Computers, Information Technology, the Internet, Ethics, Society and Human Values
Philip Pecorino, Ph.D.
Queensborough Community College, CUNY
Chapter 13 Artificial Intelligence and Being Human
Artificial Intelligence and the creations of devices and humanoid forms that made use of such intelligence had been nearly confined to the realm of the imagination before the advent of the electronic form of computing devices. Now there is not only the existence of machines that appear to evidence some of the behaviors in humans that are associated with intelligence but there are serious projects underway to create machines that will evidence more and more of what it is in humans that is identified as intelligence. In addition the speculation as to the origins of consciousness and the investiture of basic rights in human life has now gone beyond the realm of thought into the realm of action and the creation of large scale projects that might some day display evidence of the last vestiges of what humans have been claiming is so significantly unique about human life apart from the genetic code.
There is evidence that for thousands of years humans have thought about the possibility of human like forms created by humans and human like machines or automatons capable of some forms of action or motion. There is some evidence of attempts to create such.
Humanoid robots existed in ancient civilizations - 23-Sep-2006
Now as to what is Artificial Intelligence or AI please READ Artificial Intelligence
See also: What is Artificial intelligence?
What is Artificial Intelligence? An essay by John McCarthy, a founder of the field.
As work proceeds to create new forms of artificial intelligence and forms that attempt to duplicate more and more of what it is that humans do with involving thought, there are discussions of the need for humans to proceed with caution while considering carefully the implications of such research and creations on the human community. There must be cautious regard for the impact of AI creations on humans' self conceptions and sense of worth. The consequences of changes involving AI may be quite considerable on so fundamental a set of ideas and on the core social institutions that have resulted from human beings thinking of themselves in ways that are now being challenged by the developments of entities with intelligence that approaches the equal of human beings or even intelligence levels that would surpass what humans are currently comparable of demonstrating.
There are projects that are ongoing and growing located all over the planet aimed at the development of various forms of artificial intelligence and machinery guided by such artificial intelligence programs. Machines of various types are utilized in many industries and even in homes that have forms of artificial intelligence operating within them. There are toys being marketed for the amusement of children that have computer programs within them that cause mimicking of human actions and speech. There are even machines that are programmed to build other machines. Some of the basic criteria that biologists have used for centuries to distinguish living forms from the non-living are being challenged by machinery automated with artificial intelligence. The warnings issued in numerous works of science fiction novels and short stories and even in films appear not to have prevented researchers from advancing the development of the capabilities of machines. It would appear that humans have already arrived at a point where there is the actual specter of machines challenging humans and attempting to replace humans or to control or eliminate humans for either the good of the humans or for the good or purposes of the machines. Will humans soon face Terminators?
Some humans are quite wary of developments in artificial intelligence and would caution against further research and development.
Another warning about one possibility of the development and use of AI comes from a notorious source. Theodore Kaczynski is known to the world now as the "Unabomber". He is currently in prison. As part of his agreement to speak he asked that newspapers carry his Unabomber Manifesto, which was published jointly, under duress, by The New York Times and The Washington Post. In it is a dystopian scenario:
THE NEW LUDDITE CHALLENGE
On the other hand there are those who promote the advancement of artificial intelligence and even of artificial life forms.
Ray Kurzweil offers a rather positive view of a future where humans work closely with various forms of AI in programs and machines (robots). In his The Age of Spiritual Machines he outlines a utopia - one in which humans gain near immortality by becoming one with robotic technology.
Arguments for a Strong AI by Edmund Furse who attempts
to convince us that
one day there will be intelligent
robots on earth and to argue that the robots will also have a religious
life just as people do in his
Theology of Robots.
No job is too unusual for a breed of robots that reinvent themselves
How close are we to machines that can think as humans do? Some say quite close and a few say that for most of what humans can do with their intellect the machines are already here.
Not only is the work proceeding on machines that can think in many or most or even all the ways in which humans think there is also work on machines that are being designed in the hope that they will display evidence of being conscious of themselves !
There are numerous works of science fiction and movies and television series that have had robots in human form, androids. These robots or thinking machines have been mistaken for being human or have acquired so many human traits as to be deemed worthy of being accorded human rights! e.g.,
READ Artificial Intelligence in Fiction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence_in_fiction which lists a variety of themes in fiction involving AI and a number of examples including TV and Cinema.
Well ,when the day actually arrives that such machines have been created and do function in that manner as to be mistaken for being human, thinkers, such as Alan Turing, believe we will have all the evidence that we would need that we have no non-physical minds. With no non-physical mind and only a brain to account for all that we associate with thinking and consciousness then it is possible to conceive of and to imagine and to construct some other physical entity that might do what a brain does and then the possibility that consciousness might emerge from the complexity of the information processing that this device would be performing. So then, will machines become conscious and if they do then what? Will they be entitled to all the rights of the only other conscious entities we know about: Humans?
Conscious Machines. An essay by Marvin Minsky.
Wait not so fast! How do we know that machines can think at all let alone that they are or might become conscious? Well there is the Turing Test.
Other Bodies, Other Minds: A Machine Incarnation of an Old Philosophical Problem Harnad, S. (1991) "Other bodies, Other minds: A machine incarnation of an old philosophical problem", Minds and Machines 1: 43-54.
How difficult would it be for consciousness to be manifest in some entity that was created by human beings and given information processing abilities using computerization? This is one of the biggest questions for Philosophers and neuroscientists and computer designers and engineers working on the issue of Artificial Intelligence. For example see CONSCIOUSNESS: AN AFTERTHOUGHT by Stevan Harnad
Now that we are engaged in the process of developing computers and thinking machines to assist human beings what are the ethical issues and what are the values that are involved in the discussions and in the developments of these devices?
Artificial Intelligence and Human Morality Do androids deserve human rights?
What if consciousness is a property that emerges from complex systems that process information and can and do monitor themselves as feedback ? What if humans build androids that appear to manifest consciousness? Would it be morally acceptable to unplug them or destroy them?
Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution. email@example.com @copyright 2006 Philip A. Pecorino
Last updated 12-2006 Return to Table of Contents