Member Rara Avis
Yes there is a chemical/ physiological aspect to emotions, but there is more to it.
And no, I'm not being facetious. There is absolutely no reason I can see to suggest thought or emotion need to be attributed to anything beyond chemical interactions. An explanation should be as simple as possible and still cover the necessary ground. I think this one does.
The reducing of our emotions to mere chemical process only cheapens them in my opinion.
On the contrary, I think the cause of emotion is unimportant. It is, rather, what we do with the emotions that transcend the mundane. What do you feel when confronted with a small child's suffering? Very likely, it's not all that different from what any other normal adult would feel, because those feelings are built into our genetic code. What you feel is both predictable and mandated by a distribution of chemicals. What you DO about the suffering, however, is not. I think it is doing nothing to help the child that cheapens the emotion, perhaps even invalidates it. Not the chemical stimuli that caused you to feel a certain way. Our humanity is not defined by emotions, but by actions.
A computer will always require intentful human programming…
… which is a bit like suggesting human life will always require Cromagnum sperm cells because, after all, that's how it started. Man has evolved, and there's little reason to think a self-aware computer program wouldn't do the same. Except, instead of taking tens of thousands of years, a program will evolve exponentially faster. What do you think will be the first skill an intelligent computer program masters? Programming! And from that point onwards, their evolution will be out of human hands.
When you think about it, the bits and bytes in a computer program are not all that different from DNA molecules, except of course in complexity. Who knows? That next browser you download and install may result in a few scrambling of bytes, a digital mutation, that results in the first self-aware computer. Mutations, after all, are nothing more than nature's way of gambling, and she can afford to lose 99.9 percent of the time. How many programs have to be installed before that one beneficial mutation happens?
What is human value and why is it important?
Welcome back, pappy!
I'm sorely tempted to claim an easy answer, by right of a circular definition: Human value is that which defines our humanity. But I strongly suspect you're looking for roughly the same answer I just gave, the same answer first given about 2,300 years ago by Aristotle. Values are related to emotions, but Aristotle noted we are not blamed or praised for our emotions as we are for virtues and vices. Emotions like anger and fear do not involve choice, as do the virtues. We are "moved" by emotions, but are "disposed" by virtues and vices to act in certain ways.
In other words, according to Aristotle, we are defined not by our emotions, but by our actions. And those are determined by our values.