More Human than Human

Abstract

:Within the literature surrounding nonhuman animals on the one hand and cognitively disabled humans on the other, there is much discussion of where beings that do not satisfy the criteria for personhood fit in our moral deliberations. In the future, we may face a different but related problem: that we might create beings that not only satisfy but exceed these criteria. The question becomes whether these are minimal criteria, or hierarchical, such that those who fulfill them to greater degree should be afforded greater consideration. This article questions the validity and necessity of drawing divisions among beings that satisfy the minimum requirements for personhood; considering how future beings—intelligent androids, synthezoids, even alternate-substrate sentiences—might fit alongside the “baseline” human. I ask whether these alternate beings ought to be considered different to us, and why this may or may not matter in terms of a notion of “human community.” The film Blade Runner, concerned in large part with humanity and its key synthezoid antagonist Roy Batty, forms a framing touchstone for my discussion. Batty is stronger, faster, more resilient, and more intelligent than Homo sapiens. His exploits, far beyond the capability of normal humans, are contrasted with his frailty and transient lifespan, his aesthetic appreciation of the sights he has seen, and his burgeoning empathy. Not for nothing does his creator within the mythos term him “more human than human.”

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