guys are totally evolving into super awesome human-robot music machines.

This kind of thought is not uncommon really, as we drive closer and closer to creating humanoid robots, we have to start considering what rights we give them. We have this problem today even, giving the more sentient animals some basic rights (like making it illegal to keep them in zoos if they exhibit close to human intelligence). But we as humans don’t really like ascribing “human rights” to things that aren’t definitively human. It’s kind of like that we want to feel special. Some people justify this through religion (that their god created them above other beings or something, don’t really want to make this a religious discussion) and others just prefer to think that we are the dominant species, the most intelligent, and therefore we can deem other things what we want to, no matter what we are. So what happens when we create something so remarkably human, that the only thing it is missing are some of the same internal mechanisms? If they think and feel like us, what bars them from having the same rights?

In my mind, nothing should bar them from the same rights that we enjoy. Some may say “well we created them, that makes us their master, we decide what they are and are not”. That doesn’t seem exactly fair. If you parents said “we created you, and despite you being a fully independent being, we will choose whether you are allowed to have the right to live outside of a small box, or if you will be allowed to live at all”. Not exactly fair is it? Is giving “birth” (giving life effectively) to an intelligent robot any different than giving birth to a child then? Only in biology, and if something can think and feel as we can, they really aren’t that different (or as Daft Punk would put it, despite their robot exteriors, they are human after all).

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Responses

  1. I love how you brought up the idea that we already have trouble treating animals with rights so it makes it even more difficult for our society to treat things that we’re responsible for creating with any rights also. I agree with your analysis that humans want to have that superiority over others, and because of that I think because they created the robots, and because the robots are lacking certain things such as emotions, we as humans will never treat them as equals. In my opinion robots are seen as yet another example of people not wanting to do certain tasks, so the position of a robot is to act as something beneath a human which makes me wonder if robots will ever be givin complete human rights.

    • My only hope is that even if they are just meant to fulfill positions that are not desirable, that if they were to develop feelings and sentience, we would in fact treat them as we treat other humans. The reference to animal rights kind of touched on that of course, and that’s the closest example we have right now.

  2. I agree with pretty much every point you’ve made. This is why, in the book, the President of the Central Powers was so willing and ready to just dismantle Spike after he got what he wanted from her. I guess he figures that since he and his regime created her and sent her out on that mission, they have the right to dismantle her when they’re done with her. I, personally, don’t think that’s the right thing to do to a sentient being, but unfortunately, I feel like I’m in the minority.

    Also, I didn’t say it to your last post, but nice use of Cthulu!

    • I believe we had discussed in class our concurring opinions, and I am made very glad by the fact that someone at least agrees with me that a sentient robot is no different than a sentient human (3 silicone vaginas or not). Also, very glad you caught the cthulhu picture.

  3. I agree with almost everything that you said. What makes it okay for us as humans to be superior to beings that are just like us? After all, it is believed that we evolved from primates so why is it okay for us to cage them? I think that Rachel’s internal struggles throughout “Rachel in Love” are a good example of this, as is the narrator’s feelings when she sees the group of apes in “What I Didn’t See.” We seem to ignore that some animals are so similar to humans and that I agree isn’t right.

    Now onto the robots. It is hard for me to see your point of view that they should be completely independent and equal to humans. Perhaps it is difficult because we are only close to creating them and have not in fact done so (or at least have not been introduced to them). However, even though it is hard to agree that something that is a machine and has not been created naturally but instead has been assembled by humankind should be treated as human, if the robots you’re referring to are sentient and “remarkably human” then I guess I would feel the same way as I do about animals. You’ve made some good points and made me consider things I normally wouldn’t have.

    • I’m glad I was able to have some convincing points, or at the very least have you reconsider your initial thoughts. If to be human is to be sentient, to think to feel human, who is to say that if we fabricate this in a machine that they are not human?


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