What Makes Humans Special

Anyone who has ever interacted with an animal has quickly noticed one thing: they're pretty stupid. It's hard not to laugh when we see a dog chase his own tail, or a bird repeatedly trying to fly through a window. We look down on them so condescendingly, but as AI grows more and more capable, soon, we might not be the ones laughing. Of all the living beings of the earth, there is something that sets us apart. But it is not because of our intelligence, as many people first assume. The thing that truly separates us from everything else is the power to do Good and Evil.

Blameless Animals and Self Mastery

Animals are not responsible for their actions because they are not their own masters. They are pulled in every direction by their whims and impulses. If a wolf eats a rabbit, the wolf didn't decide to commit this act based on reasoned calculation, but he did it simply because he felt like it. Sure, the food chain and endless cycles of killing exist because animals need to eat, but does a wolf know that? No. To the wolf, all that there was was an inexplicable urge to devour a rabbit that grew and grew until the wolf had to act. An animal can't act in opposition to these urges, so they really can't be held accountable for anything they do. We, on the other hand, know what our impulses are and why they exist. We have the knowledge to choose which ones we act on and which ones we don't.

What Children and The Insane Have in Common

In effect, we treat children as if they are not fully human. This has nothing to do with their intelligence. Even if some 5 year old whiz kid could do calculus in his head, we wouldn't allow them to live on their own, vote in elections, or do all the same things we can. It is because they can't truly claim responsibility for anything that they accomplish. All of their beliefs, thoughts, and actions are a direct consequence of their parents, caretakers, culture and society at large. Children don't have enough experience in the real world for them to form their own conclusions, so their choices are not their own, and neither is the responsibility for those choices. If a child commits murder, we balk at the idea of making them truly pay for their actions. Instead we look towards the parents for what went wrong.

Lunatics are similar, both in the way we treat them and why we do so. Their mental illness either prevents them from seeing the world as it really is, or prevents them from having the capacity to act on that world in a reasoned way. Oftentimes, people who were otherwise normal can even enter these lessened states of awareness, either through intoxication or a temporary panic attack or nervous breakdown. If an insane person commits a terrible act, we assign much less blame towards those individuals for their actions.

Free Will ~ What AI can never take from us

First, we thought an AI could never play chess because of how many possible moves are there. Next we thought the same about Go. Once AI had conquered those, we moved onto creative industries, saying that AI could never learn to draw because algorithms can't capture the complexity of Art. The day is getting closer to when there is very little a human could do better than AI.

However one thing that humans will always have is responsibility for our actions. An AI can never be responsible for anything because all it achieves are the achievements of the person who commands it. Even if an AI makes another AI, humans still hold on to one end of the chain of responsibility, and the rest was gravity letting the events fall into place. AI can and will be used as a tool for both Good and Evil, but that doesn't mean that the AI itself was either Good or Evil. All blame lies in ourselves.