FRANKENSTEIN’S CREATURE OR COMMANDER DATA?
with the biological modification of people, but also resolves some. One question is the familiar one of access: If a $100,000 implant can make one healthier or smarter, does that mean that only the rich will benefit from it? A brand-new concern comes from the mixed nature of a bionic individual.Imagine a person with so many implants that he or she is largely artificial. Especially if neural function has been modi- fied,is this entity the same person who held,let us say,the right to vote and own property? This potential legal issue points to the need for new definitions of personhood and of being human.Yet the technol- ogy of artificiality can also resolve some troublesome situations.With workable artificial parts, the ill would no longer need to await donors of living tissue, dissolving the moral and medical issues surrounding the harvesting of human body parts. Another advantage of bionic modification is the fact that these alterations do not enter the gene pool—unlike genetic changes, the effects of which could include un- foreseen long-term harm ongoing through the generations.
Important as all these factors are, they are not the only ones we project onto artificial beings. Religious or spiritual beliefs can also color our views toward synthetic beings. Some writers ascribe the positive attitude of the Japanese to Shinto, their native religion, and to Buddhism, imported to Japan from India in the sixth century. In his book The Japanese Mind, Robert Christopher comments that Bud- dhists take a different view of robots than do Christians because Bud- dhism “does not place man at the center of the universe and, in fact, makes no particular distinction between the animate and the inani- mate.”Along similar lines, Schodt’s Inside the Robot Kingdom notes that Buddhism, and more especially Shinto, encompasses the belief that even inanimate things can be conscious.“Mountains, trees, even rocks are worshipped for their kami, or indwelling ‘spirit,’” he writes, and adds,
samurai swords and carpenter’s tools have “souls”…[For a] videotape on children’s robot shows, a producer writes that “people not only make friends with each other, but with animals and plants, the wind, rain, moun- tains, rivers, the sun and the moon.A doll [robot] in the shape of a human is therefore even more of a friend.”