Are we about to interact with an AI Person? Artificial Intelligence is one of the most fascinating and exciting topics everyone is talking about right now. The progress being witnessed in the field is bordering the magical. Ever since the launch of ChatGPT, the first AI system that could generate realistic and engaging conversations with humans, many other AI systems have been launched some of which are helping humans do incredible creations – creations in photography (an AI recently fooled humans to win a photography competition), music (AI-generated vocals of Drake recently went viral), and coding (several people are already using ChatGPT to create websites from scratch).
With text generation, we can already hold conversations with AI systems as we would converse with a professional human. ChatGPT allows you to assign any character/personality you want to the chatbot, then hold a conversation with it as though you were having a conversation with the personality you assigned it to – even if that personality is long dead. There are those who have suggested that ChatGPT has already passed the Turning test. For those unaware, the Turing test involves a human evaluator who engages in natural language conversations with two other parties, one a human and the other a machine. If the evaluator cannot reliably tell which is which, then the machine is said to have passed the Turing test.
The recent explosive advancements in AI especially from the large language models (LLMs) have made everyone including the skeptics believe that the time AI will become sentient is very near, maybe as near as next year. The big question therefore is, will the seemingly sentient AI be an AI Person? Will we need to give them “human rights and freedoms”? The answer to these questions depends on even a bigger question – will an AI person (if ever there will be such a thing) have emotions, feelings, desires, personal goals goals, self-interests and purpose, and personality?
Alan Turing after whom the Turing test is named, speculated that machines could eventually enjoy learning, suffer, and have free will. Isaac Asimov of the famous three laws of robotics explored the ethical dilemmas and conflicts that could arise from the interaction between humans and robots. Nick Bostrom, philosopher, and director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, argued that we need to ensure that we should respect AI’s autonomy and interests.
These assumptions and arguments however assume one thing, that only the purely electrical activity of the brain that gives rise to human cognitive ability is responsible for emotions, feelings, desires, and personality. This assumption could not be more wrong. We know from biology, neuroscience, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology studies that personality is determined by a person’s genetic makeup (60%) and the environment (40%).
The genetic makeup influences personality by laying the blueprints for neurotransmitter production and regulation, which in turn control how nerve cells communicate with each other to finally control a person’s mood, emotion, and behavior. Genes also determine a person’s brain structure and function, the structure of which outlines how a person processes information, responds to stimuli, and makes decisions. It is also the genes that determine a person’s hormonal levels. Almost every human emotion (love, happiness, joy, satisfaction, gratitude, sadness, hurt, betrayal, grief, and other emotions) is controlled by the levels of dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, cortisol, norepinephrine, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), melatonin and thousands of other hormones.
It is the complex interplay and interactions between these hormones and the neurotransmitters on the one hand and the brain’s neuroactivities on the other hand that give rise to personality and the feeling of being a human person. We know for example that humans who hardly produce oxytocin, tend to have high levels of cortisol, have a malfunctioning amygdala, or suffer from some kind of mental condition have been accused of lacking sympathy and empathy (or rather, behave more like robots).
It is therefore obvious that for a system to be a “human person”, whether that system is an AI Person or a human person, it ought to be able to feel emotions – a wide range of them. It is also obvious that these emotions, as far as we know, do not just stem from the pure ability to be able to calculate probabilities, but must also inherently and innately possess the complex array of biochemical reactions that happen in a biological being.
Having considered the fundamental significance of biochemical processes that give rise to what we call “being human”, and that AI systems lack these biochemical processes, I concur with Emile Durkheim who said that artificial people (an AI Person) cannot have the same moral status as natural people.
Given that AI lacks the biological and biochemical processes that generate human emotions, desires, personality, and the ability to experience pain or enjoyment, I don’t see how AI can ever acquire such attributes. While AI can simulate emotions and possess cognitive abilities that surpass humans, it remains a machine that operates based on programmed algorithms. AI’s inability to genuinely express emotions and feelings means that it cannot be elevated to the level of human beings and granted corresponding rights and freedoms.
Some argue that AI’s benefits to society justify granting it human rights and freedoms, while others suggest passing the Turing test indicates AI has human consciousness. However, an AI Person will simply be a sophisticated tool whose purpose is to advance the quality of human life. Granting AI the status of a person would undermine the dignity and worth of humans, who possess inherent and inalienable rights due to their humanity.
By the way, in my opinion, humans aren’t meant to work, but to debate, argue, and wonder. So if AI can take away all the human jobs, then humans will be left free to truly do what they were originally meant to do – enjoy life!
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