Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

Since when did mankind have the ability to dole out souls or breathe life into something? Only God can breathe life into a person, and if man were to attempt to create a living being, it would NOT be created by God.

Im not referring to IVF or anything like that, Im talking about actual cloning of a person, where the being would be created and grown in a lab.

I’ve never heard that definition of “alive” before. But since we’re using the word “alive”, and not “human”, or “sentient”, I don’t think even that goes far enough to matter in terms of ethics. Animals adapt to their environments and show “a complex reaction to complex stimuli”, but do not do so at the same level as humans. Because of this, most people judge them to have less value than humans, and will kill them to further the goals of mankind.

It should be noted that this isn’t the reasoning of Christianity. For Christians, human beings are precious not only because of their intellectual capacity, but because each of us is made in the image and likeness of God. That’s part of why I think the question of computers with human reasoning is so interesting- they wouldn’t be made in the image of God, but they would be made in the image of humans, who are in themselves image-bearers of God. I’m wondering where that leaves these second-hand copies, and until we actually create them, I don’t think we can say.

The word “soul” has several definitions. One of them is supposed to be “give” us rational thinking. Building a very good AI will make that assumption useless and superfluous, just like the discovery of microbes made the assumption that certain illnesses are caused by “demonic possession” useless and superfluous. Of course some higher apes exhibit a very human-like behavior, they are able to conduct a conversation via sign language. And they are not supposed to have a “rational” soul. So this whole “soul-thing” is just nonsense.

Well, since we’re on a Catholic site, most of us are using the Catholic definition of “soul”. I think that’s the part of us that is made in the image and likeness of God, as discussed above. But I am aware of the fact that apes can participate in human conversations. That means that conversation isn’t a distinctly human trait, which is interesting to think about. I know people have discussed a lot of things that could seperate us from apes (other than our souls), but I’m not sure if any of them check out. One of them is the idea of “the triangle”, a relationship formed between two beings and an object as both discuss, notice, or learn about the object. Apparently, you can’t exactly teach apes like you can human children- you have to wait for them to learn on their own by copying. I’m not sure it’s relevant to the current conversation, but I think that’s also fascinating. :smiley:

Such systems already exist, in a simple form. Medical diagnostic programs, stock market analyzing programs, and a whole lot more. There are self-modifying programs, too. These programs attempt to optimize their own performance. Sometimes they fail, other times they succeed. At the end not even their creator can figure out how did they achieve their superior performance.

Cool! This isn’t an area I devote a lot of time to reading about, but I’m happy to hear that we can make programs that adapt by themselves. But from what you’re saying, it’s still on a pretty basic level, and we don’t need to worry about drawing the line between programming and “thought” yet. :slight_smile:

The point is that a “perfect” or a “semi-perfect” emulation cannot be distinguished from the reality. Of course this is expressed in the old duck-principle.

We’re certainly not anywhere near a perfect of semi-perfect emulation of human behavior, so outside of science fiction, the point is still moot. :shrug:

I do think that people would continue to cherish the original Mona Lisa, though, simply because Da Vinci created it. It doesn’t have to do with the physical object itself, but there is something valuable about the original in most people’s eyes. You’d probably witness a similar preference if artificial humans ever became reality.

Correct again. I have a suspicion that a “full blown” artificial human will not be built for quite a long time, since it has no practical use. But, then again, humans have a lot of curiosity, so who knows? Since you like science fiction, I suggest you read the books of Stanislaw Lem, especially “The Cyberiad”. They are philosophically “deep” and very entertaining.

I’ll check them out, thanks! :smiley:

I think if we have the ability to create artificial humans, we will. Even if they don’t have a practical purpose, I think that’s one of those things that a lot of people are interested in and would want to experiment with. I doubt they’ll ever become commonplace, but I’m sure we’ll at least try to create one someday.

