Reading Alone Together, the thing interests me most is the definition of being alive. There’s a vivid story in the article that after a 12-year-old tamagotchi ‘past way’, its owner wrote a poem in memory of it. It might sound funny when thinking people mourn for a black and white pixel game in the shape of an egg, but if you regard it as a companion for quite a long time who would ask for your care and concerns day and night, you might find it reasonable.
As is mentioned in the article, the characteristics exclusively possessed by human being have disappeared. After 1990s, artificial intelligences are thought to have both feelings and needs, which were once considered unique to human beings comparing to animals and computers. It blurs the boundary between being alive or not. In the film A.I. by Steven Spielberg, a robot boy David is designed to be nurtured by families who lose their children or desperately want one. Monika’s son Martin is seriously sick in hospital and in great grief, Monika takes David home for accompanies. He completely rely on Monika because he is ordered to love her for his whole life. He cries when mom doesn’t love him, stand out to protect her when he senses danger, and he feels jealous when Martin comes back home and win back mom’s heart. He’s such a real boy, but also he’s consisted of rubber skins, electronic components and steel bones. The question is shall we consider him alive?
The thing may even gets more sophisticated when taking in the imagination of ‘singularity point’. As is described by the author, singularity point is when artificial intelligence gets the critical moment between they are limited-functioned and they are omnipotent. There’s a guess that after we get that point, we may merge with the robotic and achieve immortality, which again raises the unsolved issue concerning the definition is being alive. To think boldly, there’s going to be a various forms of the human-robot merging, like a disabled human with steel leg, or a physically dead person with wires connected to his brain, which keep him conscious. The latter one might seems reluctant to be considered alive, since we are not used to keep relationships with a brain soaking in nutrient solution, but how can I say he’s not alive, I mean, there isn’t any crucial difference between him and the guy with an artificial limb, is there?
Therefore, what singularity point may bring about, as for me, is a series of philosophical problems and following moral issues, like the legislation of the protection of A.I., or the social status of human being and A.I. or new rules of the distribution of recourses. Apart from being ‘technological rapture’, as is described by the author, it may also be an ethical disaster.