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“How convincing is the view that machines can be persons?”

To analyse whether machines can be persons, we must first establish the necessary criteria for personhood: rationality; creativity; autonomy; responsibility; ability to communicate meaning through language; ability to reflect on one’s experiences, feelings and motives as well as those of others; have both mental and physical characteristics; possess a network of beliefs; and the ability to be social, establishing a sense of self through relationships and sentience.

Technology has been rapidly developing – we now have human-like robots such as ASIMO, possessing some of the characteristics of personhood such as language – it can call objects by their name, mental and physical characteristics – it has a spatial perspective, network of beliefs – it can make inferences and decipher between objects. Although these characteristics aren’t as well developed as those in humans, and only some of the characteristics are present, ASIMO does show us that machines can be persons to a certain extent, and possess the potential to eventually develop all of the necessary characteristics.

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If technology did develop far enough so that robots could possess all the characteristics of personhood, essentially creating androids, these androids would be capable of passing the Turing test – they would be able to hold a conversation and one wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from a human. This would imply that machines can think, as physically, they demonstrate all the characteristics which signify this.

Many philosophers would still dismiss the idea that machines could ever be persons. According to certain philosophers, such as John Searle, there seems to be something missing – in Searle’s case, “understanding”. Searle tries ...

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