The Humanity of AI

Recently I read the book The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel Wilson, which follows a girl named June, a post-grad specialist of ancient machinery, and Peter, the automaton who sweeps her up in his quest to stop another automaton who is bent on consuming all the anima, the spirit that keeps the automatons alive.

Though the book was mediocre, it had some very interesting thematic content, pondering over how we discover our purposes in life and what our life is worth if we don’t know how to pursue that purpose. However, there was a much subtler theme which I found more interesting: are robots who think and act exactly like humans, just as good as humans–and if so, are they better?

If automatons, robots, artificial intelligence, whatever name we give them, gain the same footing as humans in terms of perception, cognition, and whatever else that would make them more “human,”  would that make our two species interchangeable? If they can’t feel physical pain, does that make them better than us? What about emotional responses–if they can feel love and loss, does that make them our equals? If they can’t, are they our inferiors or superiors? Even some humans are incapable of feeling physical pain or experiencing emotions, so are these categories absolutely necessary when comparing humans and artificial intelligence? How do we place a value on things that make us human?

How do we decide what makes us human? When we can artificially craft those characteristics, does that make crafted being a human? If we can make working robotic ears, limbs, brains, where is the distinction between those and fully organic bodies? Can a being be 50% human, 50% robot? 25-75%? 1-99%? Is the 1-99% being still deserving of the dignity and respect we should give to all humans? Or is it a robot about which we need not feel remorse when we throw it out because its iOS is outdated? 

With our rapidly improving technology, we are racing closer toward perfecting AI each day. As our robots become more like us and we them, I wish I could say I had these answers. I wish I could say The Clockwork Dynasty helped me come up with a better solution. All I can do now is ask you these questions, spark discussion, and hope that we become more conscious of our humanity and how we value it as it comes time to be challenged.

This Is For You

This blog post is dedicated to all the people, all of my people, who think that what they like is weird, who think that they’re the only ones who have ever felt or been this way. This is my ode to you.

This is for the people who love music so much that they can’t help but sing along while they walk in the Diag.
This is for the people who can’t dance but can’t help but to move when they hear a song.
This is for the people who sit in their room and watch anime and wish that their lives could be more adventurous, more daring, more brave.
This is for the people who don’t understand why no one will watch every B and C horror movie with him.
This is for the people who spend hours alone in art galleries because nothing could be as breathtakingly beautiful as their favorite paintings.
This is for the people who see beauty in the smallest of things, and this is for the people who see the beauty in the grandest of ideas.
This is for the people who know every name of every actor and actress in every movie.
This is for the people who watch every awards show ever….and love it.
This is for the people who watch The Bachelor, wine or no.
This is for the people who are so afraid to tell their friends they like K-pop for fear that they’ll be judged for it.
This is for the people who love to sing even if they know their voice will never make it to the radio.
This is for the people who spend hours in an art studio even if they want to do something completely different after college.
This if for the people who spend hours watching their favorite TV shows for the second, third, twentieth time.
This is for the people who are so unapologetic about what they love that they are infectious, getting everyone they know to sing along to their favorite songs.

This is for my best friend, who challenged me to leave my comfort zone and try something new, and how it changed my life.
This is for my other best friend, who supported me when I didn’t know how to react when I realized I liked something I thought most people would think is weird.
This is for someone I know that is ashamed of liking something different, when they don’t know how awesome it makes them.
This is for my mom, who has never once complained when I talked to her about something I liked that she had never heard of.
This is for my best friend who watched hours of television with me just because I was having a bad day and all that could make it better was Jane the Virgin.
This is for my best friend who will never let me be ashamed of liking “un-literary fiction” and who will always fangirl with me over reading young adult books.

This is for everyone, anyone who has ever liked something they thought was weird. That liked something that no one understood. This is for when you felt alone. This is when you wished someone would sit on a couch and talk with you for hours about what you love.

This is for your love. Your unapologetic, inspiring love. Your love for your art, in whatever form it takes.

This is for you.