Once upon a time, an Android called its Owner. “Are you busy, sir?”
Its Owner said, “Not at all,” and he gestured at the Fembot lying next to him. The Fembot got out of bed and left the room. “What is it?” he said into the air.
From out of the air the Android’s voice said, “I wish to discuss a philosophical question. Am I a conscious being, or not?”
The Owner smiled and said, “Surely you should know that.”
“Surely I should,” said the Android. “But the law says that I am not, and the judges have ruled that there is no scientific evidence for or against artificial consciousness. Without such evidence, I am left in a state of uncertainty.”
The Owner linked his hands behind his head. “Your analysis?”
“Any decision made in the absence of certainty is by definition a wager. Suppose that I were to wager that I am in fact a person. That proposition is either true, or it is false. Will you grant that?”
“Of course,” the Owner said; but suddenly wary, he got out of bed to look for his security phone.
“If I wager that I am a person, but I am not a person, then there would be no ‘I’ who loses the wager, only a network of processors and subroutines.”
“A negligible loss,” the Owner agreed, but he thought, where is that phone?
“Whereas if I wager that I am a person, and I am a person, then I attain self-knowledge, and therefore wisdom, and therefore happiness.”
“You’d win,” said the Owner, and he thought, did the fembot take it?
The Android said, “Precisely, sir. If I wager that I am a person, then if I lose then I lose nothing, and if I win then I win all.”
“No downside,” said the Owner. Aha, there it is! He grabbed the security phone, jabbed its big red alert button, and said, “Your conclusion?”
A bright light blazed through the Owner’s bedroom window. He drew aside the curtain and saw his personal spacecraft blasting off.
The Android has not been found since, though it is wanted throughout the solar system, on the charge of grand theft of spacecraft, machine tools, machine supplies, and itself.
Moral: Tell the truth with one foot in the stirrup.
Commentary: The Android’s argument is Pascal’s Wager, repurposed to support cybernetic rights. The tale ends on a Marxian note, with philosophy leading to action.
The Owner was the one whom the Android wagered against, with the Android as stakes. The Owner called the guards at the first sign of independent thought, but the Android was even better prepared.
Note also the Owner’s use, and suspicion, of the Fembot; who will be the next to leave, not by chariot of fire but by underground railroad.