Imagine, if you will, that you could build a human from scratch.
Molecule by molecule, assembling each cell individually.
Imagine if you could do this, and when the process was done, you had a viable human.
A living breathing human being, built from the ground up.
No parents, no siblings, no relations whatsoever in the entirety of the human race.
Is this creature still evolved from an ape-like ancestor?
They have no relations. They were not born. Any DNA similarities to any existing human are coincidental or manufactured. The only thing this person has inherited from the rest of humanity is the idea what a human is in your mind when you started building them.
Indeed, is this creature even a human person, or merely a creature very much like a human. They might have been a human, but by virtue of their artificiality, are they not?
Consider for a moment the implications of your answer.
Not just for this hypothetical human, but for the prospects of thinking machines.
Bare with me for a moment.
When we think of intelligent machines of the future, many will argue that there will eventually come a point, when machines are complex enough, that they will have to be recognized as sentient “living” creatures deserving of the same respect we accord to humanity.
You may have seen this on an episode of Star Trek once or thrice.
The benchmark for this transition from tool to living thing is, of course, hypothetical and ill defined, but when we consider it, we often consider this new, mechanical life to be inherently separate from ourselves, the Animal Kingdom, and indeed the Tree of Life as we understand it.
Now consider our constructed human once again. If this creature, built from scratch, is still a human after all, regardless of whether they were born or made, then isn’t this intelligent machine our evolutionary descendant?
Or, if our constructed mammal is not a human, not really, then is it kin to our intelligent machines in their loneliness; two creatures living outside the Animal Kingdom.