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DIGITAL PEOPLE

R.U.R. and the recent erminator films.And even if artificial beings do not wish to wipe us from the earth, their superiority might still de- stroy us by stifling human creativity and independence, as in Jack Williamsons story With Folded Hands.

No current artificial creatures can carry out these scenarios, nor are there yet bionic humans or cyborgs who are the physical or men- tal superiors of natural people.The abilities of robots and androids are still limited. If they behave intelligently, they do so only in specialized areas, or at a childlike rather than an adult level; though they might be mobile, they cannot yet independently navigate any arbitrary room or street; they are not conscious and self-aware, and hence are not moral beings as we understand morality; they are not emotional, and al- though they might elicit affection or an appreciation of cuteness as a living pet does, they evoke no deeper feelings.

They cannot pass for human in either appearance or behavior, at least not at the behavioral level proposed by the British mathemati- cian, Alan Turing, in 1950. In what is now universally known as the Turing test, he proposed a purely verbal criterion for defining a thinking machineas intelligent. Imagine, he said, that a human ob- server can communicate with either the machine or another human without seeing either (for instance, via keyboard and printer), and can ask either any question. If after a reasonable time the observer cannot identify which of the two is the computer, the machine should be considered intelligent.

Some researchers now think the Turing test is not a definitive measure of machine intelligence.Yet it still carries weight, and now, for the first time in history, the means might be at hand to make beings that pass that test and others. Advances in a host of areasdigital electronics and computational technology, artificial intelligence (AI),nanotechnology, molecular biology, and materials science, among othersenable the creation of beings that act and look human. At corporations and academic institutions around the world, in govern- ment installations and on industrial assembly lines, artificial versions of every quality that would make a synthetic being seem alive or be aliveintelligent self-direction, mobility, sensory capability, natural

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