This paper is about the artwork ‘Drones with Desires’, which is shown in the figure on the front page. This artwork will be discussed later, but first there will be a short introduction about the designer of the artwork. The designer of this artwork, Agi Haines, is highly interested in visuals and mechanisms inside the body. This is probably the case because Haines’ parents were also artists working with the human body, so Haines gets used to the, for most people, shocking images in an early stage of her life. She completed her masters in the Design Interactions department at the Royal College of Art, and she is at the moment undertaking PhD research at Transtechnology research.
The artwork ‘Drone with Desires’ is a drone that looks like a big blob with wings moving trough a room. The drone is working based on the anatomy of the brain data from Haines herself which is gained from a MRI scan. The movement of the drone is controlled with this data, which is used to decode it to an algorithm. This algorithm is an artificial neuro network which controls the movement of the drone. The drone can be resembled with an artificial central nervous system, or brain, floating around the room. The movement of the drone is special because it is derived from human brains, but the drone can also learn from its anatomy and environment as it flows around which is even more striking. The drone makes decisions formed by the level of comfort and curiosity. With these levels connections in the network alter their strength to replicate learning behavior as it develops in the human brain.
What Haines wants to make visible according to my findings about the artwork is the boundary of the humanness in combination with the fast changing world of technology and artificial intelligence used in machines and devices. To foster a theoretical discussion, this subject is divided into two questions. In the next phase there will be a theoretical discussion using these two questions as the main guidance for the discussion:
How ethically responsible is it to develop and apply new techniques while keeping in mind the possible harms and risks?
Where can the line between human and non-human be drawn, according to the fact that humans will or can be enhanced by new techniques and artificial intelligence?
In the end the message of the designer as a whole as well as the subquestions will be reviewed and there will be a deliberate conclusion.
The development of new techniques
The artwork drones with desires shows the development of a drone in a exaggerated manner. Drones are increasingly used by hobbyist as well as different industries like the film industry or the agricultural field. Drones are really beneficial if they are used in a good way. They can for example replace persons in doing dangerous work or they can replace satellite imagery which reduces the cost and increases the precision of the imageries. But what happens if drones are used in a so to say ‘wrong’ way? Or what if the drone can think for itself and create its own desire, like in the artwork?
Lets look at the bigger picture, namely the impact of artificial intelligence on devices and machines. An artificial intelligent system is a system that can learn on its own. This means artificial intelligence can ensure that machines can create there own desires, this is partly what Haines wants to show us with her artwork. Steven Hawking, one of the most famous theoretical physicist of the world stated in an interview from BBC the follows: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” This is a pessimistic view on what Haines shows with her self thinking drone. In the same interview Hawking mentioned two reasons for this stance. The first reason he gives is that at some point in time artificial intelligence can create itself over and over again to an ever increasing rate. The second reason is that humans, who’s progress is limited by the biological evolution, could not compete the speed of the development of artificial intelligence. Hawking probably is right, but at the same time he uses artificial intelligence to communicate. A computer is used to help him talk because Hawking suffers from ALS so he could not talk on his own. This proofs that artificial intelligence is useful but at the same time very dangerous if it is used wrong or developed without legislation.
R.L. Adams, a software engineer who wrote an article called: ‘is artificial intelligence dangerous?’ comes up with 3 subquestions about artificial intelligence. These questions are: ‘Is our species’ hubris in crafting artificial intelligence systems ultimately going be to blamed for its downfall when it occurs? What’s to stop artificial intelligence that lands in the hands of bad actors or secretive government regimes hell bent on doing harm to its enemies or the world? What’s to stop artificial when it’s unleashed?’ The answers to these questions are impossible to give now because the time has to tell us but one thing is inevitably to neglect and that is the fact that when artificial intelligence is unleashed, mankind could not stop the much faster and smarter thinking machine, so it will overrule humans.
If artificial intelligence brings so many risks, why do we still have the urge to develop it? Because it has also many benefits! As short mentioned before, artificial intelligence is used to communicate with people who can not talk on their own. But it can be found in more things in our daily life. Artificial intelligence is processed in for example Siri(Apple’s personal assistant), Tesla cars (self-driving function), amazon.com and Netflix (who can predict our preferences according to previous choices), and Nest(a learning thermostat that can control the temperature with data gained from your previous behavior). Artificial intelligence makes life easier and that is the main drive to keep developing it.
Previous examples of artificial intelligence were only for recreational purposes, but it also offers solutions to important problems. For example the raise of the production of agricultural products by 70% of the production now, since the world population then is estimated about 9 billion people according to experts. Artificial intelligent systems can analyze many data gained by drones to increase yield which is impossible for humans. Another application of artificial intelligence is in the healthcare sector. According to this patent high risk patients can be monitored using artificial intelligence. These examples are important achievements of making the world a little better using artificial intelligence.
