FRANKENSTEIN’S CREATURE OR COMMANDER DATA?
Defense, it is possible that scientists have already made dramatic progress that is being kept secret, but as far as the open literature shows, we are not close to achieving these science-fictional possibili- ties. However, serious research along these lines is just beginning.
Neither the building of artificial beings nor the creation of hy- brid humans is just a matter of getting the technology right. Even if supernatural fear of synthetic life is long gone from our psyches, we are still concerned about what this technology means for people, and we need to answer some questions that have profound implications: What is our purpose in making artificial or hybrid beings? What are our ethical responsibilities toward them, and theirs toward us? Do we have anything to fear from intelligent and powerful nonhuman be- ings—if not the violent overthrow of humanity portrayed in Capek’s R.U.R., then more subtle damage such as debasing human worth or causing economic harm? Is a hybrid being, part human but perhaps mostly machine, still a person, or something else, and can a fully arti- ficial construction be a person? If we learn to enhance human health or mental ability by implantation, who should receive these benefits?
These questions have different answers for different societies; for instance, in Japan, where robots are developed primarily for civilian use, and the United States, where military applications of robotics play a large role, and so the answers, like the beings themselves, reflect light back onto our own nature. Many of these issues will not arise, however, until artificial beings become more capable than they are now, and that means becoming more intelligent.
Some researchers are confident that digital chips will eventually attain the full power of the human brain, at least as judged by a quantitative measure—making the chips operate so fast that they match the speed of the brain’s extraordinary parallel processing.As we have seen, Hans Moravec estimates that a microprocessor running at 100 million MIPS would be as capable as the brain. In The Age of Spiritual Machines, the inventor and computer visionary Ray Kurzweil considers the same