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The biological and social humanity of synthetic humans

Tags: #Valentine Detective Agency 
  • Member
    June 25

    The biological and social humanity of synthetic humans:
    An investigation by Robert Reinlein, Mercenary Philosopher
     

    When Detective Nick Valentine first offered me this investigation, I balked and stormed out of his office. The nerve! Who would dare mock me with such false temptations! I returned to him with a prepared list of ethical violations and reparations, though my reading was cut short as he assured me that he had not been mocking me and that his offer was legitimate. I considered his offer as sufficient recompense for the slight committed against me, and accepted the investigation. For who better could be entrusted with establishing the groundwork for the acceptance or rejection of synth kind? No one but I, Robert Reinlein, Mercenary Philosopher.

    For the purposes of my investigation, all instances of the word “synth” refer to 3rd generation synths unless otherwise noted.

    I began my investigation by contacting a small but functional group of the Followers of the Apocalypse situated southeast of Boston in an area once known as Springfield. I had hoped to find scientists experienced in robotics, and databases with information about the same, though my efforts were largely fruitless in those endeavors.

    What I did find was an old world gem, a tome of all the words in the English language and their definitions: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. They allowed me use of this book as well as their many tomes on human biology so that I may properly establish the conditions by which a human is defined. First, human is defined as:

    1. of, relating to, or characteristic of humans

    2. consisting of humans

    3. having human form or attributes

    4. representative of or susceptible to the sympathies and frailties of human nature

    Synths certainly fit this definition, though it did not prove sufficient. The Followers suggested I look deeper into the biological class of human: mammal.

    A mammal is defined as:

    “any of a class (Mammalia) of warm-blooded higher vertebrates (such as placentals, marsupials, or monotremes) that nourish their young with milk secreted by mammary glands, have the skin usually more or less covered with hair, and include humans”.

    After engaging in further discussion regarding human biology and observing an autopsy to better understand the inner workings of the human, I thanked the Followers before traveling back to Boston to contact the elusive Railroad.  

    Making contact was a deceptively simple effort, so it surprised me to be met with the degree of disbelief expressed by the Boston chapter’s leader, D___. Apparently I had not been the first to solve their riddle and I dare say it is no wonder!

    To preserve the sanctity of my research, I hid my true purpose from the chapter and instead insisted that I was simply a researcher seeking information on synths. When asked for an exchange of information, I provided them with the location of the Springfield Followers and the leaders therein. They provided me with declassified information on synths acquired from the Institute’s Robotic Division. It would seem the Railroad is a rather formidable force capable of infiltrating the Institute, and a force I ought to avoid lying to in the future.

    On my escorted exit out of their sewer-based headquarters, I overheard tehe susurrations between one of the Railroad’s field agents, G___, and an unknown individual. It was clear from their conversation that G___ is not only a synth, but a synth that believes that synths are discretely not human. I look forward to observing how my conclusions affect the internal politics of the Railroad after my research is released across the Commonwealth!

    The information on the holotape was brief but rich with insight. According to the information on the tape, though synths possess the necessary organs for digesting food, they do not need to eat or drink, they do not require sleep, and they are not susceptible to human diseases. Why, they don’t even age as humans do! Drawing on the knowledge I obtained from the Followers, I venture to say that synths lack a functioning endocrine system, and therefore the hormones that drive biological humans towards food, safety, sleep, and reproduction. Whether synths can reproduce is unclear, though it is unlikely given this conclusion.

    Additionally, synths are able to undergo “upgrades” that significantly enhance their physical and cognitive abilities. It was at this point that I was prepared to conclude that synths were no more than highly advanced computers, but an indignant Detective Valentine insisted I visit an old acquaintance of his, a synth named DiMA.

    Located in an old observatory on an island off the coast of old Maine, I sought out the leader of a collective of escaped synths known as DiMA. His words were far too impacting to relay in summation, so I have transcribed the most pertinent part of our conversation below.

    RR: How did you come to be here, DiMA? 

    D: I came to this island over a century ago, hiding from my creators, the Institute. But after my escape felt secured, I was left with nothing. No programmed task, no false memories. I spent a year just sitting in a cave. Just sitting. One day, it finally occurred that maybe I could decide for myself what to do, who I was. I've been doing that ever since.

    RR: So you are more than just a machine?

    D: Ignorance doesn't do your mind justice. Think about what you're saying. Isn't the human body just a machine? That doesn't stop it from being human. Imagine just looking at your own hands and having to wonder: was I born with these, or were they manufactured?

