Most humans in most times and places have not seemed to value human lives other than their own. Nazis exterminated Jews as vermin; Arabs would today if they could. The Catholic Bishop of Beauvais presided over the burning alive of 19 year old Joan of Arc. ISIS just beheaded and shot a couple dozen Ethiopians for their crime of being Christian.
Our species assumes an authority to kill whomever we wish be they another species. Do we know that elephants, whales, big squid and octopuses are really less intelligent than we? Dolphins and Orcas clearly communicate complex ideas. Dolphins have on occasion, saved human lives.
And who knows what awaits us out in the wider universe? So who is in the right: A Moslem who piously offers the opportunity to convert before he kills you or the Christian who sees all human life sacred or a Jain, carefully avoiding stepping upon an ant? We know not.
Our Western society is today split between those who value the life of an unborn human child and those who see it as disposable for convenience. Moving along those lines, disposition of the superannuated is upon us as well. These have been issues from far back in our history. Unlike the movies, “Frankenstein” the book by Mary Shelley raised such issues; now we have a new movie as well.
“Ex Machina” is timely and topical; a central character is a ‘female’ robot; an “AI” or artificial intelligence. We have no idea whether the movie is worthwhile or not but the topic demands attention in our present culture. Essentially, what is the worth of an intelligent life? Our species is a long way from answering that. Or perhaps we have answered and merely dislike the result?
A key comes with the robots’s plaintive question: “What happens to me if I fail your tests?”
We have so far failed to decide whether intelligence deserves automatic rights to life, justice et cetera; now we must add machines to the mix. If not, how can we claim such rights ourselves? If so, how can we use all but ourselves for our convenience?
We note that regardless, when it comes down to realities, we tend to treat all others plus any of ourselves in the way as disposable. That is reality. Then having done so, some of us tend to agonize over the result. Ethics? Or hypocrisy? Maybe, just pretentiousness?
We may find, as we begin to produce truly intelligent machines, that we amount to no more than biological equivalents of such constructions. There is evidence in that direction already, with brain scans.
What we can see now, if we are willing to look; says that following basic Judeo-Christian principles provides a far better existence for larger numbers of our species than do any of the attempted alternatives. That comes clear without any religious beliefs, merely from observation. But we seem slow to learn. It has always been hard for us to put later, greater reward ahead of present fulfillment. That’s biology too. In the end, we’re pretty funny to watch …
Meantime, “Ex Machina” seems interesting; we hope it lives up to its premise.