Science fiction literature often raises philosophical issues and is a great source for philosophical speculation. This is especially true for the mind/body problem. For example, it is common in science fiction literature to encounter androids. An android is a robot which resembles a human being in appearance and behavior. Examples of androids in science fiction books, television programs, or films are numerous (Star Trek, Star Wars, Aliens, Terminator, A.I., I, Robot, etc.). In reality, many computer scientists are currently working in the area of “artificial intelligence” or machines that can “think for themselves.” Many computer scientists believe this is the first step in creating these androids of the future and that in time the distinction between man and machine will be practically erased. These scientists speculate that androids with supercomputer brains will have thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and desires just like humans. Therefore, some argue that they will also have the same rights, responsibilities, and privileges that all humans have and should be treated accordingly.
Do you see problems with this view of the future? Do you think machines can ever become persons?
In order to explore this question, let us consider Season 2, Episode 9 or Episode 35 (of total episodes) entitled “The Measure of a Man” from the popular television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. It would be helpful if you could view this episode (perhaps you can rent it from your local video store or Netflix), but I have provided a synopsis so that you can fulfill this assignment without viewing the episode.
Your thread must address the first question below. You may also address several of the other questions as well, but the bulk of your response must be on the first question and relating the story to chapter 3 of the Hasker textbook as well as both the video presentation “The Mind/Body Problem” and the PointeCast presentation “Proposed Solutions to the Mind/Body Problem.”
• From your reading of Hasker, and using the categories he uses, what view of the mind/body problem do you think is exhibited by Picard? By Maddox? Support your answer.
• Maddox lists three criteria for a being to be sentient: intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness. Are these adequate? Can you think of other properties or characteristics a being needs to have in order to be considered a “person”? What might they be?
• Do you think that artificial intelligence to the level as it is presented in the story will someday be possible? Why or why not?
• Do you think Maddox is right when he claims that Picard is being “irrational and emotional” in his view of Data?
• Do you agree with the JAG officer’s final ruling? Why or why not?
• If A.I. does become possible, will we have obligations to treat machines “ethically”?