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DIGITAL PEOPLE

the living and the dead. In any case, the technological creation of beings from inert metal, plastic, and silicon is a different matter from animating the dead. Perhaps that explains why technologists seem unconcerned about blasphemy as they try to create synthetic beings. One young researcher in the field recently summed it up when she said,I thought it would be neat to design something that reproduces what God can do.Call her attitude what you willhubris, or a healthy pride in sciencethe scientists and engineers spearheading the creation of artificial beings and bionic people are responding to the magnetism of the technological imperative, the pull of a scientific problem as challenging as any imaginable.

Fascinating scientific puzzle though it is, the creation of artificial beings is also expected to meet important needs for society and indi- viduals. Industrial robots are already widely used in factories and on assembly lines. Robots for hazardous duty, from dealing with terrorist threats to exploring hostile environments, including distant planets, are in place or on the drawing boards. Such duty could include mili- tary postings because there is a long-standing interest in self-guided battlefield mechanisms that reduce the exposure of human soldiers, and in artificially enhanced soldiers with increased combat effective- ness. (For this reason, the Department of Defense, largely through its research armthe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)is the main U.S. funding source for research in artificial creatures.) Artificial creatures can also be used in less hostile environ- ments: homes, classrooms, and hospitals and rest homes, serving as all- purpose household servants, helping to teach, and caring for the ill or elderly.

Among these possibilities, the connection between artificial crea- tures and human implants might be the most important because it promises enormous medical benefits. This connection might be the single greatest motivation to develop artificial beings.Yet regardless of their potential good uses, and apart from any issues of blasphemy, we have concerns about robots and androids. One fear is that the limita- tions we think to design out of our creations, from cosmetic deficien- cies to the existential realities of illness and death, are essential human

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