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Last month, the National Academy of Sciences issued a “weird life” report cautioning NASA not to be so focused on water. It told the space agency that “as the search for life in the solar system expands, it is important to know what exactly to search for.”
That same report urged NASA to avoid being “fixated on carbon” when it looks for life even though carbon is often called the backbone of life on Earth.
But if carbon isn’t a requirement for life, how about silicon? In other words, what about machines?
Ray Kurzweil, a renowned futurist who advises people such as Bill Gates, believes that by 2029 a machine will pass a prime test of artificial intelligence, offering the same kind of answers as a human.
“The key issue as to whether or not a non-biological entity deserves rights really comes down to whether or not it’s conscious,” Kurzweil said. “Does it have feelings?”
Many scientists familiar with these challenges of defining life say the answers won’t be easy to find.
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