We all have an internal sense that we are a unique individual, we have a “first person perspective”. But is this merely an illusion created by the neuronal machinery of the brain? What does it mean to be a person? Is it possible to exist as a living human being but not to qualify as being a person in some sense? On the other hand is it possible to be a person but not a living human being? Can a chimpanzee or an advanced artificial intelligence be thought of as a person?
These questions may sound like pointless abstract speculations of the type that philosophers and theologians love to address. But in reality our understanding of what it means to be a person has profound consequences in the real world. Disagreements about what it means to be a person are at the root of many recent debates, in fields as diverse as medical ethics, law, psychology, social sciences, and even artificial intelligence and robotics. . .
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