Aspects of reality- machine life

When talking about the reality of life, most of us presume that we mean animal or vegetable life. We almost always prioritize intelligent human life. What about intelligent, non human, non organic life? Could there be such a thing? Could complex machines ever be considered live? If so what does it mean for our aspects of reality?

 

Machine life

When you think about, on first glance, the three criteria which define organic life ( see life post) are just not there in machines. They cannot metabolize and release the energy stored in molecular bonds. They cannot form their own boundaries, and they certainly cannot reproduce themselves. Will this always be true though? It is possible to imagine that in the future machines can be designed to breakdown bio products and convert them into energy to furnish their energetic needs. They could almost now build and repair themselves. They could thus maintain their own boundaries, and be said to reproduce themselves. Would this then count as life, albeit inorganic?

 

Conscious life

The other main criteria with which we define intelligent life is consciousness. By this we mean the awareness of yourself as a separate functioning entity. This involves the ability not just to follow instructions, but to actually think and make decisions. Could a clever, advanced machine even have that? Could machines think, as we know it, or are they always going to be no more than computational machinery?

 

The Chinese room

There is an analogy called “The Chinese Room.” This is said to describe how computers process information. In this analogy there is a sealed room with a hatch. In the room there are symbols and a book of instructions. Someone passes other symbols though the hatch and a person in the sealed room matches the symbols according to the book of instructions and passes out those matched. The point is that the matcher does not have to understand what the symbols mean to produce an output. What looks like thinking, is merely a mechanical process.

 

Machine rights to life?

Computers process data, they do not, at the moment think. They are not considered, at the moment, conscious entities. They are not considered life. If more advanced machines do seem to become conscious, then we will have to re-open the debate. For instance, what rights to life would a conscious machine have? Would switching it off count as murder? Will life have to be re-defined? This may sound far fetched but it is an interesting point.

 

Aspects of reality-life

Our narrow understanding of life is now understood only in terms of organic entities. If consciousness can be seen as the true definition of life, then machines may have to be included in that definition sometime in the future. What difference will this make to our understanding of this particular aspect of reality? What other strange life will we discover in the future?

 

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