I, Human

From: Chen Yixiong, Eric (cyixiong@yahoo.com)
Date: Mon Sep 17 2001 - 20:40:22 MDT

Those of you who participated in the AI debate would know perhaps know very well, the controversial debate whether a computer can acquire human intelligence. Some claim that such a machine cannot exceed human intelligence as humans have to create it, or that a robot cannot learn to love and thus we cannot call them our equals. While I think these arguments against robot intelligence have no validity, the debate still remains far from over.

How do we know what we can call a non-human machine? Maybe we should get to know what we call human first. The self-referential to the point of ad nauseous dictionary does not help much.

Noun: Human
1) A human being
2) Any living or extinct member of the family Hominidae

Adjective: Human
1) Characteristic of humanity
2) Relating to a person
3) Having human form or attributes as opposed to those of animals or divine beings

Maybe we ought to look at animals and computers, or take a look at our lives. What would a human do?

Would it [pardon the use of gender neutral terms] have to experience emotions, to cry at the loss of another, to laugh at its own misfortune, to feel anger against injustice, to experience awe in the vastness of the night sky? Would it learn to love others? Even more importantly, would it feel hatred, jealousy, experience ambition and seek power over others at all costs?

Would it have dreams, visions, goals and a purpose in life? Would it feel dissatisfied with a mundane life, doing a 9 to 5 job that it has no interest in? Would it feel contented to remain the same as everyone, imitating them, following them, and committing the same mistakes as them? If the place it lived in imposed restrictions that it does not believe in such as removing the ability to publish freely, what would it do? We might consider would it also disire to dominate the world and kill millions of innocents so that it can implement its own vision?

If it could kill another without repurcussions so that it would benefit would it do so? How would it live its life? If someone killed its friends, would it seek revenge or would it learn to forgive? If it has to commit an immoral act so that morality can thrive, what will it do? Would it even believe in morality and ethics, or in God and religion, or in philosophy and metaphysics? Would it impose its own sense of right and wrong unquestioningly over others, punishing those who do not believe in its ideals?

Would it have to go through hardship and pain, so as to learn about itself? Must it travel brave the terrible storms, the unending mountains, the bottomless ocean, the harshest deserts of human life? Must it endure the suffering of losses, the terrible feeling of defeat, the deprivation of love? Would it learn to endure and thrive or would it experience ignorance, irrationality and greed, the negative trinity that many of us fall into?

So, what can we define as a human, or what can we define as a human?

Perhaps the best measure of a human would have to live a life worthy of recording. This would mean living life as one would like, but not what society dictates, learning and exploring the unknown, and perhaps to experience emotions. Perhaps we can say, in the spirit of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, that we live a life more complete than inconsistent.

No matter what you define, I suppose a number of whom we call humans will not qualify, and surprisingly, perhaps some computers will. We may have to answer why we exist and what we wish to do, for if we do not have a purpose then we do not need to live. Someday, some computers with incomprehensibly complex structures will ask this to itself too.

'What is a human being, then?'
'A seed.'
'A... seed?'
'An acorn that is unafraid to destroy itself in growing into a tree'
- David Zindell, The Broken God

I aspire, therefore I exist. I transcend, therefore I am.
- my own quote


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