Friday, 21 May 2010

Artificial Life

Hi all

A Trades Unionist friend - who follows this blog a bit - has just sent me this (see below). I guess that this is something that one or two of you might have had some thoughts about!!

Thoughts and reflections please




I saw this and thought you should see it:

What does philosophy have to say about this?


  1. If we can express everything that makes up life in a code then could this see the reification of the virtual world?

    The only difference between the code for the synthetic life and the life itself is that the code has no world to live in, but if you program it some other chemicals and stuff to respire or what-have-you then shouldn't that just work the same way?

    Conceivably we can exist as both physical beings and digital code and why not move between the two while were at it. Instead of avatars beside our blog posts, the images of us can actually be us. It would make the price of property drop if we could live on a web page instead.

    I love sci-fi!

  2. Yes I read about this. This is probably how the Replicants started out in Phillip K. Dick's 'Do An Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'. Perhaps this is where this will end up, biological robots doing all the manual labour etc. Of course the point in the book is: what separates the replicants from the humans? at what point to you give a replicant respect and human rights?
    After all the replicants can think just like humans, they can feel (as shown by the wonderful speech given by Rutger Hauer at the end of the film version 'Bladerunner'). Indeed the only way to discover the 'falseness' of the replicants' humanity is some strange psychological version of the Turing test. Yet the replicants are so good Deckard (the special cop sent to kill the replicants) even suspects that he is a replicant himself; its much harder to find a replicant if that replicant believes it is human (Deckard finds one of these deluded robots and ultimately falls in love with her; a robot that is the object of love...). And indeed, who are we to say a replicant is not human? what rigid criteria will we apply to an organic robot that will be precise yet not exclude ourselves?

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  4. I don't know about all this. I think we should be dubious claims that come out of the scientific community. Every so often we hear an outstanding event that science has achieved and it usually, not always of course, is an excuse to get more funding. Didn't the Hadron Collider break the laws of physics a couple of weeks back?

    What interests me here is the corporatization of science, and its media representation. Venter works for a not-for-profit organisation, which is a business nonetheless. If he is dependent on capital then surely he is not totally disinterested! Combined with this the scientists are happy to let loose all the dark arts of a media circus to generate further research revenue. So overall I think this is quite banal and not as miraculous or Dr Frankenstein as we might think.

  5. non the less, whether it is frankenstein or not the fact that the sheer possibility of such progress is comprehendable at all shows where we have come to