FRANKENSTEIN’S CREATURE OR COMMANDER DATA?
father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses.” The Being displays a lack of social education, whereas the android Yod in Marge Piercy’s He, She and It shows the value of this kind of interaction;Yod’s connections with its maker and others give it cultural knowledge and heightened intelligence, and diminish its violent tendencies. In the film 2001 the computer Hal alludes in its “dying” speech to having been taught like a young child, although the idea is not otherwise developed. (However, although the film A. I.: Artificial Intelligence features a child android, it does not change in the course of the story, except perhaps for developing the desire to become a real boy.)
Mathematician Alan Turing, fantasy writers, and modern robotics engineers all come to a fascinating convergence here, illustrating the power of imaginative interdisciplinary thinking in the science of arti- ficial beings. But important questions, not addressed in fantasy, re- main: If a digital being can be made fully conscious only by having humans guide it as it grows up, what is the incentive to make such a creature? Could there be any value in investing time and effort for what might be a long, drawn-out process, which Turing estimated could take as much work as raising a real child?
If the artificial being starts with a newborn human child’s ability to learn, but can do so at a far faster pace, bringing up the digital baby might be a matter of weeks, not years. Marvin Minsky has put it this way:“Once we get a machine that has some of the abilities that a baby has, it may not take long to fill it up with superhuman amounts of knowledge and skill.” Still, individual mentoring seems unfeasible and uneconomic for workaday robots meant only to help around the house.The main justification for the effort would be to do everything possible to develop a truly intelligent, self-aware being, including de- signing a brain that knows how to learn, and committing the time and resources to giving that brain a good education.
Our future might then see two types of beings. Type I will be what we are already making, only better, with a more considerable intelligence and broader abilities, meant to assist humanity and lack- ing any trace of volitional behavior or consciousness. These will be