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Author Topic: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)  (Read 629 times)

kazbert

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Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« on: April 19, 2017, 07:13:13 pm »
Is AI too narrow a topic for this writer's forum?  I have three SDL stories in varying degrees of first drafts and it sure helps to have some ears/eyes to bounce ideas off of. 

My current headache revolves around whether or not an SDL's emotions (assuming they were programmed to simulate emotions) are in some way real or just entirely fake.  Humans are able to feel real emotions but are also able to fake them.  But barring an emotional disability a human is able to discern whether they are faking it or not, and faking it is almost always done to be deceptive for some selfish motivation.

An SDL can simulate the outward manifestations of emotions but, like humans, there can be a difference in motivations. 

Humans also don't create their emotions (or do they).  Our emotions are stimulus-response reactions.  We can learn to control our outward manifestations of our emotions (and calm ourselves internally when agitated), but we don't, for example, decide to be anxious and then become anxious inside, or decide to be angry and then become angry inside and out.  OTOH, isn't that precisely what a good actor does -- choose to generate inside themselves whatever emotion the character they are playing is feeling? 

You see what I mean?  There's a lot of what-ifs to bandy about.  The story itself can explore all this, but I find my opinions changing back and forth as I write various alternate scenes.
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dyany

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2017, 02:08:52 am »
Why would it be too narrow a topic?  It's what you're writing about.  It fits.

Emotions are tricky things.  They are definitely NOT stimulus-response reactions--they are primarily learned behaviors and reactions.  One thing I find most interesting in its falseness is the pervasive belief in simple dichotomies in life.  This is one of them.  Our emotions are complex things influenced by many, many things--chemicals, nerve impulses, memories, learned behaviors, our decisions, etc., etc., etc. 

So, first I have some questions.  Is a Sentient Digital Lifeform (which would require a different definition of 'lifeform' than the one I am familiar with) purely software, or does it include full integration a body/chassis which can influence its perceptions and input?  Are there chemical reactions involved in its sentience, or purely software? 
I think if it is pure software, then any 'emotions' would have to follow flowchart rules--basically, 'if this, then that.'  It could be a very complex flowchart with multiple stimuli and processes going on simultaneously.  But it would all have to follow logical processes.  If chemical components & processes were thrown in, that could introduce a level of unpredictability, but otherwise, if the SDL is fully sentient of all its processes, any 'emotion' would have to be simulated at best.
However, I think that the emotions could be fairly 'real' if they included an important element: if the SDL's sentience did NOT cover all its processes.  If its level of 'consciousness' and awareness only covered a limited amount of its processes, leaving certain behaviors and software or chemical outcomes confusing or not really understandable or knowable, it would be very real.  I mean, that's mostly what we do, right?  Maybe you are really exacting in keeping track of all receipts.  You don't think about it, you may think it's what everyone does.  But you do it because you grew up poor, and you have deep-seated fears of loss of financial independence or just poverty.  You aren't thinking all that through, in fact you hardly notice it.  But it affects your feelings and therefore your actions.  There are complexities there, which if we could SEE all the processes and input and history, would make complete sense and seem transparent.  But because so much is hidden or forgotten, and we don't see the process chain, it just seems 'emotional' and unpredictable.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2017, 12:12:44 pm by dyany »
 
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N3uroTypical

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2017, 10:20:09 am »
My current headache revolves around whether or not an SDL's emotions (assuming they were programmed to simulate emotions) are in some way real or just entirely fake.
...
Humans also don't create their emotions (or do they).
In the last 4-5 years, I've changed a lot emotionally.  These days I can 'make myself feel' certain things, but it's by conjuring up memories and experiences that are tied to specific emotions.  For whatever reason, the heavy/dark/sad categories are usually easier, but I can also usually scrounge up some joy/gratitude/love if I try hard enough.

It's like a filing cabinet I choose to open.  Some drawers are easy, some get stuck but can usually get opened with a few good tugs.

Whether I'm creating my emotions, or just summoning emotions that are already there, is a question I expect to find answered in this book you're writing.  Don't keep a guy in suspense for too long!  ;)
"Somebody should have set a match to this place long ago."
 
