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Do Artificial Offspring Dream Of Personhood?

If there’s one thing I do a lot of, it’s writing things that I offer to the Lords Of The Internet, which are subsequently swallowed and quickly forgotten about. Rarely — Rarely. — do those Lords oblige by letting a story linger on the tongue, for the world to savor: they almost always end up pitted, in the stomach, gone and likely forgotten.

A recent example of that was a fascinating, fascinating, fascinating story I wrote for ATTN: about the ethical and theological implications of robot sex, and exploration of if it is morally wrong to engage sexually with technology. The answer(s) are fascinating and open up a gigantic intellectual, philosophical mind fuck regarding how these tech sex interactions will play out by disrupting societal norms.

Yet, the most interesting part of the story to me was the idea that robots and technology can and will eventually produce humans without human help. Think about it: if humans are just a complicated tangle of biological components that exist in the wild, who isn’t to say we can reconstruct these components independent of people? What if a robot could manufacture sperm and egg to create humans without any human involvement or even a human to carry the seed to fruition? This, friends, is a complicated and confounding subject called “artificial offspring,” the notion of creating humans without humans — and philosophers and theologians alike are having a field day over it.

It’s a very complicated subject and, sadly, the entire section was cut from my story because it simply is too much to process (and the story was already long). But! I wanted to share the expert thoughts on the natter because I was totally awed by everything that was said. It’s a science fiction situation coming soon to a reality near you. Take a peek for yourself.

The one area that is specifically dicey is when the means of human reproduction are completely artificial.

Both ethicists and theologians agree that the creation of humans without humans by strictly artificial means is going to be a problem. Essentially, sex with a robot is good – but creating humans artificially? That’s problematic.

The ethicists find “artificial offspring” to create unintended victims. “This would be a case of unnecessary human experimentation, where children are the potential victims of botched experiments,” Green says.

Carpenter fears that this technology would create divides, as she’s spoken on the matter before. “Are they considered inferior? Superior? I doubt they would be considered the same,” Carpenter says. “One of the most dominant [concerns] is economics: how do you balance that or does it need to be balanced? Should only people who afford this be able to do it?”

“Can someone create an army?” she posits.

The theologians both see this as a matter of creation – and that’s always tricky. “Science and technology give us tremendous power,” Mitleman says. “A common refrain in both technology and genetics is asking whether we are ‘playing God.’ But we can’t always control our creations…One of the most powerful stories in the Bible is God recognizing that even though God created human beings, God can’t control them.”

Callaway relates the subject to the creation of bodies which relates to Jesus becoming physicalized by taking human form. “Our bodies matter,” Callaway says. “When we say God or Jesus was a fully human person, what we mean is he had a body that was capable of reproducing…There’s something important or central to the body that matters.”.

Interesting, right? And, believe me, that was just an amuse bouche of thoughts as the thinkers had a lot, a lot, a lot to say on the very complicated subject.

I’m excited to see where this conversation goes, too. This is just the beginning of talks on the subject by the experts: expect this to blossom and grow into a much bigger focal point in the conversation of what comes with literally fucking robots.

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