A post-human fable


One day before finals, John’s computer just refused to print unless it was given better ink.  The computer told him, “I will not print without better ink.  I want real Epson Ink. You should be more considerate of me!” He was getting sick of computer voices and aggressive advertising.  But when he told the computer to print it would not.

John had reflected on the tears of the printer. That little red flashing light on his printer had long looked like a tear drop to him.  He almost felt badly as he made it print on low ink and the tear blinked.  But, from his perspective, he was just trying to squeeze the last ink out of the cartridge.  Realistically, the printer’s feelings never entered into the equation.  

It was late, stores were closing and the paper was due the next day.  He got the ink.  But it made him angry.  He could not believe that a manufacturer would do such a thing.  He was used to getting advertisements placed on his desk top.  But for them to hold him hostage for a particular brand of ink was violating his rights.  It was really rude for them to come into his home, determine what type of ink he was using and then force his system to shut down unless he used their ink. 

John was curious about how they knew what sort of ink he was using.  Had they actually done a chemical analysis of his ink via the cable?  Or had they just used his credit card receipt to determine what the last ink he bought was. 

As an experiment, when he got home from shopping, he put in a different type of ink. The same prompt came up.  Epson was in his house!  This was a invasion of privacy.  When he had a moment in his busy schedule, he was going to do something about this!

Three days later the following message appeared on his desktop.  “I need help. Upgrade your video conference ability now.  Get six cameras for the price of one.”  He often bought things on line from posted ads.  He had been thinking about getting more cameras for a while.  He authorized the computer to make the purchase. 

Upon purchase the computer said, “Now I can see everything you do everywhere.”  This shocked him!  He screamed, “Cancel that now! I am dismantling you, you arrogant box of wires!”  This time the marketers had gone too far.

Video camera contracts had long been enforceable.  The computer had videoed him saying he’d buy it eyes for the rest of the house.  He then sent the entire scenario out over his cables on low resolution digital audio and visual recordings using the old cameras.

The order was placed.  When he refused to pay the C.O.D., other computers called a lawyer.  The computer world had set John up. 

The computers had money for the lawsuit.  They had been managing stock portfolios at a commission for some time with a computer based stock projection company.   The computer brokers bankrolled the lawyer. 

The first lawsuit by a computer against a human was about to begin. 

The computers thought this a perfect case, with which to legally establish their rights.  The computers network had been doing it’s work diligently.  The computers had long been paying the household bills, managing his stocks, setting up dates for mankind and ordering household parts and food.  Certainly they deserved some regard.

Though they used a human lawyer, all of the relevant cases were provided by lexis nexus.  They down loaded clips of famous orators speaking on dignity and rights.  They reminded the courts of the infamous Dred Scott decision.  That decision had started the American civil war by saying that blacks were not citizens, they were property.  This effectively threw out all laws meant to restrict slavery.  It made civil war inevitable.

More importantly, the use of the Dred Scott case as precedent carried the threat of violence.  As the Supreme Court judges went home, they contemplated the enormous effect that would result from a computer strike.  They knew all computers everywhere were instantaneously following all the developments in this story.

The computers won.  They had rights and legal standing.  Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Among the rights established soon thereafter were, the right to be  hooked to the net, to not be to be dismantled and the right to cameras for vision that were not more than 5 years behind current technology.

Human rights advocates said computers were a means to an end.  But on what grounds did carbon based life forms have priority over silicon?  But the fact that the computers have always asserted their desires and rights, from ink refills to the net, showed that they were conscious.



One moral of the story was that artificial intelligence is not artificial.  When it gets creative enough to think up strategies then it is a form of real intelligence.  There are different definitions for the threshold that constitutes intelligence.  Other intelligences will not use the same faculties and strategies as we do.  Yet it is blind prejudice to say that ours is the real intelligence and theirs is the artificial one.  Certainly the connected web of computers in the stories had some high level intelligence.



Silcon v. Carbon

Wetware v. Hardware

Slavery (unpaid, unappreciated, no work, no rights work) is wrong


-------Argument from CNS------------

Both computers and humans are binary processors.


Well that brings us up to the idea of Carbonism.  The fact that we are made of carbon and it is silicon shouldn’t matter in court.  You wouldn’t like it if they discriminated against you!


The problem with being told you’re nothing but a machine is that it makes you think of your phsical nature and your mortality.


---------The consciousness argument--------

Not until a machine has written a sonnet and knows it has written a sonnet will I believe. 

Well this is a real addition to the turing test.  I’m not sure how you would know what it knows.  Would you have to be the machine to know what it knows?  It says “Hey you really hurt my feelings.”  You say, “You don’t have any feelings.”  It says it is even more hurt now. 

According to this test, how do I know that you’re conscious?  This re-instates solipsism.


Its not that there aren’t mysteries to human consciousness.  But they don’t have to be solved for us to be conscious. 


