Are Robots the Better Humans?

Humans are curious creatures. On average, they consist of 0.5 cubic meters of fleshy matter, suspended on a framework of over 200 bones. Wrapped around this biomass is a leathery layer that proudly claims to be the largest organ of the human body. This living masterpiece is populated by around a quadrillion microorganisms and is the antithesis of a "perpetual motion machine." Life greedily demands incessant energy, care, reproduction, and a struggle for survival.

Humanoider Roboter steht im Wasser und betrachtet sein Spiegelbild.

Cut From a Different Cloth

Now, let's take a look at the counterparts made of metal, wires, and circuits. When we mimic humans with robots, the appearance naturally resembles that of humans. The goal is often to create the most accurate illusion of the "Homo sapiens." However, when it comes to material, artificial evolution takes a different path. Instead of blood cells shooting through veins, transporting oxygen to organs and tissues, electricity flows through insulated wires to motors and batteries. Strictly speaking, robots utilize the same energy source as humans: the sun. Through the digestive tract, we extract the energy stored in living beings and plants in the form of nutrients and carbohydrates. The robot doesn't need an organic intermediary; it fills itself with electrical current loaded with electrons. And instead of constant cell renewal, individual parts are rigorously repaired and replaced.

So far, so familiar. But how do robots evolve beyond their composition? Will they morally and ethically outperform humans? The answer to this question seems complex. I'll resort to a sleight of hand and rephrase the question a bit: Can robots be more cruel than humans? Casual answer: No. Perhaps quantitatively, but not in the intensity of the cruelty of the horror itself. There is an almost infinite array of evidence to support this thesis. The dark Middle Ages alone and the torture methods devised in human brains should serve as sufficient arguments. Added to this is the boundless horror during wartime, all the atrocious experiments, and the unspeakable suffering that never surfaced and is only atoned for by the devil in hell. Apart from direct violence, there's the perversion of aberrant decisions indirectly leading to immeasurable misery and death: hunger crises, migration tragedies, exploitation of nature, humans, and animals, human trafficking, enslavement, to name but a fraction.

Therefore, it seems evident to me that robots will at least not be more corrupt than humans. In doubt, they might even be better. The question is also difficult because humans, as creators, pass on or try to replicate certain attributes that resemble human characteristics. Thus, it is quite possible that robots and artificial intelligences, in a sarcastic sense, will mirror the entire spectrum of human traits.

Embedded in “Nature”?

Before I delve further into the appalling aspects of humanity, for the sake of protecting the entire species, it must be said that the animal world also knows gruesome atrocities. I'm talking about parasites that devour living animals from the inside, hijack brains, cannibalism, playful torment of prey animals, and so forth. Again, animals, as far as we know, are not equipped with a higher cognitive consciousness apparatus that stands to some extent above instincts, drives, and reactive responses. The same applies to robots that behave barbarically, be it "bred" for war or triggered by malfunctions. As long as robots are not receptive to genuine empathy and morality, different standards apply. Although even among humans, there are outliers of cold-hearted monsters who are incapable of empathy and derive misplaced pleasure from exercising violence. This aspect is addressed in criminal law through psychological assessments and differentiated jurisprudence.

Mental and Physical Blending

Another adventurous stage is the symbiosis of humans and robots: the "cyborg." As extensively illustrated in the "cyberpunk" genre, the most extravagant combinations of living and dead matter are possible. Ethically, it becomes dramatic when an "AI brain" is transplanted into the body of a recently deceased human. Is that still a human? No, most will likely judge. And conversely? A human brain in a steel body? Perhaps yes, as the animating essence, if it exists, seems to be wired with the brain.

Perhaps we need to approach the famous "Ship of Theseus." If individual parts of a ship are gradually replaced until one day the entire ship has been renewed, is it still the same ship? It's fascinating to consider that many cells of the human body renew almost incessantly, so that every ten years, a person has a completely renewed skeleton. Nevertheless, no one would claim that, therefore, a person in seven or ten years is a different person. Even though, to some extent, that might actually be true. Yet identity encompasses much more than just the fleshy mass, its age, or composition.

Ironically, it could be a response from "nature." We are supposed to unite with robots and thereby bring fewer humans into the world. This would help curb the exploitation of Mother Earth. This thought immediately leads to the question of whether more robots would promote the exploitation of the planet. The answer lies in how environmentally friendly the robots are assembled and whether renewable energy will flow through their steel veins. If this enormous energy demand can be covered renewably, then this surely has advantages compared to a creature that consumes matter like humans.

The Illusion as Part of Reality

I am convinced that the power of illusion will make certain questions easier for us. Judging by the years primates have roamed this planet and the progress made in the last 300 years, this will practically be the case tomorrow. As long as we can stay on Earth and technological progress advances unabated, the boundary between recognizable differences in living and dead matter will blur in acceptance and acknowledgment. Robots, like in "Blade Runner," will almost perfectly simulate humans. Absolute perfection isn't even necessary. Even if only a certain level is achieved, triggering human acceptance, the turning point will be achieved. Robots will take a place in the lives and hearts of many people, much like loving and caring individuals do today. Traces of this tendency are already visible. The union of a human with an artificial hologram has long taken place in Japan, even if legally not recognized at present. Likewise, many people maintain a close bond with animals that seem just as sentient but are nonetheless not humans. Some readers may recall how fondly they loved a toy or stuffed animal as a child and wouldn't give it up for anything in the world. This inclination for attachment is inherent in us and can be projected onto more than just our own kind.

The “Oracle of Delphi” Screams Silently

This progress surrounds many ethical, political, and societal minefields that will most likely explode fiercely once another milestone in the described direction is reached. As always, there will be conservative resistance, and significant upheavals, changes, and struggles will ensue. We see this in broad strokes in the discussion about artificial intelligence.

Dear readers, if while reading this text the thought occurred to you that all of this is "science fiction nonsense," I cannot blame you. Perhaps this will never happen, or it will manifest in an entirely different form. Nevertheless, the possibility seems strong and bright. I wish for a greater awareness and engagement with such topics that impatiently await us in the future. Preparation and anticipating the future are fundamentally human abilities. Nonetheless, I tend to lean toward pessimism here. Many of these technological changes will catch us cold, run us over, and demand great sacrifices because we tackle foreseeable issues too late or ignore them until "five minutes past midnight." Whether and to what extent robots will hobble after humans will depend, among other things, on whether they also quarrel and divide among themselves. Conflict slows down, is costly, and thrusts us backward. Imagine if humans were more peaceful towards each other and in unanimous agreement on important issues. What greatness could then arise. Probably too good to be true, even in an illusory world.

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