Brian Aldiss 'Super-Toys Last All Summer Long'

Decent Essays

Sunset; the last rays of today streak out across the dark ocean. The old man pulls his wife closer, hands weathered, eyes closed. He is content. But there is more than meets the eye in this scene. Much more. Signals pulse through the neurons in the man’s brain: a structured dance. His thoughts, his actions, and his feelings are all a product of the complex processes within his brain. Optimized by billions of years of evolution and influenced by decades of experience and thought, the man’s brain thinks. Alone among all animals, he can appreciate the beauty of the sunset and the fullness of his life.Until now, this distinction between human and nonhuman has been clear. Our thoughts and our emotions are a unique feature of our species. But— what …show more content…

That they do not yet exist has not stopped science fiction writers from envisioning the implications of a future where they do exist. In Super-Toys Last All Summer Long, author Brian Aldiss imagines intelligent robots that can emulate humans (Aldiss 668). The robots have no rights and are instead treated like slaves: one robotic boy scrawls letters describing how much he loves his “mother,” but is then sent unceremoniously back to the factory to be “fixed” (Aldiss 671). This is a future that we should strive to avoid. If it acts like a human and has feelings like a human, then it should be treated as morally equivalent to a human . Its rights must be protected. This reasoning has an obvious expansion: because physical appearance does not matter, even intelligences that do not resemble humans deserve rights and respect. These measure may detract from our uniqueness, but this is a necessary concession. Being fair is not always comfortable. To escape from this uncomfortable corner, some argue that such artificial intelligence is not possible: they say no program that will ever be written can attain a human level of emotion. Anthropologist Loren Eiseley lovingly describes a falcon yearning for its partner, concluding that even simple creatures like falcons show uniquely biologic features: “the machine does …show more content…

For example, some authors, including philosopher Nick Bostrom, have envisioned a future where human brains can be “uploaded” into a computer (Bostrom). Clearly, besides trivial physical properties, such an entity does not lose any of the elements that make us human, but it is nevertheless different. If we wish to maintain consistent in emphasizing thoughts and emotions, such a being would still be human. This scenario will necessitate an expansion in what most people think of when they think of humanity. Moreover, such an intelligence could then began to improve itself, becoming better and better at doing so, resulting in a superintelligence (Bostrom). This could propel us into what Bostrom calls the posthuman era, a society that meets one of a few conditions, including a “[p]opulation greater than 1 trillion persons [or a] life expectancy greater than 500 years” (Bostrom). These scenarios may not be as far fetched as they seem; if any one of them happens, it will be difficult to keep on describing humans in the context of anything but our shared history. On a similar note, one can look to Eliezer Yudkowsky, an artificial intelligence researcher and one of a growing number of transhumanists. He defines the philosophy of transhumanism as the logical extension of humanism: it does not make sense to value life up to a

Get Access