While in the throes of one particular hypomanic cycle, I once believed that I could write ground-shaking, earth-shattering essays with my own thoughts in Metaphysics and Epistemology. (I Googled “epistemology” before I finished typing it.) I wrote essays in my Poly Sci of China or East Asia or something class. Remember, Marci!?!?!?!?! I wrote about whether or not I believed a robot can become human. I used Isaac Asimov’s Bicentennial Man as my example. In fact, I used him as the basis for my entire argument. Anyway, the Mister and I have been watching a lot of Next Gen lately. I got to thinking about that old essay I wrote… and probably threw away, as I did most of my ramblings until the blog. I’m always fascinated to watch Data become more and more human. And he’s so unaware of it.
I believe in souls, and I believe that they’re a huge part, if not necessary and sufficient, in making us human. (See what I did there? I referenced an “if and only if” argument. Ha!) I thought, at some point, a soul attaches to these andriods/robots/whatevers. BUT WHEN? And I just came up with this stroke of brilliance. Ready for it? Well, here it is: the very reason these machine things can become human at all is because they had a soul all along. In the Bicentennial Man, Andrew’s case, the addition of actual skin and synthetic organs helped. Which was the bulk of my argument. It was the same predicament as the ship of Theseus.
Brief explanation of Theseus, in case you’re reading this going “huh?” Theseus was a famous sailor blah blah blah his ship needed repairs so they made them, board by board, slowly over a bunch of years blah blah blah eventually all the original boards were gone blah blah blah some dude came along and reconstructed the ship, identical to the one Thesus sailed on, with all the old boards blah blah blah which one is the real ship? And if it’s one or the other, at what point did that ship become Theseus’s real ship?
If you’ve seen that movie with Data with The Borg, you know that he and Andrew had a little bit of that in common. In an episode we watched recently, Data’s brother, Lore, was extremely emotional. And tricksy (as Smeagol would say). Anyway, he was identical to Data as far as being an android, except for the fact that he had emotions. However, Lore was evil. Many arguments for evil people and why they exist is they have no souls. In which case, when they die, even if there is a Heaven and Hell, nothing happens to them when they die. It’s up to humanity to punish these evil people for their evilness. Thus, no real use for Hell, right? So, despite Lore’s emotions, emotions and flaws which we associate with humanity, perhaps Lore did not have a soul and thus was not human. Lore berated Data for being the “less than perfect” one because he resembled a human much less. But this was countered by the fact that Data protested “I am no less perfect than Lore.” He cared. Cared. And had a soul. So there.
So, at what point did Andrew and Data become human? Well, when their souls attached. That is to say, they were constructed as an android/robot/whatever but were human all along.
So maybe my dream of being a philosopher isn’t completely dead?