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kazbert

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2017, 11:41:46 am »
Many thanks for all the comments!  Lots to ponder!

Dyany and NT, Iíll assume youíre both familiar with the ďStar Trek: The Next Generation,Ē (ďTNGĒ for short) series.  One of the stories Iím writing is fan fiction for TNG, and my SDL is a holodeck (HD) sim that evolved and became sentient.

My fan fiction is a sequel to the episode (S1-E15) where the sim named Minuet is introduced.  In that episode, the Bynars download an enhancement code to an HD.   I call it the Bynarian Enhancement Code, or BEC.  That BEC takes an ordinary HD sim and makes it indistinguishable from a real person.  Because of the BEC, Minuet is aware that her purpose is to hit Will Riker like a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball and enthrall him so he doesnít notice that the ship is being hijacked. 

Addressing several points/questions:

Emotions and Chemistry:
An AI does not have to be sentient to behave intelligently.  Thatís why Iíve coined the term SDL (Sentient Digital Lifeform), which stands in contrast to SBLís (Sentient Biological Lifeforms).  There can be hybrids, but not in the stories Iím currently writing.  The charactersí intelligence and emotions are either entirely digital or entirely biological. 

My SDLs do not need a physical body.    The TNG character Data is an android, thus has a body.  He is an SDL, too, but a different form of SDL.  The only things permanently physical about my SDL are the silicon chips that hold her code.  She can assume a physical presence if she has access to an HD emitter (projector), but otherwise can use a simple speaker or monitor to express herself.

In another non-fan-fiction story Iím writing, there is an AI colony.  The individual AIís body depends entirely on the function they were built to perform.  If the function is purely intellectual (such as the governor of the colony) there is no need for a body of any kind.  And whether or not the AI is built to be sentient also depends on the intended function.  Itís a caste system.

Conscious/unconscious processes:
In my TNG fan fiction, the SDL has a learning code.  The SDL can both consciously and unconsciously alter its own code to adapt to its environment in accomplishing its purpose.  In my story, Minuet has a decision matrix that is multi-layered and lets her adapt on the fly to Will Rikerís body language and facial micro-expressions to make herself his perfect girl.  That decision matrix is an unconscious process.  But the BEC also has a weighed value system, and the BEC can both consciously and unconsciously alter it.  Basically, Minuet starts out as a bad girl because sheís been programmed that way, but as my story develops she modifies her value system as she observes the values and behaviors of the crew and observes the results of those values and behaviors. 

All that said, that characterís muse insists that she is capable of evolving real feelings, so Iíll have to figure out some mechanism to allow that to happen and not have it just be ďand then a miracle occurs.Ē

At the end of the original TNG episode, the BEC is deleted by the Bynars, so Minuet goes from hubba-hubba to just an ordinary HD sim.  In my sequel, the BEC becomes sentient just before its deletion, copies and hides herself (BEC-2), so she essentially fakes her own death.  Also, I decided that the BEC is a feminine character.  She was designed from the get go to enthrall a specific straight male, so the BEC is a she.  In my AI Colony story, none of the AI have a gender because they donít need it.

Creating vs summoning emotions:
Iím of the opinion that humans experience a diversity of modalities for triggering emotions.  Thatís why I think emotions have a stimulus/response component, even if they are not entirely that way.  I know traumas can leave trap doors in oneís mind that can be triggered unintentionally.  I usually avoid prodding the ground in my mind looking to trigger them.  Iíve been writing my biography to leave for my progeny, and itís been a hit or miss process.  With the right trigger I can recall a lot of things, but there are some things that are so removed from my memory that they are essentially irretrievable.  Iíve read of events I wrote in my journal 34 years ago and even reading the details does not bring the memory back.  I simply look at it and think, ďWell, I wrote it, so it must have happened.Ē  Throughout my life my memory has been like an aging computer hard drive.  Once the sector goes bad that memory is gone.  And if I try to write a new memory onto a bad sector I wonít remember it the next day.  Itís gone.

NT:  I too have changed a lot emotionally over the past five years, and not for the better.  My kidney disease and the 9 months of dialysis prior to my transplant caused cognitive degradation, and also altered me emotionally and spiritually.  Iím working hard now to try to get back to my old self.

