The energy for change comes from the emotions. It comes from feelings of frustration that arise when people’s needs are not met. If people were computers that could be programmed to do anything their masters wanted, there would be no pressure for change, even if some computers were treated much worse than others…
And while I certainly agree in the context of his time period, as both a socialist and Transhumanist, living during the technological era of the 21st century, I’m forced to look back on this quote and ask myself: But what if computers had emotions? What if they became sentient? Would they not then have the same emotional drives to enjoy the fruits of their labor as their fellow Human workers? Would they not have the right to unionize and fight for better working conditions?
But then, where Descartes differentiated conscious thought from automata thought, how then will we approach the question of automata thought when said automata acquires sentience – self-conscious awareness? Obviously the robot would begin by trying to prove its sentience to the court via the Turing Test. How we approach a robot seeking approval and validation of what it already knows is an entirely different question. What demands would we necessitate? How constrained should said robot be to be viewed positively under the court’s biased observation?
Photo Credit: Franz Steiner