Let’s take a look at one of the responses to my article “You Don’t Own Yourself: Christianity Against Culture Part 1“. Andy Schueler writes:
“Lets assume that it would be possible to create an artificial life form that is very human-like, like Mr. Data from Star Trek or the Replicants in Blade Runner. Would you then say that these artificial people do not own their lives, but that their lives are rather only a loan from some engineers who have the right to reclaim their ‘gift’ if they want to? And if not, why not?”
At the outset we should acknowledge a philosophical problem posed by Andy’s thought experiment. I speak here of the so-called Zombie problem in philosophy of mind. And no, this is not a reference to undead human beings with an insatiable desire for human brains. Rather, it refers to the possibility that extremely effective AI could act as a conscious human being whilst lacking any conscious (let alone self-conscious) life.
But let’s set aside the Zombie problem and assume that a corporation does create a conscious organism. What then, of Andy’s question?
Since Andy wishes this to be an analogy with God’s divine ownership, let’s maximize the continuity. To do that we should begin by supposing that the corporation is supremely benevolent and wise. Thus, we can suppose that however the corporation will act, it will always be in a way consistent with supreme benevolence and wisdom. Thus, they will never act in a capricious manner, as might be suggested by Andy’s reference to “the right to reclaim their ‘gift’ if they want to”.
Next, let’s add that the AI was not merely created by the corporation, but is sustained in existence by that corporation every moment through the benevolent actions of the corporation.
Does the corporation maintain some significant rights of ownership over the AI organism they produced? If we thought otherwise, what would be our basis for thinking this?