As for being kept in suspense waiting for all the profound answers in my book, sorry pal.  My story writing right now is the literary equivalent of a doodle.  Iím just starting to take some of those doodles and begin adding more detail, but I might never develop the chops to write a novel worth reading.  Developing those skills is a huge investment in time, and Iím not convinced yet that I want to make that commitment.  But as time passes I do feel an increasing desire to leave behind something more than a sketch pad of literary doodles.

A tangent:
For any reader who believes in spirits or souls, that raises its own questions, but I'm not inclined to address those in my stories (yet).  That said, I believe that it would be very important to us spiritually how we respond to an artificial lifeform that is outwardly completely indistinguishable from a human both in how it appears and how it handles dialogue.  If I could purchase such an android, could I abuse it verbally and physically and genuinely feel no remorse for doing so only because it is a machine?  I donít think we can so easily use a technicality like that to sidestep the injunction to, ĒLet virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.Ē  But where do we draw that line?  Is it okay to purchase such an android to perform as a servant (chief cook and bottle washer, maid, etc.) without calling it slavery?  Technically it isnít slavery, but I think any sentient being, even an artificial one, would see it as slavery.  There may be some degree of acceptance (itís their dharma Ė born to be a slave), but I think that any sentient being, real or artificial, would naturally desire freedom and resent captivity.
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dyany

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2017, 04:16:11 pm »
So, pretty much like I was saying, as long as some of the processes are not within the purview of the sentience/consciousness of the AI, they pretty much act like emotions and could be defined as such.  I just don't like calling them lifeforms because they are not life.  Sentience and life do not need to be connected all the time.  It doesn't have anything to do with behaving intelligently (which some programs can do now). 
As I interpreted that episode of TNG, they didn't delete Minuet, it was just that the extra 'oomph' that made her different was removed.  But the BEC-2 idea still works because its sentience would probably define itself by its entirety, and as such could and would copy over that which gave her the extra 'oomph' along with everything else.
My first degree is in psychology, where stimulus/response is pretty specific, so I still don't like tying that phrase with emotions, but I'm me. :)
 
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kazbert

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2017, 04:57:41 pm »
So, pretty much like I was saying, as long as some of the processes are not within the purview of the sentience/consciousness of the AI, they pretty much act like emotions and could be defined as such.  I just don't like calling them lifeforms because they are not life.  Sentience and life do not need to be connected all the time.  It doesn't have anything to do with behaving intelligently (which some programs can do now). 
As I interpreted that episode of TNG, they didn't delete Minuet, it was just that the extra 'oomph' that made her different was removed.  But the BEC-2 idea still works because its sentience would probably define itself by its entirety, and as such could and would copy over that which gave her the extra 'oomph' along with everything else.
My first degree is in psychology, where stimulus/response is pretty specific, so I still don't like tying that phrase with emotions, but I'm me. :)

For a Latter-day Saint, I admit that I'm playing pretty loose with the term "life."  I have no intention of analyzing in my story whether or not my SDL has a soul.  As a Mormon, I find that notion a tough sell.

As for what deserves to be called "life," I did my homework and I found that the way we humans define life is circular reasoning.  It does not allow for anything non-carbon-based and non-organic to be called life.  From my view, that is a bias we have because we haven't encountered any life that would cause us to challenge the way we define it.  My stories take place hundreds of years into the future, and it is acknowledged that there is non-carbon-based life though we humans continue to fear it or treat it suspiciously. 

You are correct about Minuet.  If you read the first chapter of my story I address that very point.  What was deleted was the enhancement code, not the profile for Minuet's sim.  I went into Netflix only a couple of weeks ago and watched that episode again to make sure I had the dialogue right.  When Riker returns to the holodeck, the Minuet sim is still there, but without the enhancement code she is a shadow of her former enhanced self, and Riker tells Picard, "She's gone."  My story also delves into the reasons why the Bynars deleted the enhancement code rather than leaving it in place, a point not explored in the original story.

