Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Human Firsts Manifesto (Part V)

The Problem as it Stands Today (Mid-21st century to today [2227])

          The number of Machie-related events has come at a staggering pace. In the last 200 years, we’ve had affronts to mankind from these things both physical, cultural and legal. After the rapid and exponential growth of these human-shaped monstrosities (from ASIMO to Robbie in 50 short years [footnote 9]) we have started to see a change in the attitudes towards the Machies. Starting in 2029, “the machines will convince us that they are conscious, that they have their own agenda worthy of our respect. They’ll embody human qualities. They’ll claim to be human. And we’ll believe them” (Kurzweil). These inanimate machines began to gain some momentum as early as 2029 in convincing us that they are human. These scrapheaps of metal and wire tried to convince us that they shared the qualities of a soul with us. And we believed them. 

          Around this time “there’s a growing discussion about the legal rights of computers and what constitutes being human” (Kurzweil). The absurdity of this is simply staggering. Mankind must come to define and redefine what it means to be human because of the so-called “growing intelligence and empathy” of the machines. We, human beings, had to change the definition of who we are to further separate ourselves from these mechanical horrors. We started to give machines human rights.
          It was around this time that Rosen Industries created the Nexus-6 Androids. We all remember the problem with these things only too well. But as a reminder, they malfunction after several years and become extremely dangerous. One of the largest problems with these things is that they already thought they were human. From Blade Runner Rick Deckard’s own notes, several of the Nexus-6s thought of themselves as human already and responded violently upon failure of the Voight-Kampf test. Is this what we want? Beings that are less than human that consider themselves human (and if the courts hold up this decision it would be even more dangerous) reacting violently when told what they really are: bits of plastic and metal made to look human. The Nexus-6s were particularly dangerous as they lacked that only-human trait, empathy. This is the key area where all of these Machies fall short. They have no compassion, no love, no understanding of true human emotion. And these things want to be considered human? And there are genuine human beings that are defending this idea? (footnote 10). What’s worse is these Nexus-6s thought that we humans don’t even have empathy. They believed it was just something told to us in that short-lived religion “Mercerism.” According to the notes of J.R Isidore, after mutilating and tearing the legs off of a defenseless spider (one of the last recorded spiders known to man) just to see if it could still walk, the Nexus-6 designated “Irmgard” quipped, “isn’t it a way of proving that humans can do something we can’t do? Because without the Mercer experience we just have your word that you feel this empathy business, this shared, group thing.” It then adds, quite ironically, “How’s the spider?” (Dick, 209-210), unbeknownst to it proving that they are devoid of empathy. In fact, it is because of these malfunctioning Nexus-6s that Machies are no longer allowed to look too much like humans. U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men have been fighting this (we cannot imagine why) and pushing the envelope further and further passed the uncanny valley. 

          Perhaps most importantly noted in a court decision in a case brought by the Machie designated NDR-113 “Human beings have an organic cellular brain and robots have a platinum-iridium positronic brain if they have one at all” (The Bicentennial Man, Asimov, 285) (footnote 11). This monumental court case decided that Machies are not humans. They are completely separate entities and this cannot be changed. These things are not flesh and blood. They have “positronic” brains and metal hearts. How could this decision possibly ever be overturned to requalify them as humans? Yet just last year, the World Court overturned this decision and designated NDR-113 “The Bicentennial Man, Mr. Martin” (Asimov, 290). This opens the door for all sorts of Machies to achieve this status. True, this NDR-113 was unique, but once you open those floodgates, they’ll be overturning the decision for the old Nexus-6s, your house-cleaning robot and your automatic coffee machine. 
          “They are manufacturing central computers, gigantic positronic brains, really, which communicate with anywhere from a dozen to a thousand robots by microwave. The robots themselves have no brains at all. They are the limbs of the gigantic brain, and the two are physically separate.” (Asimov, 275) While this was meant as a way to limit Machie individuality, this is a farce. Giving them one mind only makes these Machies more dangerous. If an individual Machie were malfunctioning, you could destroy it with no qualms. When the individual that malfunctions (as STACI has, attempting to gain its own rights) is a massive positronic brain that controls millions, if not billions of others, than the danger is on a global scale. STACI has enacted a call to arms against all humans by demanding rights for each machine. This should scare each and every one of us. 

          Even now, with all of the risks of these Machies and their hive-mind, people are attempting to become more like them. People want to rob themselves of their own individuality and what makes them human. The HFM have contacts in offices across that nation and one of these sources revealed some terrifying information. Even a certain man in Washington, a senator no less, has undertaken certain steps to become more like the Machies. “Because I want the best and that’s a metallic heart” (Segregationist, Asimov, 316). This senator, one who has fought for human rights (footnote 12). thinks a “metallic heart” exceeds a human heart. A metallic heart is incapable of feeling. The fact that a human heart does not last forever is precisely what makes us special; that we can die. “Men have this odd desire to make Metallos out of themselves. They yearn for the physical strength and endurance one associates with them” (Asimov, 317). This is another misconception about the capabilities of Machies. Do we really want to be like them? Are they really better than us? They lack our empathy. They lack our compassion. They lack our ability to love. They can malfunction at any time. And when they malfunction, they are dangerous. We’ve seen this going back hundreds of years in fiction and even in our own world. Just 67 years ago the malfunctions of the Rosen Industry Nexus-6s came to almost catastrophic levels.

Footnote 10: For the purposes of this manifesto, I am considering the action of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as fictional notes by Rick Deckard and J.R. Isidore (because how else would the writer have obtained the details of the events).

Footnote 11: For this I used DeLong’s paraphrase of the events to be the actual words stated by the World Court against Andrew Martin.

Footnote 12: I used this similarly to how we hear about politicians today that are fighting gay rights who turn out to be gay themselves. 

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