in the digital age
I think there is going to be an enormous convergence of information
technologies and biotechnologies. I can think of five or six different
examples, but I will just give you one. Gene regulatory networks
are the central processing machine of organisms for both developmental
and physiological processes. They have the ability in a digital
manner to integrate huge amounts of information very effectively.
Once we learn the secrets to this digital integration of many different
kinds of information, we can begin to think about designing computers
that can handle digital information in much more sophisticated ways.
I think there are great opportunities in biotechnology for companies
that have integrated computation, biology, and medicine. And there
are in medicine going to be enormous computational requirementsdatabases
that can integrate all patient material, future, past, and present.
Leroy Hood, President of the Institute for Systems Biology,
from a lecture titled The Future of University and Biotechnology
Industry Interactions in the Twenty-First Century, sponsored
by the Woodruff Health Sciences Center on September 22, 2003
As machines become more life-like and people, through the use of
such things as mechanical limbs, cochlear implants, and cortical
implants, become more like machines, all sorts of moral questions
arise. At what point, if ever, do artificial beings acquire consciousness,
a human spirit, or a soul? Could humans ever become so machine-like
that they lose their humanity? Whats the moral status of a
hybrid human-machine being? Bionic technology aids not only the
ill and the handicapped; increasingly, it will enhance strength,
intelligence, beauty, and health. Should only the rich have access
to these benefits? If not, then how do we select the recipients?
. . . No matter what the intentions of those who make artificial
beings, unintended outcomes may complicate the effects on humans.
Still, intended uses matter. Most U.S. robotics research is funded
by the Department of Defense. But in Japan, funding comes from corporations
and governments for civilian usesa difference in intention
that raises issues.
Sidney Perkowitz, Candler Professor of Physics, from Machine
Morality: The Good, the Bad, and the Artificial speaking at
a colloquium sponsored
by the Institute for Liberal Arts on November 4, 2003