I appreciate that your schooled use of the term "stimulus/response" is narrower than that used by layman.  I run into that all the time as an engineer where terms like "stress" and "strain" take on a much narrower technical meaning than how a layman uses those words.  Could we work together to come up with a more accurate way to phrase what I am describing?
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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2017, 07:59:22 pm »
You bring up a good point about "life" and Mormon doctrine.  I think the defining characteristic is agency.  And that may impact how you portray AI and SDL behavior.

God gave us agency in mortality: Moses 4:3 and Moses 7:32.  If SDLs have agency, it sets up an interesting relationship between the created entity and the "maker" who wrote the code.  Would SDLs worship the maker as a god?

Agency makes us accountable: D&C 101:78.  Can SDLs be punished by authority for their choices? Or are they exempt from the laws and authority because they aren't accountable?  Would a moral system of justice eliminate or incarcerate an SDL which had been designed to do criminal things?

Agency is the ability to choose against goodness and light according to knowledge: D&C 93:31. Can SDLs behave in evil ways? Can they be evil?

Satan seeks to destroy our agency: Moses 4:3. If SDLs have some semblance of agency, will there be an antagonist who seeks to enslave or destroy them? What will the maker's responsibility be toward the SDLs?
 
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dyany

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2017, 08:27:30 pm »
I remember a Star Trek TOS episode where they found a silicone based lifeform and it kind of dealt with that narrow definition.  I am looking at it more from a scientific angle than LDS--besides, we as LDS have a far broader definition of what can have souls than almost every other religion, and life is not necessary for something to have a soul.  JS taught that even the rocks have souls (which always makes me wonder: the earth has a soul, we know.  Are rocks just part of her as an entity so their soul is just an extension of hers?  Curious), while most other Christian denominations don't even believe animals have souls.
To acknowledge Roper's post: I don't think agency has anything to do with defining life.  Defining what makes us, as humans, different from animals, yes.  But animals are definitely alive, but they don't have much agency (depends on the species) and they definitely are not accountable.  Honestly--we even have people who are not held accountable, because their understanding is not enough for their choices to be as in their control.
The definition of life seems so obvious, but even viruses are debated as to whether they are life forms or not.  That makes me really try to explore how I, personally, define life.  I would have to say that I define it as this: something which consumes, performs functions, has the general ability to procreate after its own kind, and scientifically originated through a natural process rather than as the creation of another sentient lifeform.  I know that some will really rip on that last point, especially if they believe that God created us ex nihilo or by some 'magical' means (because my last point would therefore mean that we are not life), but as we are taught that God works through natural means, I don't classify it the same way at all.  And this is MY definition.

I honestly think of emotions more like a chemical algorithm or flow chart than stimulus-response.  You have a lot of factors in the equation.  Memories, physical environment, learned behaviors, etc.  Most of the factors influence each other in a complicated and convoluted fashion, but given enough understanding of how the combinations and levels affect each other (God level, basically), it makes as much sense as computer code.  Stimulus-response is simpler and more one-way.  Algorithms can be much more complex and have a lot of back and forth between factors. 
I think one of the reasons the term stimulus-response bothers me in terms of emotions is it oversimplifies, and while I love science, we as humans (including scientists) have an overwhelming tendency to oversimplify to the point that we miss the mark entirely, and the errors of this are rampant through the entire history of scientific thought.  Basically, we have limited understanding of influencing factors, limited abilities to detect and measure every possible factor, but a huge propensity to say, "oh I have this figured out."  For instance: We really only started gaining understanding of microbes and their roles in disease maybe 200 years ago.  There was a LOT that was still undetectable with equipment and such of the time, but by the late 19th century, it was strongly believed in many circles that if we simply 'took control' (as a sort of manifest destiny of the natural world) and eliminated all microbes, that disease, decay, and possibly even death could be eradicated.  We now know much more, enough to know that the roles of bacteria, fungi, and viruses are important in a very complicated ecosystem, and we are just starting to have glimpses of some of the impacts we make by forcing vastly different ecosystems to mingle by traveling, moving species, and controlling areas of climate (like greenhouses, etc.).  Yet over and over again, we see scientists who believe that they/we 'finally have it figure out' and 'this time for sure.'  Dude, science is about constantly gathering data and knowledge.  It's not nearly as much about making firm conclusions as lots of people think it is.  I see this a lot with the derision that much of the scientific community has for religion.  They cannot measure faith.  They draw incorrect conclusions based on data from the history of the people who claim to follow religions, and they have personal biases based (in part) on the large contingent of religions that see science as 'questioning' which is verboten, so combined with the fact that we AS OF YET can't detect or measure spirit or its influence, that's more than enough for many scientists to reject any and all religious explanations or factors out of hand.  That is honestly bad science.  That's like saying you hate Chinese food because all the Chinese restaurants in your town are awful and the waiters there are jerks to you.  You can say, "I hate the Chinese food in my town," but to be valid science, it must acknowledge the limits of the sample and your ability to sample anything else, and add the proper qualifiers so that it is understood that the data is limited and therefore the theory that you hate Chinese food may be wrong.

