The ‘Just because we’ll be able to, will we? Should we? Must we?’ discussion revisited in the light of the news that CCTV cameras will be compulsory in English abattoirs soon. Again, a reminder that technological ethics have more to do with ethics than technology.
But we’ll start with a different topic: one that isn’t as controversial as it used to be …
There was a time when smoking wasn’t just seen as socially acceptable but positively beneficial …
All that healthy smoke filling your lungs, seeping its goodness into your bloodstream was just the boost your body needed. You’d live years longer if you smoked … and it was SO COOL.
It’s 2030 and you’re not doing your old job any more because an AI machine can do it faster, cheaper and safer. How’s that working out for you?
But, first of all, let’s deal with some basic logic. How fair is this?
- Gavin: “Steve, what’ll we do for tea tonight if Mum’s not there to cook?”
- Steve: “Dunno. Ask Dad? Or make it ourselves? Or go down the chippy?”
- Gavin: “Steve, you’re an idiot. We won’t have do any of that because Mum will be there!”
Bit harsh on Steve, yes? He was only answering the question that was put to him. If their Mum wasn’t there, he had an idea of what could happen. He wasn’t asked whether he thought she might be.
Silly? Maybe. But that’s exactly what the economists and the right-wing press did to Professor Stephen Hawking a while ago on the subject of robot automation and unemployment.
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What makes something sentient? What does it take for an entity to be aware of its own existence and to want to interact with the world of its own accord? Is it a gift from God or hard science? Is it something fundamentally human or animal in nature or is it a simple technological principle based on brain size? There are many models, of course. But, if consciousness is simply a natural product of neural complexity then eventually, in theory, we might build something – a computer or a machine – that was actually big enough to wake up!
Oh, wait …!
The widespread ramblings, which have appeared on this blog over the years, now make a partial contribution to a novel. (See http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/vicgrout)
Vic Grout’s Conscious is set a year or three into the future. The ‘Internet of Everything’ is making the world a more connected place than ever before. People’s lives are becoming increasingly automated. But something odd is happening … ‘Things’ are beginning to misbehave and no-one can work out why. What starts as an amusing inconvenience quickly becomes very serious indeed!
A ragged bunch of academics, scientists and philosophers are on the case – and may know the answer. But now they have to convince people that their crazy explanation is true. And that’s only the start. Against a backdrop of a world suddenly beginning to fall apart, they’re in a race against time to get someone to do anything about it. And not everyone is on their side!