One area of philosophy briefly touched primarily by that venerable field science fiction involves the ethical considerations when artificial intelligence develops to the point where certain devices (perhaps by then it'll be more proper to say "entities") rival human performance.
Alfred Korzybski, in "The General Theory of Time-Binding" (1921), characterized the development of knowledge as following a fundamentally exponential curve. We have seen such growth in the field of computers. That growth is magnified by synergistic effects of equivalent development in other fields. Electronics, Mathematics, Biochemistry, etc., all have provided significant influence. Relational data-base theory, the newest language, AdaTM (by DoD), electron beam technology, etc. illustrate related development areas. The much touted "Block world", industrial robots, voice synthesis, the more recent "Expert Systems", illustrate that exponential growth.
In at least three areas "informal" anthropomorphizing of these device/entities has begun. Many technicians in large installations have given their computers names and use the personal pronoun "he" in reference to them. In the personal computing area there is developing a similar pattern. We are all familiar with the embarrassment "Elisa" caused its creator by the actual serious consideration of this "mere program" for use in psychotherapy. It is but a small series of steps from such informal "suffrage" to the actual political and legal "formal" consideration of equal rights for "artificially intelligent entities". (Sounds far out, right?)
When computers become as ubiquitous as the telephone, and they are given control of large sectors of our culture, we will be forced to consider what constitutes "sentience". When computers are developed to such a degree that they exhibit (theological questions aside) "purposeful" behavior, the/a "connection" between behavior and intent will have to be mapped very carefully. Parallel developments in Psychology, Ethics, Philosophy, Cognitive Science, etc., will naturally contribute to not only the solution but the very formulation of the "problem".
We will have to deal with the question within our lifetimes.
Source: Ralph Kenyon 01/15/82
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