The thin line between human and non-human
The artwork drones with desires of course doesn’t look like a human or any form of it. But Haines argued in a interview about the artwork whether or not it is human when the drone replicate her decision-making process as well as her flesh? Isn’t the machine then a clone of yourself? This clone can be used to for example do medical research, since it is exact the same as yourself. But is the clone than human or not?
There are two extremes regarding the thin line of human and non-human in terms of human enhancement, namely people who find every human enhancement a threat to humanity and people who embrace human enhancement. Leon Kass, a bioethicist who worked in the President’s Council on Bioethics in the USA from 2002 to 2007, argued that we humans have to respect and appreciate the special gifts given by nature. he gives as an example that turning a human in to a cockroach would be dehumanizing. As a logical reason turning man into more than a man would be dehumanizing as well. This example is of course an extreme case of human enhancement, but it do tells us the fact that every human enhancement actually is non human.
Another article against human enhancement, writer by George Annas et al., tells us that humans have to direct science and not vice versa. If humans will be enhanced, there will be a distinction between ‘normal’ humans and enhanced humans. The risks that science will rule humans and therefore causes conflicts is high and because it is a risk for humanity all humans have to response on human enhancement to stop all possible enhancements.
As a counterargument Nick Bostrom stated that ‘poisoned’ natural gifts like cancer, malaria, dementia etcetera should not be accepted. Also human behavior like raping, genocide and, cheating are highly unrespectable and unacceptable to our own nature. With human enhancement these poisoned natural gifts and unacceptable behavior can be treated with applying human enhancement. Therefore Bostrom propose that humans legitimately can reform themselves an their nature according their human values and aspirations.
At last the book of the bioethicist John Harris will be discussed. Unlike Kass and Annas this book states that human enhancement is good for humanity and in some cases it is even morally obligatory. It can take away diseases and unacceptable behavior stated in the previous paragraph and at the same time humanity would become more intelligent, more powerful and enjoy better health with the help of genetic engineering, regenerative medicine or drugs, or nano technology. Isn’t this where we live for in this world? We all go to school, practice sports and try to live happily with friends and family to enjoy our lives. Why can we not achieve this with human enhancement?
Of course the book is too extensive to discuss but one more interesting argument out of it is that human enhancement requires to reconceptualize our ideas of what it is to be human and humanity as a whole. What I think that Harris means with this is that there will be different standards for humans in the future in comparison with the present in a sense that for example every embryo is genetically engineered or everybody take regenerative medicines so nobody would be surprised.
The overall message of the artwork was to visualize the boundary of humanness in combination with new technologies. I think Haines is succeeded in bringing this topic up by making this drone, because the big bulb floating around the room is kind of a strange thing but the fact that it can make its own decisions based on a human brain really touches this boundary. To foster a discussion this message was divided into two questions which gives different opposing insides concerning the topic.
The answer to the first question: How ethically responsible is it to develop and apply new techniques while keeping in mind the possible harms and risks?’ is maybe general but after searching and writing the different arguments in favor and against I think it is ethically responsible to develop and apply new techniques but we have to avoid the possible harms and risks. The new techniques make life much easier and better if it is used wisely. Everybody wants to avoid the by Hawking called the end of the human race. And of course it is difficult to predict when this is going to happen or what is going to happen when artificial intelligence is unleashed like Adams suggested. But with good legislation for and accurate monitoring of the new techniques it is possible to make life more easy with it, but this is often easier said then done. The artwork is an good example of monitoring the new technique, because when the drone does something unsafe it can be deactivate because the behavior of the drone is monitored.
The answer to the second question: ‘Where can the line between human and non-human be drawn, according to the fact that humans will or can be enhanced by new techniques and artificial intelligence?’ is more difficult to answer because there are many enhancement like glasses or braces to straighten your teeth when having these enhancements you are still a human. But looked at the more futuristic but yet so close the techniques and artificial intelligence I think any form of enhancement is non-human. The question then is which enhancements belong to the category of glasses and teeth braces and which to the really changing humans? Maybe the human enhancements will be accepted if they are slowly slipping into the world and the status quo changes during this introduce. This is what Harris mean with reconceptualize the ideas of what is human. Or that the human enhancement is proven successful in one case so that everyone trust it and is going to use it. Here again we have to be careful with the possible harms and risks. This is the overall conclusion and I also think Haines wanted this to let people think about this topic.