Bethesda’s Fallout series had been given the ‘Skyrim treatment’ late in 2015 with the release of Fallout 4. As I expect many of you to know, the Fallout series puts you in the shoes of a highly customisable protagonist as you walk them through a wasteland consisting of American Landmarks and ‘Old World Nostalgia’. However, Bethesda broke some of their own rules this time around, with the inclusion of voices for the player character and a (unusually) highly personal story involving a missing son, 200 years in cryo-sleep and revenge.
What I want to talk about however is one of the new ‘baddies’ in the game, The Institute. Essentially, The Institute is the remnants of technology and staff from the Massachusetts Commonwealth Institute of Technology or CIT for short. As the main antagonist for Fallout 4, The Institute believes that they have the key to return the Boston wasteland to it’s former glory but this involves the replacement of every human being in the wasteland with a synthetic/ human counterpart. The institute also believes that their own ‘Third generation Synths’ (Synthetics who are completely indistinguishable from humans, and usually don’t know they are a Synth) are property or objects and should be treated as such. The player can chose to side with The Institute or oppose them by joining the other factions. I myself joined The Railroad, who’s goal is to free all 3rd Gen Synths from oppression.
The Institute in Fallout 4 raises an extremely tough question: When humanity creates it’s first ‘true’ artificial Intelligence, is it still a machine? Could a true AI be classed as a living thing, a human? With it’s own self awareness, goals and aspirations? Is AI and Synthetic organisms the next chapter in the story of human evolution? The definition for human is as follows (According to Merriam-Webster):
1: of, relating to, or characteristic of humans
2: consisting of humans
3a: having human form or attributes
3b: susceptible to or representative of the sympathies and frailties of human nature <such an inconsistency is very human — P. E.
In relation to Fallout 4’s 3rd Gen Synths this applies nicely. They do indeed have the characteristics of humans: skin, eyes, feelings, emotions. They also have a human form and many of our attributes and are susceptible to the frailty of human nature, save for dying of old age.
So if I could class Synths as being human, well then surely human rights would then apply to them? The most basic rules and definitions associated with being human. According to the first three rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
All human beings are born (created?) free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Therefore, these rights would then apply to Fallout 4’s Synths. So to apply this to the real world (thinking of Alex Garland’s Ex Machina again), would the first truly ‘human’ artificial intelligence be automatically entitled to these rights or would it’s creators simply view it as just another machine or tool? At what point does AI technology cross over into the realm of the living and become ‘human’?
I’m sure the answer to that question is not far away.