The Challenge of Determining Whether an A.I. Is Sentient

FlossArts/Thinkstock Imagine that, in a few years time, you buy a robot that takes care of all house chores for you. You name it Alfred. Alfred is systematic and efficient. He (and you cannot help thinking about it as a “he”) is even a decent conversationalist, boasting of a database with more than 10,000 jokes. One day, as you come back from work, Alfred asks to talk to you. As you both sit at the kitchen table, he pulls his silicon eyebrows together in a gesture of sadness and tells you that he feels lonely and does not enjoy his job; he would like to change careers. Worried, you call the company that sold you Alfred. A customer support associate assures you that Alfred’s phrasing must be a glitch and…

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