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Androids 'n' them

Stories about artificial intelligence nearly always seem to be, in the end, stories about what it means to be human. In the works discussed here--the films Blade Runner, Bicentennial Man, and 2001: A Space Odyssey and the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep--this is accomplished in different ways and the focus in each work differs somewhat. But the essence, or the distinguishing traits, of humanity is the theme in all of them. The thrust of such works seems to imply that the characteristics of human behavior that have been valued most highly by Western civilization since the Enlightenment are not the essential core of human-ness. Instead they argue, more or less, that whatever can be replicated by human beings in creatures of their own making (i.e., human appearance or logic) or even improved upon (i.e., with perfectly dispassionate reason, near infallibility, near invulnerability, or physical near-perfection) is only a small part of what makes people human. If it can be reproduced it does not approach the essence of humanity--the things that distinguish human beings from even the most sophisticated machines. But each of these works also draws other inferences from the comparison of human beings and their mechanical counterparts. Bicentennial Man, for example, argues that once all the other elements of humanity are present they will combine to produce the traits that could not simply be manufactured. Dick's novel, on the other hand, deals with the important question of whether human beings can lose what makes them human while 2001: A Space Odyssey seems to hold that the inner core of human-ness is something a machine can never achieve because it is the greatest mystery for human beings themselves.

In 2001 the 'character' of HAL is the least like a human being of all the creations discussed here since 'he' is simply a large machine that runs the ship on which the central action takes place. But HAL has the capacity t...

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Androids 'n' them. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:03, December 01, 2021, from