Whilst watching the video, "Living Machines: Can Robots become Human?" (Part 1 of 2) We can infer that both scientists have very different perspectives on this topic. In the case of Brooks, he believes that humans are living robots. Humans are made up of biomolecules that interact, therefore specific multiple functionalities are what define a human to be human. He also believes that religion and being robotic have nothing to do with each other, they are two completely different worlds. Brooks also referred to Neanderthals being the closest knit being to Homo sapiens. This is because we share similar functionalities with each other although not the same. If this were the case, where would robots fit in? What is the difference between organic material and artificial material? A painting is still a painting although different mediums can be used; this also describes Brooks view of being a human. Just because a robot is made from a different medium, does not mean that a robot cannot be a human, or vice versa. If organisms are based off their functionality then a robot must be the closest being to mankind. Brooks also believed that the “principle to build a human level being from other materials” is possible. The question that then resides is, are humans smart enough to do it? Will we want to? Will the succession of the first creation be an appliance or friend? It is hard to believe in something being on same “human level” because it makes us retreat from exclusivity. Just like when earth was no longer the center of the universe, humans and animals have common ancestors, DNA and the mechanism of life means humans and yeast are similar, biochemistry shows that we are a collection of tiny molecules, human flesh and body plans are subject to technological manipulations, and humans intrinsic consciousness is the same as systemic computation. These all convey that multiple functionality and random mutation over time is what characterizes us as humans, not the “self”, not the “soul”, etc. If we can imitate and fool someone to believing something is, something it is actually not, than what is the difference that it is different at all.
Picard on the other hand believes in the contrary. She starts by defining a human. The first definition is a bipedal mammal, but there are also numerous bipedal mammas that exist in the world, so a more descriptive definition has to be found. We look at a more definitive answer in Webster’s dictionary, it states that humans are characterized by their human form, attributes, and being of man. What is the definition of man then? Coincidentally there is no definition of man, but there is a definition of mankind. Mankind is characterized by bipedal beings that are related to great apes, have speech, and most of all have analytical and abstract reasoning. However this definition even has an incredible amount of flaws. Any measurable definition of “human” will always omit some people. Therefore we cannot truly know what being “human” really is. Imitation and the illusion of something usually lead us to believe it is, what it is not. Therefore a list of definable attributes does not make a robot a human. Robots and humans are not the same, thus, there are no necessary and sufficient conditions for a robot to be called “human”. Robots can have a mechanism of function, but they are just math processes that perform emotion-like functions. Robots are not the “self”, they do not think, therefore they cannot be. They imitate the impression of thought but in reality are multiple math processes that create a mirage of consciousness. Picard also disagrees that “we are nothing more than highly ordered collection of biomolecules”. Scientific tools tell us never to infer anything completely. By using the phrase never, this insinuates that there is personal biasness in the evaluation. It is a contradiction of scientism. On the other hand she does agree with the statement, “A central tenet of molecular biology is that that is all there is”. This statement infers that there is an assumption for new knowledge, and that a scientist cannot lose sight of the big picture. Overall Picards argument can be characterized by saying, reproducing functionality is not the same as understanding the waves of life.
My feeling about the debate was indifferent. The question being asked was not about religion, and yet it always fell back into it. I also don’t feel like it was even a debate, it was more of a conversation. Too much humor was used between the two, which made me less interested in what they had to say. The humorous comments made me feel like they really didn’t care or didn’t know how to answer the question being brought about. I also feel like the PowerPoint was a better debate than the debate itself because they had properly formulated statements to support their claims, and examples to support their theories as well.
Pessimism seems to be the overwhelming characteristic of atheists. Although I don’t agree with the traditional view of God, I do believe in something more through experience. I believe in the self, and I agree that the “heart has reason, for which reason does not know”. Thus I side with Picard on this debate. Imitation and the illusion of something, usually leads us to believe it is, what it is not. Although we can create a robot to have similar functionalities of a human being, robots cannot inhabit the self. Robots can have situational awareness, but they cannot have abstract reasoning. I believe that the ability to be human is in the ability to believe in something other than itself. Empathy, sympathy, compassion, love, all of these are because we can feel with something else that inhabits the “self”, it is not because we share similar functionalities. The ability to feel something intangible such as love or empathy is abstract and intangible. Robots are sets of equations, and that is all, humans are a combination of more. We do not just use computations to solve problems, we also use abstract reasoning to imagine what we cannot see or truly know.