Is Death Fundamentally a Biological Phenomenon?

James Bernat writes that it’s built into the “paradigm” of death that “death is fundamentally a biological phenomenon.” But suppose humans in the distant future are successful in building an artificial intelligence that has person-level properties such as consciousness, memory, etc. And suppose this robot is destroyed. Would we not want to say that the robot died? What other concept would be appropriate for describing what happened to this artificial intelligence? Thus it seems like death is not a fundamentally biological phenomenon.


Filed under Bioethics

5 responses to “Is Death Fundamentally a Biological Phenomenon?

  1. It depends on how it is you’d like to define “life.” If, for example, you have some sort of autopoietic definition, then maybe, but you’d need more than the higher-order cognitive faculties you list, namely, the criteria stipulated by Maturana and Varela. It all depends on the definition of life.

  2. Why is life full of ups and downs?

    That depends on whether consciousness is a biological phenomenon.

  3. Charlie Dix

    I’m not picking up a coherent argument before reaching that word “Thus”.

  4. // Saw this running around on FB, wrote a reply:

    > This argument assumes that artificial intelligence is categorically nonbiological. I see no strong reasons for holding this assumption.

    For instance, Moreno and Mossio’s (2015) book on biological autonomy treats any system with a particular dynamical form (ie, regulatory closure) as being an autonomous biological organism. Presumably any artifact we take seriously as a ‘person’ would share at least some of these dynamical features. So on their view, any system complex enough to take on the necessary form would (by definition) count as a biological organism.

    If you object, then you’d need some other means for demarcating “the biological” as a category.

  5. Eric Brandon

    How is “biological” defined? Doesn’t the answer depend heavily on that?

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