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It's Time to Expand the Definition of What's Human

July 28, 2013, 12:00 PM

What does it mean to be human?  We’re still human, flesh and blood, but we have expanded, certainly psychologically and socially our understanding of what constitutes humanity and who we include.   We can clearly see that people develop emotional bonds with avatars and with robots.  We see cases of people marrying those avatars and robots and them caring for the elderly or for children and things like this.  

So we have this capacity that we haven’t exercised because the technology hasn’t been that pervasive to actually develop nurturing, social relationships with non-human kinds of entities or non-organic entities.  So I think that’s remarkable.  So it’s what’s human versus what’s humanity and that the humanity is expanding.  

Morally and ethically this is where things get interesting because there’s already a whole discourse around robots and rights and robots and responsibilities as well.  When a Google driverless car gets in an accident, you know, who is to blame?

Our legal and ethical frameworks haven’t caught up.  And I don’t know that they will because these are always in flux. There isn’t one prescribed answer that’s going to work in this, but we have to accept that we are moving into a human technology civilization, not just human civilization.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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It's Time to Expand the Def...

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