Friday, July 17, 2009

Do we have the right to switch off the machine?

A business acquaintance, Dr. Roy Davies asked the question on his blog recently, “Whether a machine that displays all the outward signs of life is actually alive and do we have the right to turn it off?”
I know Roy understands machines; as a computer scientist/engineer he has a deep understanding of human factors and usability issues which he has applied to numerous Virtual Reality and Internet applications.
This questions has been circulating the online world for a while now and it is a very thought provoking one. Just because a machine imitates life and develops an ability to learn and reason does that make a it alive? It's hard to enter this conversation without sounding like a conspiracy theorist but we also have to match this question with "when does the machine decide we are redundant or worse a threat?" If you really need to research this then there are plenty of science fiction themes (iRobot, Terminator, Transformers, Matrix) that explore this concept.
It’s not an outlandish claim with historic evidence such as Moore’s Law and the progress of technology that what we can imagine will be reality before long.
I would go as far as saying we need to make all machines with off switches as standard and be wary of anyone who argues otherwise.

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