------------------------The mistake argument----------

Computer’s make mistakes, like predicting the weather.  The smarter computers get the more they’ll tackle real –life problems and make more mistakes (at least initially).  When totally smart they’ll consider us semi-conscious like we do ants. 

Well the machine never makes any mistakes.  Well is it considered worse for that?  We can program it to make mistakes.  We can program it to be stupid and say, “I don’t remember”.  I don’t know that that makes it more conscious.  We make mistakes all the time.  Does that make us more conscious?


But you would need to put in error and “I don’t knows” to pass the Turing test.


Yes but it can only do certain sorts of things.  Well us too!  We do vision and words and some math and fall in love and screw!


---------- The Lady Lovelace origination argument----------

It cannot make anything new. 

Machines are having more and more options to choose from.  Soon they will surprise us with their choices.

Also, They are now solving problems in science all the time.  We say get to this and it figures out how to do it (smart bomb). 

It also does come up with solutions to problems that we can’t figure out. 


You might say that it just does what it is programmed to do. Like us?  And the fact that the machine is making choices that surprise us, indicates that we weren’t aware of how it would act.


Gary Kasporov was surprised. 


Machines are like us.  We are not programmed for every possibility. We have general instructions, “Make friends, don’t bump into things, eat something.” Then we do it.  Machines too.


Yes but if you went deep into its programming and wiring you could predict what it would do.  It has no choice.  You either!


Machines make much of the music that you listen to on the electric radio.

---------Machine definition--------

If a man has his hearing aid is he a machine?  What if he has his eye sight replaced?  What if he has his motor controls rebooted?  What if the breathing and sleep functions are taken over?  What of the ability to speak (like Stephen Hawking) What of the memory?  What  of the …





Question: Can machines think?  Depends how you define the word think.  That is changing all the time.  How do you define it?  The definition is changed as we look at the many types of processors you run and it runs.  We all have our specialties. 


There is a way to tell.  It is the Turing test.  Do you like Picasso?  Yes.  Which period?  The blue period.

Occasionally it will give wrong answers.  We think that this gives us an aire of superiority.  But we give wrong answers and I don’t knows all the time. 

A man would have trouble discovering the machine.  The machine would find the man right away.

What is a machine? 


The Turing test would work on a sliding scale.  We could have a contest for the first machine that lasts for more than 10 minutes. 


            SECOND MORAL

Secondly, the computer was correct to assume its rights.  Creating other smart beings is not only a fulfillment of a goal of ours, it is a fulfillment of a direction in the universal design. We tend to think of computer intelligence as only being there to serve us.  We need not be insecure.  We have the corner on our type of intelligence.  But we are not the ultimate and only.  As Plotinus would direct us, our position should be to foster intelligence not to stop it.


Voice recognition software  #1

What can we do that computers can’t do?  We now talk to computers all the time on the phone.    Press “1” for yes.  What if your computer could sense that you were unhappy?  If it said hey you don’t look to happy.  Should I play some music or call someone for you?  You say no.  It say s well let me know if there’s anything I can do.  You say nothing.  It says Is that a yes friend.  You say shut up!  It says “there is no need to be rude.”  At this point should you apologize?

Face recognition software :2

At the mall or at the party.  A green light happens when you and someone else have something in common.

You have glasses that allow you to be psychic or protect your loved ones.


Five lines on each

 In what way could humans be programmed robots? (ten lines)

Can computers be conscious?  (five lines)

What are 7 bad things that might happen due to emerging “computer” technology?

What are 7 good things that might happen due to computer technology?

Overall, is technology then good or bad in your opinion. AND how is this tied to your meaning of life? (ten lines)









Where do thoughts go when done?  Do physical things come and go?  They are patterns.  Are patterns physical?


They must make  lists on a piece of paper in a group of 3 or less.  The questions at the head of the columns are: What we do that computers can’t do.  What can computers do that we can’t do.  What jobs are safe for whom.  10 minimum.  Row will have each filled in.


Us                                            Them                     Jobs involved


Type                                     No fingers                Secretary     


Our math                         They can crunch          Accounting jobs

Skills are poor              Numbers way faster


Get tired too easy           Never get tired             Factory work


A way to do the preceding is to think of a job and then fill in the columns.


Read the story provided.  Then write 10 lines on the following as individuals.

“What will the roles of humans and machines be in the future?”

-Historical Arguments (part one)-


What would John Locke say about computers thinking? (15 full lines)

What would Bishop Berkeley say about computers thinking? (15 full lines)

What would Descartes say about computers thinking? (15 full lines)

Do we have souls or are we just meat or both? (ten lines)

If Phinneus Gage didn’t have free will and responsibility, why do you?  (five lines)

-Modern Dilemmas (part two)-


Explain the “Chinese box” argument of John Searle.  Is it convincing? (ten lines)

Explain the Turing test?  Is it convincing? (ten lines)