Though the word “more” in this question is vague, I assume that it means, “Which existence is more valuable?” I believe that humans’ lives are much more valuable than any machine’s, even though I do not believe that humans possess an immaterial, immortal presence in the body that may be called a “soul.” Given our system of ethics, destroying a human would be considered different than destroying, say, Cleverbot. The reason for this is because killing a human would be taking away the consciousness from a thinking being, while destroying Cleverbot would just be deleting a computer program.
But why are we conscious, while Cleverbot isn’t? I believe it is not due to us having a soul, but because we have a brain, and a fine one at that. As science progresses, we are finding that what humans used to attribute to the soul is all caused by what happens in the brain. The human brain is basically a biological machine, but it is the most complex and intricate machine that we know of — in the entire universe.
That alone should make each and every human feel privileged that we, to date, are the only beings we know of capable of such reasoning and self-awareness. Though scientists are working on it, no machine thus far is able to truly experience the world as we do, making us very unique beings in this grand universe.
Jay Grafft is a second-year UCSB student.
My speculative belief is that the appearance of a “soul” is an artifact of our human perspective; so much a product of the physical and mental scale on which we operate as to inevitably produce such misconceptions.
Imagine looking at the earth from Pluto. Does it look like it is composed of individuals? Or does it look like a unitary entity? Look down at your body. Does it look like it is composed of individuals? It doesn’t, but it is. It is composed of many cells, all struggling and cooperating with their neighbors to survive. Look deeper, and within every cell, patterns of DNA called genes are struggling and competing with one another, within the cell and without. You are an individual made of billions of individuals, and you act with a complex but unitary force. Your brain, too, is made of billions of individuals, but it acts with an (as yet) inexplicably unitary force. As population swells from genes to humans, an individual is formed. I believe that the same thing happens between neurons and brains, and the individuality we observe in a brain that we observe is just the human perspective’s way of labeling the result of a degree of complexity that we do not yet understand.
My speculation, however, truly answers no questions. But I don’t mind the ambiguity, because it is these (currently) unanswerable questions that highlight the need for a skeptical perspective that is not chained to the word or theological concept of the soul.
Connor Oakes is a fourth-year political science major
What is wrong with being just a “clever robot,” exactly? This question assumes that being a clever robot is somehow “bad.” While I believe there are huge differences between humans and animals, I don’t necessarily believe that humans are any more or less “special” than animals (or robots).
The major difference between animals and humans is that humans are able to teach and learn from one another. No other living species has the capability or desire to educate others. That is how humans have come so far; we are able to take the knowledge already accumulated from others in the past and build upon it.
That said, humans can be pretty narcissistic when they assume that we are better or more special simply for the fact that we are human. So when you take away the idea that we are so unique, some people can get pretty insulted. Many western religions are very human-centric. God made humans in his image, and then God made animals as a resource for humans. It perpetuates this idea that humans are special. The world was made for us. Animals were made for us.
My advice is to take a more humble approach and acknowledge that humans are not necessarily more special than other creatures or nature. If there does come a day that robots can operate on the same level as humans (that is, with the capability to learn and teach others), who are we to say they are “lower” than us? I don’t expect anything to submit to me simply because I created them (like God does).
Vicky Nguyen is a third-year communications and history major.