Because any clone would start with human genetic material and grow the same way as a human. The only difference between it and normal IVF (as far as I know) is that the genetic material inside the fertilized egg would be replaced with genetic material from another source. Or something. The point is, human beings create life all the time through our own biological processes, and replacing genetic material strikes me as altering those processes, not simulating them. Such a being would certainly be alive, and I can’t imagine God not gifting him/her with a soul (especially since I think such a change would happen after conception). It’s immoral, from our perspective, but I don’t see it as preventing God from giving the child a soul (unless you believe that one’s soul is carried in one’s genetic material, which would be kind of confusing). :shrug:

If there is a relevant document or section of the Catechism, however, I would love to see it. :slight_smile:

EDIT: I feel like I should note that I’m a high school student who watches too many documentaries, lest anybody get the idea that I actually know what I’m talking about. I don’t. >.>

The Catholic faith is not as ambiguous as you would prefer concerning the Soul.

And it is this human soul that truly makes us unique and separate from all others of God’s creation.
Man cannot create this.

I do not doubt we will continue to build ever more complex machines, and we may even be able to evoke emotional responses from people to the machine.

But the soul is simply beyond our grasp.

This brings us to the inalienable rights bestowed upon us by our creator (God).
Without God as the creator, these inalienable rights become man given rights.

Our wonderfully complex machines will never be more than servants for mankind.

Oh Im sure that you could come up with hundreds of valid “points” to an artificial human if you tried :doh2:

[quote=Kamaduck]I’ve never heard that definition of “alive” before.
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It was a response to Lost_Sheep. I would prefer the word “sentient”. However, there is a neat program, Conway’s “Game of Life”. Its significance is that a few, very simple rules (only three of them) can create an incredibly complex behavior.

[quote=Kamaduck]For Christians, human beings are precious not only because of their intellectual capacity, but because each of us is made in the image and likeness of God.
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I know, but that is not relevant in this context.

[quote=Kamaduck]Well, since we’re on a Catholic site, most of us are using the Catholic definition of “soul”.
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As I said, there are at least three different definitions of “soul”. But since the concept is not important here, there is no reason to go deeper into it. I admit that I also used the example to substantiate that the higher apes are able to perform acts which were supposed to be the result of a “rational soul” – which was also supposed to be unique to humans. This was to show that the concept of soul is superfluous.

[quote=Kamaduck]But from what you’re saying, it’s still on a pretty basic level, and we don’t need to worry about drawing the line between programming and “thought” yet.
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It is fun to “worry” about thought experiments, and useful to be prepared just in case the future rolls around sooner than expected. (See: Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock”.)

[quote=Kamaduck]We’re certainly not anywhere near a perfect of semi-perfect emulation of human behavior, so outside of science fiction, the point is still moot.
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Parts of human behavior are emulated very well. But the point is about the alleged dichotomy of “real” vs. “emulated”.

[quote=Kamaduck]I do think that people would continue to cherish the original Mona Lisa, though, simply because Da Vinci created it. It doesn’t have to do with the physical object itself, but there is something valuable about the original in most people’s eyes.
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You are correct, but all that means is that most people are irrational. The original and the copy are equally beautiful, and there is no rational reason to value one over the other – when it comes to artistic beauty. If you are interested, here is another great book (and it is on-line) Kazohinia which talks about this question (among other things). It is a scathing satire, and it can be disturbing.

I do not understand the point of ignoring the defining characteristic that separates humans from the rest of creation when discussing the probability of creating machines that could emulate us.

[quote=vz71]I do not understand the point of ignoring the defining characteristic that separates humans from the rest of creation when discussing the probability of creating machines that could emulate us.
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Correction: “I do not understand the point of ignoring the alleged defining characteristic”…

As soon as that “defining characteristic” will be more than just an unsubstantiated assertion, we can start to discuss it. But, for the time being, it is only an ill-defined concept. And the very point of the “emulation” is to show that the alleged “defining characteristic” is superfluous. As soon as there will be programs, or machines, which emulate human behavior sufficiently well (Turing test), and which – by definition – do not have a “soul”, the idea of an immaterial, immortal(!) soul will go the way of the dodo bird.

