A Talk By Ian McEwan: Machines Like Me

Ian McEwan at Edge:

What’s been preoccupying me the last two or three years is what it would be like to live with a fully embodied artificial consciousness, which means leaping over every difficulty that we’ve heard described this morning by Rod Brooks. The building of such a thing is probably scientifically useless, much like putting a man on the moon when you could put a machine there, but it has an ancient history.

Then of course you had Frankenstein’s monster, which shifted the debate into what it means to conjure up a version of ourselves. Now, you have the contemporary TV series of Westworld and movies like Blade Runner specifically addressing the notion of what it would be like to have an artificial being aware of its own mortality.In medieval churches or cathedrals, you will find wax effigies of the Virgin Mary that, on certain occasions, weep or shed blood. As anyone who’s been on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin will know, there’s a Virgin Mary that bleeds. Throughout the 18th century you had water-powered android figures, figures driven by levers and cogs, and as clockwork got more sophisticated in the 18th century, such figures remained a matter of profound interest and fascination.

I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to live alongside someone we made who is artificial and who claims to have consciousness, about which we’d be very skeptical and to which we’d be applying a constant form of Turing tests.

More here.

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