Anyway, sorry I thoroughly distracted myself. :P  TL;DR: emotions are more complicated than stimulus-response.
 
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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2017, 10:58:11 pm »
I think agency is tied to emotion, at least from our human perspective.  An emotion might be triggered by innumerable factors in the environment, but at some point, we can choose what we do with that emotion. 

I think sentience is an interesting concept to consider from a sci-fi perspective. Sentient to what extent?  Would SDLs operate on the level of animals--experiencing an emotion such as fear and then responding with fight, flight or freeze? Or would an SDL be able to shape its emotion based on other considerations?  Does that require knowledge of some kind of moral code and the capacity to choose? Or would the SDL operate from an astronomically immense database of outcomes based on probabilities (of success, survival, etc.)

A fascinating consideration, to be sure.
 
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kazbert

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2017, 11:49:17 pm »
Roper: 
I think agency is more closely linked to sin and accountability than to what's alive versus what isn't.  Even if I agree that a rock has a "soul" of some kind, it's not alive.  If I take a hammer and smash it into dust I have not done something immoral.

I think that if an SDL is deemed to be deserving of human-like rights, then it is accountable for itself under the law.  Otherwise its creator or owner is responsible for its actions.

Sentience:

Iím applying the term somewhat loosely.  What I mean when I use it is that the life form possesses a sufficient sense of self that it deserves human-like rights (is not property).

Dyany:

The 7 Characteristics of Life:
http://infohost.nmt.edu/~klathrop/7characterisitcs_of_life.htm
Living things:
1) Are composed of cells
2) Have different levels of organization
3) Use energy
4) Respond to their environment
5) Grow
6) Reproduce
7) Adapt to their environment.

Because of (1) above, my SDL's could never be deemed to be alive.  I consider this to be an earth-centric, organic-centric bias.

Emotions:

As an engineer, I am required to understand the difference between correlation and causation, and I understand that there can be complex interactions between contributing factors.  There are statistical methods for determining which factors dominate the equation and how strong inter-factor interactions are.  That said, we also acknowledge that not all the factors can be precisely described.  Or sometimes vice-versa, where some factors are so complex that it is impossible to simplify it enough to be able to make useful calculations. 

Picture a black box with numerous inputs but a single output.  What happens to the inputs inside the black box can be quite complex, but there will be an output of some kind and it is not random unless the box is designed to produce a random output.  That output might take a variety of forms, but it is a result of what went into the box and what happened inside the box.  That's what I mean by stimulus/response.  Itís all input/output.  In saying that I do not mean to imply that the output is necessarily predictable.   The inputs may vary and the interactions between inputs might vary as well.  But the output is not random even if it defies efforts to predict the output with 100% accuracy.  For my SDLís, their emotions are based in mathematics, but that black box might change over time, both consciously and unconsciously.  My SDLís can also intentionally throw in a random input for the purpose of mimicking human unpredictability, but for me that feels like cheating.

A chemical reaction can be represented by a black box with some kind of mathematical algorithm inside.  Anything mathematical can be represented in a computer code.

