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Write a short essay discussing the essential differences between artificial life and biological life, and the impact of approaching technology in this area.

This topic has been debated for many years, with no definitive answers, yet a host of elaborate suggestions and hypotheses.  We all seem to know innately the difference, or at least that there is a difference.  Perhaps it is relegated to the paraphrased words of the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “we know it when we see it”.  But such is not an acceptable guideline upon which to base the future of humanity.

Technology, replete with robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, real-time simulated experiences, and dare I say, artificial life, is rapidly draging us into facing and even legislating the basic questions of human existence and what constitutes acceptable societal interactions.

For example:  Is what would be a crime if committed against a human still so when perpetrated upon an intelligent robot?  Do intelligent robots have rights, and if so, how do they compare with those of humans or of lower animals?  Can they be “enslaved”?  Can one criminally assault or sexually molest a robot?  Can intelligent robots be held responsible for their self-generated actions?

These are just a few of the questions that humanity may soon be facing, and best start contemplating, as our “devices” start becoming ever more sophisticated androids, complete with unique personalities, simulated compassion, faked empathy, simulated pain reactions, simulated ambition, suffering, desires, goals, and dreams, and psychotic disorders — and what of negative personality traits, like being stubborn, short tempered, cruel, evil, selfish, bullying, all coupled with the ability to out think the best of us in both speed and quality.

As I believe it is edifying to contemplate such essential questions, so shall you!

As with the previous essays, I am looking for whether you understand the concepts and have given this issue some real, high-level thought.  Don’t treat this as just another academic exercise — these are real critical questions that, regardless of your career path, you will very likely have to face in your lifetime — and there will most certainly be people arguing the other side of any conclusion that you may have.  If you don’t approach such questions with mental forethought, you are quite likely to fall headlong into some very undesirable results.

I am not looking for a tome, and certainly not a storehouse of references, though you must certainly have more than one (this is an information literacy class, after all) — I want proof of your understanding of the questions, the threat, the potential, and your thoughts and analysis of the issues involved.

Be terse, no more than a few pages, and be well organized, i.e., not a fictional novel, but an organized assessment a technical writing


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