As a matter of fact, the existing higher apes already exhibit traits of humans which were supposed to belong to the unique realm of humans. Therefore the “rational soul” is already obsolete.

The Catholic church disagrees.
You can find more on this starting at paragraph 362 of the CCC.

I still am not understanding your argument.
No matter the tests that can be brought up, we are ultimately in possession of a human soul, and it is that part that separates us from all of creation.

The turing test would seem to prove we can be fooled into thinking there is intelligence where there is none. But it does not tell us anything of a soul.

Machines will continue in complexity.
It may even be possible that a machine could fool people into thinking it is another human being. But without the soul, it is not alive. It is simply a machine that has been turned on, and when the power is cut, is no more.

[quote=vz71]The Catholic church disagrees.
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I am aware of it. But the catholic church is only an authority for the catholics. If the church would declare that the Moon is made of cheese, it would be binding on all the catholics, but not on anyone else. (Of course I predict that some catholics would decline that “teaching”, just like they decline the teaching on extra-marital sex or artificial birth control or gay marriage. The church has much less power than you imagine.)

[quote=vz71]It is simply a machine that has been turned on, and when the power is cut, is no more.
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That is too simplistic. The machine could have a built in power source, which cannot be “cut”, and could protect itself against an aggressive attack. It is pretty sad (but also amusing) that your first consideration is a brutal attack, instead of considering a peaceful solution. :slight_smile: (Might makes right???) You only have one option: to argue with it, and to use logical arguments. As long as you are unable to discover that your conversation partner is a “machine”, you are supposed to treat it as an equal human being. I suggest you read the composition of short stories by Asimov: “I Robot”. Even though it is “only” science fiction, it is a great eye-opener of the hypothetical human-robot interactions.

I know, but that is not relevant in this context.

I think it’s relevant as long as the discussion includes souls. That’s why people here have a problem with sentient or intelligent computers. For them, intelligence = soul, soul = created in image of God, and “intelligent” computers = made in the image of humans. That’s why you’re getting the responses you are. Now, if our souls have nothing to do with intelligence, and we’re actually image-bearers in some other, more specific way, that changes things. (And since many Christians hold that humans are still image-bearers of God even before they obtain the ability to reason, I would say that the two things really can’t be the same.)

As I said, there are at least three different definitions of “soul”. But since the concept is not important here, there is no reason to go deeper into it. I admit that I also used the example to substantiate that the higher apes are able to perform acts which were supposed to be the result of a “rational soul” – which was also supposed to be unique to humans. This was to show that the concept of soul is superfluous.

I don’t think you’ve shown it to be superfluous. You’ve shown that intelligence and having a rational soul are different things. (Not that I know what the difference is.)

It is fun to “worry” about thought experiments, and useful to be prepared just in case the future rolls around sooner than expected. (See: Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock”.)

I agree that this is entertaining, but for the OP, the fact that it is a somewhat distant worry is probably why the Church hierarchy hasn’t said anything about it. :shrug:

You are correct, but all that means is that most people are irrational. The original and the copy are equally beautiful, and there is no rational reason to value one over the other – when it comes to artistic beauty.

But we’re not valuing the artistic beauty. We’re valuing that it’s the only one that was actually touched by Da Vinci. It’s the same reason an original artifact in a museum is more valuable than a near-perfect replica. It’s because it was really used by someone famous, and we think that’s cool.

If you are interested, here is another great book (and it is on-line) Kazohinia which talks about this question (among other things). It is a scathing satire, and it can be disturbing.

I’ll check it out, when I have time. I kind of love this sort of thing. :slight_smile:


I do have a question for you, vz71. You’ve asserted that without a soul, a being cannot be intelligent. I read paragraphs 356 through 368 of the Catechism, but I didn’t see anything about intelligence; it spoke of the “heart”, the “spirit”, and “the depths of one’s being”, but it didn’t say anything about intelligence. Is it possible that intelligence does not require a soul?

