The other day I was having lunch with some family, when my favorite 21 year-old asked a very profound question. He had asked the question of various family members at different times over the past week and was evaluating all of the answers. I was so impressed with him. I want to share with you his question and my answer. I wonder, what will your answer be?
The question: If robots got to a level where they thought on their own and had feelings, would you treat them as equals, or would you feel that they were lesser than you as a human?
I was taken aback a bit at first, impressed at the depth of his question and the time he was taking to pursue answers from so many of his elders in the family. But I knew my answer immediately; I had been thinking of similar things along a slightly different path, but with the same outcome as what my answer would be.
I had been thinking about the treatment of animals and India’s recent declarations of many animal species as, “non-human sentient beings with rights”, such as dolphins. The move is certainly shocking to most of the world, but I think really a step in the right direction during this time of spiritual paradigm shifts. I think with the internet making videos and information more available to so many people in the world, it makes it easier to be personal observers of the natural world despite being in the city. How many of us spend mornings with coffee looking at videos or images of animals being silly or cute? We are noticing behaviors of inter-species adoptions, animals mourning and grieving, playing with each other or with abandoned human toys such as balls, we see them nurturing and protecting their young much in the same ways as we do.
This began me thinking about animals who have had their young taken from them. Lately, there have been videos on Face Book of animal siblings reunited years later, they recognize each other as family, embrace one another, cuddle, love,and rejoice. Is this not the same emotion that we experience when reunited with long lost family? Are we so different? So, how does the mother animal feel when we separate her from her litter, like in the case of cats and dogs? Do she mourn their absence, too?
I began thinking about the history of slaves. I had studied in college quite a bit of Black American literature and I began thinking about the concept of the quilt in their history. Their family lines pieced together like a quilt. The damage to their geneology and family lines, the damage to their history by being treated as animals, as property, their children being separated from them. Is this not the same energy? When we treat beings whether it be people that are different from us, (“us,” being whatever the dominant group is), animals, or robots for that matter, aren’t we being destructive, cruel, and egotistical? I am not equating Black Americans as animals, that is not the point of this. However, in the history of slavery in America, the treatment of the slaves and the thought by many, was that they were equivalent to animals. This is an error in thinking in my belief, however an ugly historical fact in that part of American past. I think history has proven this over and over again in every instance that we create an, “us and them” scenario. We have seen it in the Holocaust, slavery in the U.S., and every genocide in the world. It seems to be a behavior that we haven’t learned from!
As we continue to evolve spiritually, I hope that we strive to ponder these difficult questions. There are no easy answers. For me, I believe that we need to treat everyone as we would want to be treated, whether that is another human, an animal, or a robot. We all have different levels of understanding or processing, different perspectives in living, however life in general has common threads. It is our responsibility, at the level of intelligence we as humans generally operate in, to care for, and support those among us, or in the world that have needs. We were intended to be stewards of this planet, not the destroyers of it. We are foolish so often, both with our own species as well as others.
As we advance, the robotic world is also advancing. If we do not teach both ourselves as well as new life perhaps emerging with robots or cyborg incarnations, we are setting ourselves up for failure and probably a terrible future. Robots will surpass us. We must be the positive role models for the future. Let’s hope that we are good ones. If not, perhaps we will face a future more like depicted in the Terminator movies.
2016 copyright by Katie Pifer, available at http://www.witchpetals.wordpress.com