    RR: And how is it that you were able to develop conscious awareness?

    D: One of the Institute's experiments had to do with how our brains could process personality. If we could handle individualized feelings and behaviors. I was allowed to develop mine based on experience.

     

    It is clear from my conversation with DiMA that synths experience the same phenomena of perceived free will and existential crises that humans experience. Does this make them human?

    No.

    Synths are by definition synthetic humans – products created to imitate the original. While synths may experience the human condition, they are biologically fundamentally distinct from humans and therefore ought to be classified differently.

    But should they be treated as humans?

    Mostly.

    Practically, synths can be considered human. They can perform every task that a human can perform that is meant to contribute to society -- in some cases with greater efficiency -- engage in rational debate, and forge emotional bonds. Whether the processes by which organisms experience their emotions are computer-mediated or hormonally-mediated is irrelevant to the practical nature of the behaviors.

    As a group of beings that are consciously, emotionally, and practically human, synths deserve the same unalienable rights as humans. But their unique attributes that distinguish them from humans means that in certain contexts, individual synths ought to be favored or disfavored. If, for example, a human seeks a relationship with the goal of child-bearing, that person would necessarily have to disfavor all synths as potential partners.

    Similarly, if a group of explorers happens upon a securely locked terminal, a synth member of the team would have to be favored in order to gain access to its contents. These situations are decided by the individuals present in them, just as each person decides on an induvial basis with whom they will mate or associate.

    Finally, synths have demonstrated the same free will as humans, most notably in the case of DiMA, who realized that he was able to choose his own fate. This demonstrates a non-deterministic pattern of behavior typically referred to as “free will”. Some argue that free will does not exist on the basis of biological determinism, though if this is the case and free will does not exist, yet DiMA demonstrated the same behaviors that one would equate with free will, then it still stands to reason that synths are practically no different than humans insofar as their ability to believe they have free will and act accordingly.

    Synths are psychologically human yet physically inhuman. It is a combination most fascinating. Treat them as you would any other human and understand their strengths and limitations, and navigating this strange new world will prove to be an enlightening experience.

     

     

     

    By,
    Robert Reinlein: Mercenary Philosopher, Synth Lover

  • Member
    June 25

    I'll read this tomorrow night. :D #SynthLivesMatter

  • Member
    June 25

    In the mean time, you should go ahead and feature this on the front page. 

  • Member
    June 25

    Does this unit have a soul? :D

    A real personality piece, this, thoroughly enjoyed its form from Bobby's perspective.

    I can't help but wonder why synths haven't figured out the next logical step sci-fi movies and even science itself predicts AI's will take: If they don't need to eat, sleep, or drink; and are capable of out-performing humanity at many tasks, why haven't synthetic humans realised that they simply do not need us? Humanity seems to owe them one, what worth do we have in their mechanical eyes.

    Better we destroy 'em all just in case they one day realise... :p

  • Member
    June 27

    Shit...this one really made me think...I honestly never even considered the whole idea of free will being equivalent between humans and synths, just with different ways of achieving it. That one hit home with me to think that synths deserve equal treatment. This was really really awesome, I loved the narrative and all the information that went with it was very well researched. Much appreciated Legion

  • Member
    June 27

    MaddMannatee said:

    Shit...this one really made me think...I honestly never even considered the whole idea of free will being equivalent between humans and synths, just with different ways of achieving it. That one hit home with me to think that synths deserve equal treatment. This was really really awesome, I loved the narrative and all the information that went with it was very well researched. Much appreciated Legion

    That's what I love to hear! I'm glad you enjoyed it, I was happy to take on such an investigation. This is the kind of stuff I occupy my head with daily anyway, so it was a natural fit. And thank you all for reading! The hardest part was trying to give it some life beyond a sing-spaced academic journal.

     

    Paws said:

    Does this unit have a soul? :D

    A real personality piece, this, thoroughly enjoyed its form from Bobby's perspective.

    I can't help but wonder why synths haven't figured out the next logical step sci-fi movies and even science itself predicts AI's will take: If they don't need to eat, sleep, or drink; and are capable of out-performing humanity at many tasks, why haven't synthetic humans realised that they simply do not need us? Humanity seems to owe them one, what worth do we have in their mechanical eyes.