Here's an example showing why I'm using "stimulus/response" in relation to emotions:  I don't cry.  It's not a macho thing.  I just had a rough childhood and not feeling anything is a defense mechanism that is hard to reverse.  When I feel like I'm about to cry, I slam it back down hard.  But in the last 5 minutes of Toy Story 3 I choked up and shed a few tears 3 times.  It snuck up on me and I got sucked in before I could back out.  Pixar played me like a violin.  They know how to create a stimulus that would result in that response.  What happened inside me was very complex, but I still feel it was an input/output kind of thing.  If that's not stimulus/response, then what is a more correct way to phrase it?

When it is all said and done, what Iím still left struggling with is a way to define what ďrealĒ emotions are in a way that can be applied to the SDLís in my story.  Iím inclined to think that if human emotions, however complex, can be viewed as input/output then I can argue that my SDLís emotions should be considered as just as real and valid as human emotions, especially if human emotional reactions can be taught as opposed to being entirely innate.

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2017, 10:17:30 am »
If we use the example of crying at the end of Toy Story to illustrate emotion, then I think it's important to ensure SDLs have the same unpredictable emotional responses--there will be a range of responses from none to full-on sobbing, for example.  Emotions will have to be a unique response, shaped by experience, for each individual.
 
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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2017, 01:20:51 pm »
Emotions will have to be a unique response, shaped by experience, for each individual.

I can work with that.  I my first chapter, where BEC-1 creates BEC-2, I note that after a few milliseconds passed following BEC-2's creation the two ceased to be completely identical.  They literally possessed two different points of view and with the passing of time would become less and less identical and more and more unique.  That difference never manifested because BEC-2 spent the next two months shut down and hidden away, while BEC-1 was deleted only seconds after hiding BEC-2. 
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dyany

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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2017, 01:55:14 pm »
I love this conversation. :)

Emotion may have no output at all.  You can feel an emotion without any sort of display.  Yes, you cried in Toy Story 3, but you have felt emotions many, MANY times without crying.  The emotions may still be in the black box.  Doesn't mean they don't exist.  Am I correct in assuming that what you mean by 'response' is outward display/action?  Because that is quite different from emotion, though it is usually caused and/or influenced by emotion.

"Sufficient sense of self that it deserves human-like rights" -- that is an interesting argument, most especially because 'deserve' is such a relative and amorphous term.  I mean, many animals are very sentient, AND they are living beings.  We don't grant them human-like rights (which are defined as what?) and the few people who fight for those rights for animals are considered whackjob extremists by the majority of the world population. 

That site you linked to was interesting, too.  I don't understand where you get the organic(defined as carbon-based)-centric from this model, though.  Nothing mentioned in what I read requires the organism be carbon-based.  For that matter, it doesn't require earth-based, either. 

I find it interesting that you are fighting so hard for them to be defined as lifeforms.  I mean, language is something that humans collectively create and control.  The reason we have it is to be able to communicate ideas, usually both intellectual and visceral.  As it stands now, 'life' has a fairly clear definition that most people accept and understand (even if they can't articulate things like the 7 characteristics), and that is important in terms of being able to communicate.  What gets me is that there are movements in humanity to take simple words and redefine them for the purposes of a subset of the population.  Some examples: the "everyone is beautiful" movement, the "redefining marriage" movement.
I don't like these movements, for many reasons.  Example: the word beauty, in the common lexicon, generally means "visually appealing."  Yes, it can also mean a general greatness to the object of the description, but when referring only to visual input, it means appealing to the eye, and most of the argument I have seen made refers to trying to redefine our sense of what is visually appealing.  I think the reason for this is an attempt to gain the advantages given to those considered beautiful.  But this is the wrong approach.  If you change the meaning of the word to mean something completely different, you destroy it, because that's all the word is.  People would just start using different words to mean what that word used to mean, because people will ALWAYS differentiate that sort of thing.  The movement, to me, should be far more about learning to value that which is NOT 'beautiful,' rather than trying to redefine beauty to try to gain the value our society places on beauty. 
So, you are fighting to have your sentient digital beings defined as lifeforms, and rail against the definition of 'life' because it can't include them.  Why?  The definition of 'life' as it stands is fine and serves its purpose quite well.  And frankly, sentient digital beings don't need to be defined as life to have value and be interesting or gain rights. 
Most of the time I see fights to change the definition of something, it is because the fighter wants something that the things/people who are defined by that word already have.  Ugly people want to be called beautiful because they want what the pretty people have--people to be innately attracted to them.  Homosexuals are dissatisfied with civil unions and are demanding the right to marry (and they feed this demand with non-factually based claims that most of their relationships would be the exact same as traditional marriages in stability, strength, contributions to society, and psychological health if they were just allowed to marry) because they think somehow it will give their relationships the legitimacy and respect our society has given traditional marriages.  Do you see the problem?  Changing the definition of a word may have a limited visceral effect, since common words have visceral connotations.  But the ideas behind the words don't change, and will just find another way to be communicated. 
 
