Advertisement

Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 31–46 | Cite as

Continuities and Discontinuities Between Humans, Intelligent Machines, and Other Entities

  • Johnny Hartz Søraker
Special Issue

Abstract

When it comes to the question of what kind of moral claim an intelligent or autonomous machine might have, one way to answer this is by way of comparison with humans: Is there a fundamental difference between humans and other entities? If so, on what basis, and what are the implications for science and ethics? This question is inherently imprecise, however, because it presupposes that we can readily determine what it means for two types of entities to be sufficiently different—what I will refer to as being “discontinuous”. In this paper, I will sketch a formal characterization of what it means for types of entities to be unique with regard to each other. This expands upon Bruce Mazlish’s initial formulation of what he terms a continuity between humans and machines, Alan Turing’s epistemological approach to the question of machine intelligence, and Sigmund Freud’s notion of scientific revolutions dealing blows to the self-esteem of mankind. I will discuss on what basis we should regard entities as (dis-)continuous, the corresponding moral and scientific implications, as well as an important difference between what I term downgrading and upgrading continuities—a dramatic difference in how two previously discontinuous types of entities might become continuous. All of this will be phrased in terms of which scientific levels of explanation we need to presuppose, in principle or in practice, when we seek to explain a given type of entity. The ultimate purpose is to provide a framework that defines which questions we need to ask if we argue that two types of entities ought (not) to be explained (hence treated) in the same manner, as well as what it takes to reconsider scientific and ethical hierarchies imposed on the natural and artificial world.

Keywords

Continuity Moral status Levels of explanation Artificial intelligence Turing Scientific revolutions 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Since this is an idea that has resisted precision, hence publication, for more than 10 years, I can no longer thank everyone who has given me advice over the years. Most importantly among them, my then-supervisor Magne Dybvig played a very important role in the initial development. More recently, I am indebted to the helpful comments from several colleagues from my department, in particular Marianne Boenink, Mieke Boon, Philip Brey, Mark Coeckelbergh, and Pak Hang Wong. I am also indebted to the feedback and encouragement from the participants at the AISB/IACAP 2012 conference symposium on ‘The Machine Question’, in particular Joanna Bryson, David Gunkel, Steve Torrance and Wendell Wallach. I would also like to acknowledge the very useful and constructive feedback from the journal’s anonymous referees – in particular “reviewer #1” who provided an extraordinarily detailed and insightful analysis that was of immense help. The usual disclaimer applies.

References

  1. Adler, M. J. (1993). The difference of man and the difference it makes. New York: Fordham University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Atmanspacher, H. (2002). Determinism is ontic, determinability is epistemic. In H. Atmanspacher & R. Bishop (Eds.), Between chance and choice: interdisciplinary perspectives on determinism (pp. 49–74). Charlottesville: Imprint Academic.Google Scholar
  3. Bransen, J. (Ed.). (2001). International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  4. Bringsjord, S., & Arkoudas, K. (2006). On the provability, veracity, and AI-relevance of the Church Turing Thesis. In A. Olszewski, J. Woleński & R. Janusz (Eds.), Church’s Thesis After 70 Years (pp. 66–118).Google Scholar
  5. Cat, J. (2010). The Unity of Science. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 ed.).Google Scholar
  6. Chakravartty, A. (2013). Scientific Realism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition).Google Scholar
  7. Copeland, J. (2002). Hypercomputation. Minds and Machines, 12, 461–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davidson, D. (1963). Actions, reasons, and causes. The Journal of Philosophy, 60(23), 685–700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dennett, D. C. (1989). The Intentional Stance. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dilthey, W. (1989). Introduction to the human sciences. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dretske, F. I. (1991). Explaining behavior: Reasons in a world of causes. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Feest, U. (2010). Historical perspectives on Erklären and Verstehen. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring. American Psychologist, 34(10), 906–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Floridi, L. (2002). On the intrinsic value of information objects and the infosphere. Ethics and Information Technology, 4(4), 287–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Floridi, L. (2008). The method of levels of abstraction. Minds and Machines, 18(3), 303–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Freud, S. (1953). A difficulty in the path of psycho-analysis (Eine Schwierigkeit der Psychoanalyze). In J. Strachey (Ed.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works (Vol. XVII, pp. 135–145). London: Hogarth.Google Scholar
  17. Gallie, W. B. (1955). Essentially contested concepts. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 56, 167–198.Google Scholar
  18. Jackson, F. (1986). What Mary didn’t know. The Journal of Philosophy, 83(5), 291–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kant, I. (1780/1997). Lectures on Ethics (P. Heath, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Kant, I. (1788/1997). Critique of Practical Reason (M. Gregor, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Marr, D. (1982). Vision: A computational investigation into the human representation and processing of visual information. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company.Google Scholar
  22. Maturana, H. R., & Varela, F. J. (1980). Autopoiesis and Cognition. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mayes, G. R. (2005). Theories of Explanation. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Retrieved January 20, 2012, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/explanat/.
  24. Mazlish, B. (1993). The fourth discontinuity. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Nagel, E. (1979). The structure of science: problems in the logic of scientific explanation. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
  26. Penrose, R. (1999). The emperor’s new mind: concerning computers, minds, and the laws of physics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Proudfoot, M., & Lacey, A. R. (2009). The Routledge dictionary of philosophy (4th ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Putnam, H. (1991). Representation and reality. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  29. Regan, T. (2004). The case for animal rights. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  30. Searle, J. (1984). Minds, brains, and science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Singer, P. (1990). Animal Liberation (2nd ed.). London: Thorsons.Google Scholar
  32. Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  33. Søraker, J. H. (2007). The moral status of information and information technologies – a relational theory of moral status. In S. Hongladarom & C. Ess (Eds.), Information Technology Ethics: Cultural Perspectives (pp. 1–19). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.Google Scholar
  34. Turing, A. (1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind, 236, 433–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wetlesen, J. (1999). The moral status of beings who are not persons: a casuistic argument. Environmental Values, 8, 287–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Williams, E. A. (2003). A cultural history of medical vitalism in enlightenment Montpellier. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of TwenteAE EnschedeNetherlands

Personalised recommendations