You are arguing on a Catholic forum that we must ignore church teaching?
My 5 year old daughter plays a similar game.
She will argue that plants are really like animals, all we have to do is ignore the differences.
Of course, reality and logic in this case says we cannot ignore the differences.
Man is a very intelligent and creative creature. We can fashion machines to do our bidding and we can even fashion programs that will in turn continue to improve upon themselves.
Ultimately man may even bring about what is now science fiction into science fact.
But for all of our creativity, our creations will lack that final piece that differs us from every other one of God’s creations.
I am sorry Hal, but you won’t dream.

No, my first consideration is to pull the plug. There is nothing violent about that.
But if we allow you to move the goal posts around and magically create the redundant power supply and the self defense mechanism as well as a program making it a priority that it not have its power cut, then one may have to use violent means to turn it off.
I have read Asimov. His robot chronicles provide for some interesting material.
Still, without a God given soul, any creation of ours cannot be any more then just a man made tool.

Apologies, I have not been clear.
I have little doubt man will eventually create machines that have intelligence.
Perhaps even an intelligence to rival our own.

But I firmly believe that without the soul, these machines will always be machines.
Nothing more.
And as such, a lesser being. A tool that man creates for its own benefit.
Now perhaps there could be something to be learned about our own civility in how we treat beings created in our image.
But ultimately it is mortal. We will go on to (hopefully) be with our creator.
Our own creations will not.

I think that makes sense, although the question of what our souls actually do (other than making us immortal) is an interesting one. I suppose I’m curious about which aspects of humanity can’t be duplicated by machines. We agree that intelligence isn’t one of those things.

In any case, thank you for clearing that up. :slight_smile:

A robot is a tool. How it is used has ethical implications.

An Artificial Intelligence is a tool. How it is used has ethical implications. It doesn’t need a body for one thing.

Humanoid robotic frames exist. How they are used is our only concern.

Artificial Intelligence does not mean a machine can go beyond its programming. It can assist in developing ideas but it has no goals, no emotions and no concerns. It is not alive and would not care one way or the other if it was destroyed. Only human beings can give it information and program it.

If it was given a learning program, it wouldn’t matter. The only concern, like any tool, is what humans program it to do.

On a practical level, all such research will remain secret and under military control. We would be unaware of how such machines would be used until they were deployed.

Peace,
Ed

Try turning off the Internet. :stuck_out_tongue:

[quote=Kamaduck]I think it’s relevant as long as the discussion includes souls. That’s why people here have a problem with sentient or intelligent computers. For them, intelligence = soul, soul = created in image of God, and “intelligent” computers = made in the image of humans.
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I understand all that. The point is that the “soul” is 1) not even defined in a rigorous manner, 2) whatever it might be is not proven to exist, 3) not even the church says when and how humans get it. (The church does not say anymore that the soul is “infused” at the time of conception.)

[quote=Kamaduck]That’s why you’re getting the responses you are. Now, if our souls have nothing to do with intelligence, and we’re actually image-bearers in some other, more specific way, that changes things. (And since many Christians hold that humans are still image-bearers of God even before they obtain the ability to reason, I would say that the two things really can’t be the same.)
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And your observation is very pertinent. According to the church even the people in a persistent vegetative state are “image-bearers”, even if they have no higher brain functions – at all!

[quote=Kamaduck]I don’t think you’ve shown it to be superfluous. You’ve shown that intelligence and having a rational soul are different things. (Not that I know what the difference is.)
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Well, in that respect it is superfluous. :slight_smile: And you are not alone in not knowing the difference – especially since there is no rational definition of a “rational soul”.

[quote=Kamaduck]I agree that this is entertaining, but for the OP, the fact that it is a somewhat distant worry is probably why the Church hierarchy hasn’t said anything about it.
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The church hierarchy says nothing about many questions, even if they are pressing and pertinent today. But that would be a different discussion.