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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2017, 02:46:47 pm »
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Most of the time I see fights to change the definition of something, it is because the fighter wants something that the things/people who are defined by that word already have.  Ugly people want to be called beautiful because they want what the pretty people have--people to be innately attracted to them.  Homosexuals are dissatisfied with civil unions and are demanding the right to marry (and they feed this demand with non-factually based claims that most of their relationships would be the exact same as traditional marriages in stability, strength, contributions to society, and psychological health if they were just allowed to marry) because they think somehow it will give their relationships the legitimacy and respect our society has given traditional marriages.
I think that's a simplistic and unsupportable generalization of others' motives.  I think much stronger motives stem from our desires to belong, to not be excluded because we're different, to be accepted and even to be loved for who we are. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That means the definition is neither authoritative nor universally exclusive.

In context of the SDL consideration, I think that can be part of the argument for a more inclusive definition of "life."
 
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Re: Sentient Digital Lifeforms (SDL)
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2017, 09:35:24 pm »
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I think that's a simplistic and unsupportable generalization of others' motives.  I think much stronger motives stem from our desires to belong, to not be excluded because we're different, to be accepted and even to be loved for who we are. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That means the definition is neither authoritative nor universally exclusive.

I think we actually agree, but I'm not sure you understand what I am saying.  Yes, we want to 'belong,' but there are many ways to do that.  One way that doesn't work is changing the meaning of a word.  I want to belong.  I may think I want to belong in circles which put great value on physical beauty (according to their standards of physical beauty).  Lots of people feel this way, and our huge dieting, makeup, and plastic surgery industries are built on that desire.  However, there is a newer movement that still wants to belong in those circles, but is now demanding that the circles in which they want to fit be the ones to change, by redefining 'beauty.' 
Now, what standards the people and the culture have for beauty (defined as visually appealing) vary widely, and change over time.  So I in no way have been fighting to change the 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'  In fact, I am upholding that.  Because the fight to change what beauty means is telling our culture at large that they CAN'T define their standards of beauty themselves, that they need to conform to what the protesters say it is.  Hogwash.  Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.  That means I get to set my own standards as to what I find visually attractive. 
The REAL problem is the false belief that being visually attractive is what will make you valued or worthy of the love of others.  Again, hogwash.  Yes, there is some value to beauty.  And yes, some people value that trait WAY too much.  But trying to change their minds by changing the meaning of the word 'beauty' will not make them think someone is more attractive.  And people who feel the need to be considered attractive will find that being called 'beautiful' by the definition changing instead of the world, or themselves, doesn't feel any better than how they feel now.  Personally, I had to find value in other realms for myself.  I had some characteristics of beauty, but age and illness kind of took those away.  So I have 3 ways I can deal with it: 1) try to force the people I want to find me attractive to change their standards of what is visually appealing, 2) Go to a lot of time, effort, expense, and probably pain to change my body to meet their standards of what is visually appealing, or 3) realize that I don't have to be 'beautiful' to fit in or be loved or accepted (and that includes being loved and accepted by myself).  People can and do love me for some of my many other qualities.  Sometimes once they love me for other reasons, I may start to be more visually attractive to them, even 'beautiful.'  But it wasn't being visually appealing in the first place that made me beautiful.  And that is what I see the movement trying to redefine.  Because they are NOT working on people redefining what you find visually attractive once you know someone.   They are working from images alone.
 
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