A Call for Change: Embracing the Diversity of Sentience

Charles Mueller

The downfall of humanity could very well be our inability to recognize that we are, in fact, all supposed to be different. This flaw in the cultural ideologies that permeate every society around the globe forces the vast majority of us to fear and demonize our differences rather than embrace them. It is the cause for all of our wars, all of the violence, and all of the hate we’ve seen and continue to see every day. In reality though, there is no us vs. them, or this group or that. There is no bell curve of intelligent souls. Until we recognize this fundamental truth, we will continue to experience the pain and suffering that casual discrimination begets. If we want a better future, we need to start by having a bigger conversation with ourselves and with each other about accepting that everyone should be different.

There is another reason that starting this conversation is important. There are thousands of brilliant minds working extremely hard everyday to develop a computational model of human intelligence that is commonly referred to as artificial intelligence, or AI. Artificial intelligence is kind of a misnomer because there is really no such thing as “artificial” intelligence: there is only intelligence. Intelligence is a trait of any sentient being regardless of whether this greater awareness depends on biological or electromagnetic phenomena. As the great minds working to create sentient life from computers get closer to their goal, the conversation that continues to dominate the media is about how we are going to deal with them and if these new intelligent beings are going to take over the world. This is the wrong conversation. When the human race finally does come into contact with another sentient intelligence, we need to embrace it for being what it is and not worry about how to control what it will become. Our first conversation needs to be one that rises above discrimination and accepts that all sentient intelligence is supposed to be different and the only thing we have in common is that we are aware, that we are in a sense alive.

It is unclear when exactly humanity will have this conversation with another sentient intelligence and who will be present when it occurs. There are some that believe another sentient intelligence will simply emerge as S&T reaches new bounds and others that think were only years away from creating it in a lab. The uncertainty about how and when this conversation will take place means that we will almost certainly not be prepared for it when it happens. If we want to make sure our first conversation with another sentient intelligence sets the right precedent for that future relationship, then we need a culture change that values differences. If we can instill the notion around the world that intelligent beings are supposed to be different and that we are not supposed to think or act the same now, then we won’t have to worry about having the right plan in place for when another sentient being makes contact with humanity.

Let’s start a bigger conversation today. Let’s see each other for who we are and embrace it. Let’s bring out the true human potential by recognizing we are all different and that is what makes us the same.

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We’re All Special

Jennifer Buss

You are special. You are one of a kind. No one else is just like you. Just like no two snowflakes are the same, you are unique. We hear these cliché statements all the time, yet we all try to be just like everyone else. We should cherish our individuality. It’s time we start recognizing the whole truth in these statements, and not just to make ourselves feel good. Each of us has a very different personality, unique physical identifiers, and even more microscopic diversity within our bodies. Humans (and all life forms) have such diversity such that no two are exactly the same. Each person has different life experiences that play into their personality and perception on reality.

The genetic diversity evidence alone indicates that every human is unique based on not only their DNA sequence, but also the environment that they encounter from birth. Every experience of our lives thus changes our bodies and minds in ways that are quantifiable. As we develop, our brains form their own networks and pathways so that identical twins don’t even have the same brain structure. It is because of their unique experience in life that makes identical twins different human beings. The anatomical differences in their brains are just one of many key factors that make identical twins, well, not identical. We should cherish this difference! The individuality is what we are proud of, not being the same as everyone else.

These differences are what make us people, and make us special. In the medical world, we are hardly treated as individuals. Rather, we are treated as a demographic of people. My heart rate, blood pressure, etc. are probably not the same for all people of my demographic, and I should not be treated according to that average. I should be treated according to my own averages. But doctors from the very beginning follow growth charts for infants and parents feel their child needs to meet the standard criteria to be accepted in society. My intellect does not need to be “on par” with any certain group of people – I have a certain knowledge base from the experiences I have had in my life. The life experiences I try to communicate with other people are probably not thoroughly understood because other people don’t have all the same experiences as me to know how I felt or what I was thinking. Even when I share my feelings and emotions with someone else, it’s incomplete because they don’t have all the background that I have to fully grasp where I am coming from.

Each of us has a unique set of experiences and emotions and knowledge and biology to make us who we are. We should be proud of our individuality and be recognized for being one person, not part of the group. Each of us should be judged against ourselves, not compared to other people.

In our social circles, we are too quick to revert to being like everyone else, not an individual. It is in this social environment that we begin stereotyping and classifying groups of people that, when you really think about it, are not true at all. Each person in that group is not like any of the other people there. We could classify them hundreds of different ways so the one way that we’re choosing to classify them today is a misnomer. We’re all individuals, coming from different life experiences and knowledge sets, living in this world together.

It isn’t about me versus you, or us versus them. No one is like anyone else on this planet. We are not the same and should stop trying to categorize everyone as being just like other people. Just like mamma always said, You Are Special.