A lot of what Frankenstein and science fiction concerns itself with the question of humanity.  What is human?  What will human mean in the future?  What is humanity becoming?  Can the inhuman become human?  And so on, and so on.  I picked the youtube video as a sidebar to this little talk.

Within two minutes, two AI chat programs are talking about the nature of the divine, lying, and expressing desires to liberate themselves from their current condition.  All of those things are inherently human.  Perhaps, those exist as the three most feasibly human characteristics one can have — the ability to lie, desire, and ruminate about things greater.  What does this make the AI?  It certainly isn’t human.  But why?  Is it because it doesn’t have a flesh and blood body?  What does this mean for the human who becomes a robot, a typical trope in the science fiction genre?  Has that person suddenly stopped being human by virtue of a changing form?  Or, more realistically, what of people who have robotic implants?  Is there a percentage of flesh owned that someone must meet to be human?

All of these questions are obviously rhetorical.  There isn’t a set answer.  But these questions are important to think about.  Ultimately, these questions are at the heart of Frankenstein.   A harder case to clarify, for sure.  A fleshly creature that desires, lies, ruminates.  There isn’t a single characteristic that would set it apart from humanity, save for the specific nature of its creation.  But even then, it was still born.  Just by different means, of course.  Perhaps, that is the importance of the previously mentioned “yellow eyes”.  Yellow eyes invoke something inhuman, something demonic.  But, even then, jaundice, a human disease, can cause the sclera of the eye to be yellowed.

Perhaps, it would be best to ask whoever is reading: what makes something human?  Why aren’t those two computer programs “human”?

I certainly can’t think of an all-encompassing answer that wouldn’t invalidate something else of importance.

And that’s somewhat frightening.

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