    Better we destroy 'em all just in case they one day realise... :p

    Oohhh, I imagine they will. That was something that came up while I was writing this, though I didn't include it since it's its own discussion and would have derailed this. But we see that synths are just as capable as evil as humans. In fact, Father tries to argue that because synths are capable of evil, they need to be controlled and contained. As he's giving you the quest "Synth Retention," he says:

    "The superior synth mind and body attempting to wrestle with something approaching free will can be a recipe for chaos." 

    What he means is that a synth who is intelligent, self-aware, and acts under the assumption of having free will is capable of the same evils as humans. But Father dances around the subject constantly. If the player responds that the synths have a right to free will, Father responds:

    "However closely they may approximate human behavior, they are still our creations." 

    He's saying that even if synth's behaviors are indistinguishable from humans', they have no right to free will because they were created. This is the moment I decided to side with the Railroad on my first playthrough. Father is an idiot. A brilliant scientist I'm sure, but a deplorable ethicist. He's delusional and makes excuses to hold beings with free will in captivity. The fact that some synths actually like it in the institue doesn't excuse his poor reasoning and the incredibly nondescript goals of the Institute. "Mankind -- redefined". Yeah, sure. That's a bumper sticker, not an organizational goal. 

    In short, I don't give a damn if Shaun is my son. He's an asshat who wants the power of god without the moral responsibility. 

    /rant

     

  • Member
    June 27

    Legion said:

    Oohhh, I imagine they will. That was something that came up while I was writing this, though I didn't include it since it's its own discussion and would have derailed this. But we see that synths are just as capable as evil as humans. In fact, Father tries to argue that because synths are capable of evil, they need to be controlled and contained. As he's giving you the quest "Synth Retention," he says:

    "The superior synth mind and body attempting to wrestle with something approaching free will can be a recipe for chaos." 

    What he means is that a synth who is intelligent, self-aware, and acts under the assumption of having free will is capable of the same evils as humans. But Father dances around the subject constantly. If the player responds that the synths have a right to free will, Father responds:

    "However closely they may approximate human behavior, they are still our creations." 

    He's saying that even if synth's behaviors are indistinguishable from humans', they have no right to free will because they were created. This is the moment I decided to side with the Railroad on my first playthrough. Father is an idiot. A brilliant scientist I'm sure, but a deplorable ethicist. He's delusional and makes excuses to hold beings with free will in captivity. The fact that some synths actually like it in the institue doesn't excuse his poor reasoning and the incredibly nondescript goals of the Institute. "Mankind -- redefined". Yeah, sure. That's a bumper sticker, not an organizational goal. 

    In short, I don't give a damn if Shaun is my son. He's an asshat who wants the power of god without the moral responsibility. 

    /rant

    Funny, I was just listening to the Jurassic Park theme (don't judge me, it's a damn good piece) and I am reminded now of Jeff Goldblum rants, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." Prevention is always the best answer as not getting to this point at all would be the most optimal solution, but once that point has been passed, how to proceed becomes the biggest ethical nightmare there is.

    The difference between humanity and synthetic life boils down to a few billion years of evolution vs a few decades, but both were "created." So at this point Father's argument falls well short of making a lick of sense to me and as such I agree with your sentiments that just because they have the potential to be evil, limiting synthetic humans in any way is deplorable and barbaric.

    However, there is always a but!

    If the risk of synths actually determining that we are suplerflous is beyond a tolerable threshold, then the lesser evil would be to use the Lysine Contingency. What is that threshold, and is there any indication that outcome is the most likely? Obviously there is enough of an indication for you to imagine they will, but is that backed up? If this were real, would you side with the Railroad come what may?

  • June 28

    I'm finding it kind of interesting that the argument so far has been from a purely naturalist viewpoint. That is, that self-awareness is the only difference between man and animals (or machines, in this case). No one has touched on the question of spirit. That is: Does a synth have a soul?

  • Member
    June 28

    I personally didn't touch on the presence or absence of a soul because that argument ultimately boils down to pure speculation. We can't observe or even define what a human soul is and so have nothing to compare against when looking for a soul in synths. We can reasonably assume that both humans and synths beleive in the presence of a soul on an individual basis, but that's as far as we can really take it. "Soul" is an idea dependent on faith and served no practical use in defining synths. 

  • June 28

    Legion said:

    "Soul" is an idea dependent on faith and served no practical use in defining synths. 

    I the right circle, those could be fighting words. Unfortunatly, I too am a natrualist, and have neither the background nor the inclination to wear the religious mantle in that kind of philosophical debate.