-- Presentation to the Georgia Mountain Writers Club --
Over the years, serious thinkers have proposed what it is to be human or how one can judge whether some set contains only humans.
One of the first was the simple statement that human beings were not animals and not angels but something in the middle. Things are more complicated now.
Proposed set characteristics include:
- living entities (2-sex reproduction with mistakes)
- herd instinct
- use of jewelry (and other forms of decoration/art)
- knowledge that death comes
- rites for the dead (and other rituals)
- use of tools (physical/mental)
- use of language
- reason/future planning (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason)
- eventual development of civilization (characterized by taxes and communication tools)
- introspection/consciousness/controlled regression (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness and Gelernter’s recent essay - www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/18867/)
- introspection “sees” both emotional (analog) and rational (digital) internal life (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_computer)
Serious thinkers generally try to pare the list to one key characteristic - so far without success. It has occurred to one serious thinker (me) that it may not be possible to do so, and instead one should seek to produce a minimum list with the assumption that it may be as long, or longer, than the above.
The second mistake that most serious thinkers today share is that “human” and “intelligent” are homomorphic. They are wrong – as the above list indicates. Howard Gardner’s theory of “multiple intelligences” (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences) is most likely a move in the right direction – but to my knowledge, as yet no serious thinker in the field of “artificial intelligence” has tried to define a set of intelligences – or noted that some kinds of intelligence require a herd – and that some or digital, some analog, some (all?) hybrid. The above list is a possible starting point.
I hope this helps.
Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change (Bradford Books) by Bruce E. Wexler (Hardcover - May 5, 2006)
Mind As Machine: A History of Cognitive Science Two-Volume Set by Margaret Boden (Hardcover - Aug 31, 2006)
Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge by Gerald M. Edelman (Hardcover - Oct 24, 2006)