Re: Machine Capabilities

David A Musick (
Sun, 25 Jan 1998 12:23:40 -0500

John Montgomery wrote:

"once something has become setient it has gone beyond machine or animal.
Machine is not a proper thing to label a human. Because we as humans are
more than machine or animal yet
we are very much both. When a computer becomes aware, it will become
more than a machine, and most likely be insulted if we were to call it a

I don't understand how "awareness" magically makes a machine not a
machine or more than a machine. Its fundamental processes are still the
same; it's mechanisms for going from one state to another are still
fundamentally the same. If we are fundamentally machines, then being
sentient doesn't make us not machines or more than machines; it puts us
in a different category of machines, sentient machines. I think your
reluctance in labeling humans "machines" is that your concept of machine
is based on currently existing human artifacts, rather than the abstract
category of machine, which loosely includes any physical system which has
"rules" governing its change from one state to another. So, unless
there's something mystical going on (and if the mystical is not
rule-bound), then humans are machines.

We are who we are whether we call ourselves "machines" or not. But if we
understand ourselves to be machines, then that gives us great hope about
what sorts of machines we may be able to create. And if we are machines,
then how could knowing our true nature be insulting?

David Musick (

- Continual improvement is the highest good.