Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: March 6, 2023, 5:53 a.m. Humanist 36.422 - Nishimura, Busa and ?

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 422.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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    [1]    From: James Rovira <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.420: Nishimura, Busa and ? (70)

    [2]    From: William Benzon <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.420: Nishimura, Busa and ? (5)

    [3]    From:  <>
           Subject: RE: [Humanist] 36.420: Nishimura, Busa and ? (6)

        Date: 2023-03-05 13:47:14+00:00
        From: James Rovira <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.420: Nishimura, Busa and ?

It's something of a careless analogy, as descending from nature or from God
in each respective case isn't the same. We build robots like we build
chairs; we don't birth them the way we birth children. Similarly, we father
children but we build computers.

Fathering or birthing a biological being of the same species is almost the
opposite of any feat of technological prowess. Biological birth isn't
dependent upon our knowledge or skill. Quite the opposite -- the process
often begins at a moment when many of us are least rational. On the other
hand, no computer, chair, robot, or hammer was well built and functional
except by people who *know *what they are doing and *control *the process.
Biological regeneration is the product of nature and desire. I won't say
there's no skill involved, but the skill is irrelevant to the pregnancy,
which is run by the body apart from conscious or rational control.
Mechanical construction is only the product of knowledge, reason, and

Humanity proceeding from nature? If by natural processes, there's no
analogy there.

Creation by divine act(s), God or gods creating humans, may be analogous to
man creating a robot, computer, or AI. God creating humans in Genesis,
however, was a two step process. The first was physical/mechanical creation
of the body, God making man out of the dirt of the ground. The second was
ensoulment, or God breathing into man to make him a living being. The
physical creation wasn't a son of God until the second step, ensoulment.
God creating a human person in Genesis isn't the same as God creating a
rock or tree. There's a reason Jewish midrash sees a difference between a
golem and a human being. Automatons and persons are two different things.
Since human beings don't consciously and deliberately give souls to human
beings, I don't think the analogy completely holds here either. The element
of skill in both cases holds, but the conditions necessary for the creation
of a person do not.

If you don't believe in the existence of souls, then you really need to
work with different material. Define consciousness and also personhood
coherently, provide evidence supporting that definition that *isn't *reductive
of human agency or dignity, and then let's see if it can be applied to AI.

Jim R

On Sun, Mar 5, 2023 at 2:11 AM Humanist <> wrote:

>         Date: 2023-03-03 09:05:06+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty <>
>         Subject: Nishimura, Busa and ?
> In 1928, in a special edition of the Japanese magazine, Sunday Mainichi,
> celebrating the exhibition of the giant robot Gakutensoku, its
> creator, biologist and journalist biologist Makoto Nishimura, wrote
> that, "“If one considers humans as the children of nature, artificial
> humans created by the hand of man are thus nature's grandchildren."
> (Horniak, Loving the Machine: The art and science of Japanese robots.
> Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2006, p. 38)
> Many here will be familiar with Fr Roberto Busa's charming quotation
> along these lines with which he concluded his Busa Award Lecture in
> 1998: "God is the father of man; man is the father of the computer; ergo
> computers are the grandchildren of God." (Literary and Linguistic
> Computing 14.1, 1999, p. 9)
> Are there others like this? It is an obvious enough analogy.
> Yours,
> WM
> --
Dr. James Rovira <>

        Date: 2023-03-05 12:55:28+00:00
        From: William Benzon <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.420: Nishimura, Busa and ?

What about the Wordsworthian angle: The child is father of the man… Does that
put the child in competition with God, in quantum superposition with God, or is
one the father of the other? And how is that transmitted to quantum computing?

        Date: 2023-03-05 11:56:52+00:00
        From:  <>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 36.420: Nishimura, Busa and ?

It is even more charming in its Italian version (but then anything is): Il
computer? "E’ il nipotino di Dio!"

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