[quote=Kamaduck]But we’re not valuing the artistic beauty. We’re valuing that it’s the only one that was actually touched by Da Vinci. It’s the same reason an original artifact in a museum is more valuable than a near-perfect replica. It’s because it was really used by someone famous, and we think that’s cool.
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What use is a picture if not for its artistic beauty? If the Mona Lisa would be quietly substituted by a “perfect” replica, people would still admire it, unknowing that it is not the original. Two months ago we took a trip to Toscana, and admired many beautiful statues, knowing full well that they are “only” replicas, while the original is hidden in some safe place. And no one was shrugging them off, saying: “Bah, these are only replicas”.


[quote=vz71]You are arguing on a Catholic forum that we must ignore church teaching?
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Yes, but only if you wish to stay on rational ground. :slight_smile: I have no problem to discuss what the church teaches, as long as it is the logical corollary of a rational argument. But not as an a-priori assumption.

[quote=vz71]My 5 year old daughter plays a similar game.
She will argue that plants are really like animals, all we have to do is ignore the differences.
[/quote]

Actually she is very smart. There is no clear dividing line between plans and animals. Just like there is no clear dividing line between living and inanimate matter.

[quote=vz71]Man is a very intelligent and creative creature. We can fashion machines to do our bidding and we can even fashion programs that will in turn continue to improve upon themselves.
Ultimately man may even bring about what is now science fiction into science fact.
[/quote]

Yes, let’s hope so.

[quote=vz71]But for all of our creativity, our creations will lack that final piece that differs us from every other one of God’s creations.
I am sorry Hal, but you won’t dream.
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Dreaming is the temporary cessation of conscious thought, when the neurons will fire in a random fashion. Dreaming is necessary for the organic brain / mind to rest, just like the deep sleep is necessary for the body to rest. So, as long as the machines will be made of electronic material, which does not need refreshment, you are probably correct, and the computers will not “dream”. However, there was a novel with the title: “Do androids dream of electric sheep?”… so artificially grown beings may very well dream. :slight_smile:

[quote=vz71]No, my first consideration is to pull the plug. There is nothing violent about that.
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Since you read Asimov’s stories, I am sure you realize that mobile units will have a non-wired power supply. But regardless of that, I was referring to the act of “turning off” a sentient being, which is an act of hostility, and maybe the robot would resent that…

My fundamental assertion is this: “It does not matter what the underlying hardware (or wetware) is made of, as long as it functions in a specific manner”. To paraphrase Forrest Gump: “Human is as human does”.

[quote=edwest2]Artificial Intelligence does not mean a machine can go beyond its programming. It can assist in developing ideas but it has no goals, no emotions and no concerns. It is not alive and would not care one way or the other if it was destroyed. Only human beings can give it information and program it.
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This kind of argument pops up quite frequently. I suggest you perform an experiment. Sire a child, and bring it up in total isolation. You can only care for its bodily needs, but nothing else. No speech, to teaching – no “programming”… and see what the result will be in a (say) 20 years. Humans need teaching or “programming”, too. The resulting “being” will have no goals, no intelligence, will not be able to communicate… it really will be an “it”. (In God’s image, of course…)

You guys have this “superiority complex”, this “human chauvinism”. I wish I would live long enough to see when an artificially created being will exhibit “initiative”, “introspection”, a desire to learn more… and do it even better than an average human can. After all there would be no reason to build a “dumb” AI. We have enough dumb people already, there would be no point in making more.

It is not surprising that the person who starts life in such a deprived way will not be able to communicate with speech. But as for the rest of it, that is pure speculation on your part. Even spiders who are given no parental teaching still grow up with the clear goal to build webs to catch flies. There is every reason to believe that a human brought up without parental guidance may still develop goals and exhibit inquisitiveness, even if those behaviors are somewhat warpped by his deprivation.

[quote=LeafByNiggle]Even spiders who are given no parental teaching still grow up with the clear goal to build webs to catch flies.
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Spiders do not have a “brain” like humans have. They cannot “learn”, they are already born with all the knowledge they ever need. Humans have only a minimal “built-in” ability, the most important one is the affinity to learn languages. Without languages there can be no discursive thinking. If you doubt, just try it, and see the result.

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