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ZetaTalk: Bounded Robots
Note: written Jul 15, 1997.

Confusion over whether robots are alive, make choices, or might be incarnated with spirits lies in understanding what is seen versus what is unseen on the surface. On the surface, humans see robots able to entertain focus on a task at hand to the exclusion of all possible distractions, and thus, for instance, win at a game of chess over a human chess master. Is the robot not thinking? Yes and no, depending upon how one classifies thought. To primitive peoples, a simple computer program appears to be thinking, as it can rapidly arrive at a conclusion while entertaining a problem it has been programmed to address. Computer programs are not considered brains by most humans only because they can gaze at and understand the program, and can see that the computer is simply following instructions.

What is seen in robots versus humans is that:

  1. Robots can go places humans cannot, such as the surface of Mars or the outer reaches of the Solar System.
  2. Robots can concentrate on a bounded task, such as a game of chess, far better than humans.
  3. Robots can operate without attention or direction from their human masters.
  4. Humans get distracted by their biological needs.
  5. Humans can have intractable prejudices or cultural viewpoints that they refuse to drop.

What is unseen is that robots are bounded in ways that DNA is not bounded. Humans are bounded by their biology, an inability to put aside their biological needs, so that they cannot travel where robots can, exclusively concentrate on a task as robots can, or remain calm in disturbing circumstances such as a burning building or the torture of another human might present. In overcoming biological imperatives, robots seem superior, especially since the average human does not understand how they have been programmed and are in awe. Robots, however, are bounded in what they can address. Even where robots are designed to repair themselves and make minor adjustments to their surroundings, they are still operating within their original programming.

Humans see their DNA in light of its limitations, an upper limit on IQ, on the speed an athlete can sustain, or on longevity. They see the end result of decisions as limited because the human can only maneuver about in their natural habitat, so the complexity of what went into decision making is not apparent. What is unseen is the spiritual struggle, the pondering of the workings of the Universe, or the multiplicity of factors that go into a single decision to walk down the street or stay in the house! A robot arrives at its decision quickly because it does not ponder. Humans are virtually unlimited in their ability to ponder, which is what makes their life form attractive to the stuff of souls so that entities form within humans. Robots are utterly boring, as they have an inability to ponder, being programmed to reach quick conclusions after considering a set number of variables, and thus do not attract the stuff of souls, regardless of appearances!

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