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On Being Human
Are we human because of special characteristics that we do not share with animals or machines? The meaning of “human” is circular: we are human based on the things that make us human (ie, as distinct from animals and machines). That is the meaning by denial: what separates us from animals and machines is “our humanity”.
We are human because we are not animals, or machines. But such thinking has gradually weakened due to the advent of evolutionary and evolutionary theories that show continuity in nature between animals and Man.
Our diversity only increases and so does our interdependence. Many animals can consciously control signals and use tools. Few are as talented as we are. This is easy to calculate the difference – two at most.
Behavioral diversity is very difficult to prove. Without access to the emotions of animals, we cannot and do not know whether animals feel guilty, for example. Do animals like it? Does he have a sense of sin? What about objectivity, meaning, reason, self-awareness, critical thinking? An individual? Feelings? Compassion? Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) an oxymoron? A machine that passes the Turing test can be called a “human”. But is it true? And if not – why not?
Literature is full of stories about monsters – Frankenstein, the Golem – and androids or anthropoids. Their behavior is more “human” than the people around them. This, perhaps, is what sets people apart: the unpredictability of their behavior. It is possible because of the interaction between the unchanging nature of the Human race – and the changing environment of the individual.
Constructivists also say that society is just culture. Sociologists, on the other hand, are positive. They believe that human nature – being the inevitable and unchangeable result of our animal ancestors – cannot be a matter of moral judgment.
A good Turing test would look for the most complex and chaotic patterns of bad behavior to identify people. Pico della Mirandola wrote in the book “Oration on the Dignity of Man” that Man was born formless and can mold and transform, in fact, create himself at will. Existence precedes beginning, said the Existentialists centuries later.
What defines human nature may be our awareness of our mortality. A “fight or flight” instinct, a struggle for survival is common to all living things (even well-organised machines). Not with the dire consequences of imminent death. These are special people. Appreciation of the momentary means beauty, the diversity of our modern life produces virtue, and the scarcity of time brings desire and creativity.
In an infinite life, everything happens at some point, so the concept of choice is false. Awareness of our limitations forces us to choose between alternatives. This choice is based on the existence of “freedom of choice”. Animals and machines are thought to have no choice, slaves to their instincts or human programming.
However, all these answers to the question: “What does it mean to be human” – are missing.
The traits we call human beings can change dramatically. Drugs, neuroscience, introspection, and experience all cause irreversible changes in these conditions. The abundance of these changes can lead, in particular, to the discovery of new things, or to the abolition of old ones.
Animals and machines should not have free will or agency. What about bionics? At what point does man turn into a machine? And why should we think that free will ceases to exist – rather than limitless – space?
Introspection – the ability to create self-reflective and replicable models of the world – is supposed to be a unique human trait. What about the introspective machine? Indeed, say the critics, such machines are PROGRAMMED to introspect, unlike humans. To qualify as a director, you have to BE, he continues. However, if awareness is desired – WHO would want it? Voluntary self-monitoring leads to unlimited returns and clear sound.
Also, the concept – if not the fixed concept – of “man” rests on many subtle assumptions.
Despite political correctness – why do we think that men and women (or different races) are equal? Aristotle thought they were not. Many things separate men and women – both genetically (both genotype and phenotype) and biologically (culturally). What do these two species have in common that makes them both “human”?
Can we conceive of a person without a body (for example, Plato’s form, or soul)? Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas do not think so. The soul has no existence apart from the body. A powerful machine-assisted environment with a mind similar to ours today – can it be considered human? What about a person in a coma – is he (or is) a complete person?
Is a newborn baby human – or, fully human – and, if so, in what sense? What about the human race of the future – the shape of which will be almost unrecognizable to us? Artificial intelligence – can it be considered human? If yes, when will he be adopted?
In all these discussions, we can confuse “person” with “man”. The former is the latter’s secret. Locke’s character is a moral person, responsible for his actions. It is formed by the continuation of his thoughts reaching to introspection.
Locke’s is a working definition. It easily accommodates non-humans (machines, power matrices) if the functionality is met. Therefore, an android that meets the criteria is more human than brain dead.
Descartes’ objection that one cannot attribute the qualities of unity and identity over time to disembodied souls is correct only if we assume that such “souls” have no power. A powerful non-physical energy that retains its shape and is recognized over time is possible. Some AIs and genetic programs already do.
Strawson is Cartesian and Kantian in his definition of “man” as “primitive”. Both physical and psychological predictors apply equally, simultaneously, and inseparably to all individuals of that species. People are like that. Others, like Wiggins, limit the list of possible people to animals – but this is very important and is unnecessarily restricted.
The truth is probably in the mix:
A person is any kind of fundamental and immutable group whose specific members (ie, members) can experience a variety of things and have a set of emotions.
This interpretation allows non-animals to recognize the human personality of a brain-damaged person (“capable of encountering”). It also includes Locke’s view of human beings as having an ontological nature similar to “clubs” or “races” – their individuality consists of different conceptual continuities.
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