I believe a more adequate and common-sense solution is to consider the question of personhood froma behavioral rather than a genetic point of view. The possibility of encountering entirely new and strange typesof human beings is a prospect that Western culture hasn’t had to deal with since the opening up of the NewWorld in the sixteenth century. We recognize the colonial injustices done and we continue to see therepercussions of the violent first encounter between First Nations peoples and Europeans in North America,yet we still haven’t formulated a proper account of what went wrong and what we would do again in a similarsituation. If we examine the question from both sides of the conflict, as conquerors and as conquered, we willrecognize that our perception of the genetic ‘others’ as somehow less human is a trap that leads to violenceand war. Surely a new formulation of the question of personhood must take into account the atrocities causedby our past inability to consider personhood from an objective, universal standpoint. If we are prejudiced byour own biology, we will be forced to admit that no alien species, no matter how intellectually, ethically, ortechnologically superior could ever be worthy of the same respect we grant to our own geno-comrades.Anthropomorphism prevents us from asking the general question of what it means to be a person because itdoesn’t allow us to get outside of our own communities, cultures, countries and genetic composition to auniversal perspective.
A Modified Turing Test +Dasein
The need to step outside of our genetic prejudices necessitates examining the question of personhoodfrom a behavioral rather than a physical perspective. Alan Turing's Turing Test is a convenient point of departure to imagine what a behavioral model of personhood might look like
. Turing asks whether a systemof machine-based logic could ever be considered to possess intelligence, with the implication that, givenenough computing power, a machine capable of thought would require us to rethink our conception of sentience and personhood, and possibly extend these concepts to include artificial intelligence. The TuringTest is a modified version of ‘The Imitation Game’, a simple party game where an interrogator and two players,one male and one female, are isolated from each other, with the sole method of interaction being writtencommunication, e.g. a pen and a pad of paper or a computer terminal. The interrogator asks questions toplayers A and B in order to ascertain which player is the male and which is the female. One of the playersattempts to trick the interrogator into making a false identification (by pretending to be the other sex), whilethe other player tries to aid the interrogator. In the Turing Test, the male and female participants are replacedby human and computer roles, with the computer attempting to fool the interrogator into thinking that it is ahuman. Turing argues that if the success rate of an interrogator playing the modified human vs. computerImitation Game is equivalent to their success rate playing the original male vs. female version, then there aregrounds to believe that the computer exhibits intelligence. It is interesting that Turing's attempt to define themind from a strict materialist perspective (as opposed to a dualist perspective, with the belief that aspects of the human mind cannot be described in physical terms, i.e. the soul) leads him to define intelligence bybehavior rather than physical constitution.One problem with Turing's conception of intelligence is raised by John Searle in his famous 'ChineseRoom' response
. Searle imagines a computer program that is able to pass the Turing Test, and in this case ithas the ability to speak fluent Chinese. Since the program follows a set of computer-language instructions to
Oppy, Graham and Dowe, David. The Turing Test. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/turing-test/