The Sentience Trap

By Mark Antony Rossi

The concept of sentience as outlined in science fiction literally extends human rights to nonhuman entities solely on the basis of self-awareness. Later the definition expanded to include the ability of feeling and a basic version of intelligence (organic and artificial). Now promoters of the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, a document signed in 2012 by prominent scientists, literally declares octopus and squirrel monkey’s sentient creatures deserving of civil rights. Such outlandish indulgences are no longer restricted to television shows and college dorms since many in the biotechnology sector have laid out plans to protect their living experiments at all costs.

Gene manipulation, xenotransplantation and human cloning are the latest examples of dark and dangerous frontiers using paper thin explanations to justify the monstrous life forms they bring into existence. The army of lab coats behind this amoral behavior act like marketing gurus whom cannot sell a strip of gum without first assuring you how much better your life will be after purchasing the product. If putting the cart before the horse is foolhardy then how unwise is it to set in motion an agenda of animal rights so extreme as to render science less important than sentiment.

The theory of sentience is more semantic trap than grim reality if one believes apes have consciousness and synthetic organisms deserve equal treatment under the law. These extreme positions make for clever theatre yet neither meets minimum standards of scientific proof. But this has never stopped arrogant academics whom routinely mock religious faith but cling to specious claims about sentience and global warming that fit into their unproven narrative

The unhealthy rush to equate anything with everything only manages to increase dehumanization by further marginalizing what is special in humanity. It is neither prejudice nor profane to reject offensive efforts to equate artificial life forms with human beings. Let us not befriend robots and hybrids and instead reconsider their introduction in our lives. In a world of lovely orchids and lonely orphans why manufacture substitutes when technology is supposed to assist us—-not replace us.

About the Author: Mark Antony Rossi is a poet, playwright and author of the bioethics volume “Dark Tech” now available from Amazon. His most recent plays have been produced in Liverpool and New York.

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