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The extreme cases at both poles are impossible, for

relatively boring reasons. At one end, neither the Wizard

of Oz nor John Searle could do the necessary handwork

fast enough to sustain HAL’s quick-witted round of

activities. At the other end, hand-coding enough world

knowledge into a disembodied agent to create HAL’s

dazzlingly humanoid competence and getting it to the

point where it could benefit froman electronic childhood

is a programming task to be measured in hundreds of

efficiently organized person-centuries. In other words,

the daunting difficulties observable at both ends of

this spectrum highlight the fact that there is a colossal

design job to be done; the only practical way of doing

it is one version or another of Mother Nature’s way—

years of embodied learning. The trade-offs between

various combinations of flesh-and-blood and silicon-

and-metal bodies are anybody’s guess. I’m putting my

bet on Cog as the most likely developmental platform

for a future HAL.

Notice that requiring HAL to have a humanoid body and

live concretely in thehumanworld for a time is a practical

but not a metaphysical requirement. Once all the R

& D is accomplished in the prototype, by the odyssey

of a single embodied agent, the standard duplicating

techniques of the computer industry could clone HALs

by the thousands as readily as they do compact discs.

The finished product could thus be captured in some

number of terabytes of information. So, in principle,

the information that fixes the design of all those chips

and hard-wired connections and configures all the RAM

and ROM could be created by hand. There is no finite

bit-string, however long, that is officially off-limits to

human authorship. Theoretically, then, Blade-Runner-

like entities could be created with ersatz biographies;

they would have exactly the capabilities, dispositions,

strengths, and weaknesses of a real, not virtual, person.

So whatever moral standing the latter deserved should

belong to the former as well.

The main point of giving HAL a humanoid past is to give

himtheworld knowledge required to be amoral agent—a

necessary modicum of understanding or empathy

about the human condition. A modicum will do nicely;

we don’t want to hold out for too much commonality

of experience. After all, among the people we know,

many have moral responsibility in spite of their obtuse

inability to imagine themselves into the predicaments

of others. We certainly don’t exculpate male chauvinist

pigs who can’t see women as people!



we exculpate people? We should look carefully

at the answers to this question, because HAL shows

signs of fitting into one or another of the exculpatory

categories, even though he is a conscious agent. First,

we exculpate people who are insane. Might HAL have

gone insane? The question of his capacity for emotion—

and hence his vulnerability to emotional disorder—is

tantalizingly raised by Dave’s answer to Mr. Amer.

Dove: Well, he acts like he has genuine emotions. Of

course, he’s programmed that way, to make it easier for

us to talk to him. But as to whether he has real feelings

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