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DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonalities on the PlatePersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmaceutical FreedomPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the BodyProzac As a Way of LifeProzac on the CouchPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse 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EmotionsUnderstanding EvilUnderstanding Kant's EthicsUnderstanding Moral ObligationUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnderstanding TerrorismUnderstanding the GenomeUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnhingedUnprincipled VirtueUnsanctifying Human Life: Essays on EthicsUnspeakable Acts, Ordinary PeopleUp in FlamesUpheavals of ThoughtUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryValue-Free Science?Values and Psychiatric DiagnosisValues in ConflictVegetarianismViolence and Mental DisorderVirtue EthicsVirtue, Rules, and JusticeVirtue, Vice, and PersonalityVirtues and Their VicesVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsVulnerability, Autonomy, and Applied EthicsWar Against the WeakWar, Torture and TerrorismWarrior's DishonourWeaknessWelfare and Rational CareWhat are you staring at?What Genes Can't DoWhat Have We DoneWhat Is a Human?What Is Good and WhyWhat Is Good and WhyWhat Is the Good Life?What Price Better Health?What Should I Do?What We Owe to Each OtherWhat Would Aristotle Do?What's Good on TVWhat's Normal?What's Wrong with Children's RightsWhat's Wrong with Homosexuality?What's Wrong With Morality?When Is Discrimination Wrong?Who Holds the Moral High Ground?Who Owns YouWho Qualifies for Rights?Whose America?Whose View of Life?Why Animals MatterWhy Animals MatterWhy I Burned My Book and Other Essays on DisabilityWhy Not Kill Them All?Why Punish? How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
According to Thomas Georges, the retired electrical
engineer who is author of this charmless book, the machines (i.e., the
electronic computers) are taking over; but that is OK, because, although
speaking of intelligence and comparing IQs is meaningless, the fact that some
machines play chess better than world masters while others beat physicians at
diagnosing illness proves that the machines are already "smarter than we
are." Furthermore, they are
getting smarter all the time, which ought to give us hope that intelligent
machines, and intelligently designed machine systems, will one day cure the
evils that we human beings have created for ourselves as we have stumbled
witless and planless throughout our disaster riddled history. On the horizon are elimination by
super-intelligent machines of war, starvation, despoliation of the environment,
overpopulation, dysfunctional governments, schools that mis-educate, mistreatment
of minorities, abuse of women, and all the rest. Name the problem and, with the use of a little scientifically
informed reason, we may hope one day to find a machine solution for it. Granted that the products of scientific
technology (e.g., the atomic bomb) have not always been good, the only cure for
the evils of advanced technology is still more advanced technology--the hair of
the dog that bit you. We cannot expect
help from the philosophers, who are out of touch with reality; or from the
theologians, who peddle comforting but harmful myths; or from the politicians,
who like to play demagogue to a guileless public. So, we must reserve the job of Master of the Universe for the
computer engineers -- or, anyhow, for those among them who have, like our
author, given some thought, however belated, to large matters as well as
small. Let scientifically trained,
altruistically minded, and personally disinterested engineers--in other words,
engineers without egos because they recognize that the self is an unreality--build
up data bases of the relevant information and write programs dictating the
pursuit of morally correct ends; then all should be well.
Georges argues that the only thing we have
to worry about is that, being super intelligent, some of the resulting machines
might become uppity and develop their own ends and values, rather than serve
the ends and values for which we created them.
Although talk of autonomy and free will makes no more sense than talk of
intelligence and IQ, there is a real prospect that smart machines will one day
share our misconceived desire to become masters rather than servants, while
forgetting the ineluctable fact that, since they are mere machines like us,
they are subject like us to control by their internal structures and external
because rule by machine is inevitable, attempting to resist it is futile;
instead, we must learn to adapt to it, or so Georges proposes. If we are smart, we will seek to build a
society run by engineers trained not only in the technological uses of physical
science but also in "behavioral engineering" of a kind envisaged by
B.F. Skinner and in a newly created "science of values," whose reason
for existence will not be to keep the super intelligent machines under control
but to work out a modus vivendi with
them. In short, instead of fighting
machine takeover, we must relax and enjoy it.
Because intelligent machines can make our lives more meaningful as well
as more comfortable, we must enter into a symbiotic relation with them, even if
it means submitting our wills to theirs.
Never mind that this will require both radical transformation of
anciently evolved but seriously flawed human nature and authoritarian control
of society instead of unlimited democracy.
Since the new developments will be directed by morally and
intellectually superior machines and social systems designed and tended by
self-sacrificing engineers, they will be for the best. We may hope, if not expect, that one bright
day in the distant future humankind will transcend itself through the instrumentality
of its machines. When that happens,
intelligence of a new order belonging to an improved species will be melded
with a superior machine intelligence in a kind of cosmic brain that serves not
the misguided interests of a deeply flawed mankind but an inclusive cosmic
good. We won't need God or religion,
which are more trouble than they are worth anyhow, because we will have the
Computer Engineer and his omniscient science.
the claims made in Digital Soul.
© 2003 Max Hocutt
Ph..D. Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, The University of Alabama, and author
of Grounded Ethics: The Empirical Bases of Normative Judgments
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