Had a long discussion with a housemate over what constitutes being artificial. I have no idea how we came upon the topic but we certainly raised some interesting issues. Namely, he said that he considers dogs artificial since they were selectively bred by man. I would have disagreed with that if it were not for my wish to continue reading, but I’ll give a short overview of what I consider to mean “artificial” here, since the question in itself is rather interesting.

I would start with the example of art — art, for me, is not artificial. It is not because to create art (draw, sing, write, etc.) there has to be an idea, and that idea is a consequence of thought. I see thought as a natural process, and therefore art is just giving thoughts an earthly form.

An example of an artificial item would, however, be teflon. Yes, sure, there was the idea of the material which turned into its creation, but the defining difference is that for it to become reality, someone had to manipulate the molecular composition to create a substance with new properties. This is a good example of artificialness.

Same is exhibited by the concept of artificial intelligence — it has been conceived to act on its own, therefore past the first act of starting up, everything is a creation of a creation. Therefore, it is unnatural (not that it should not be, but that it is not from nature).

The same housemate brought up the example of some substance that is found both in nature and synthesized by man, with the only difference in the final being that the natural one has a higher degree of purity. To his question of differentiating between the two, I answered that one has been engineered by man while the other is the result of long processes. The processes that have been substituted for a temporally short chemical engineering experiment thereby remove the quality of naturalness, and define the final result as an artificial substance.

While short, I believe that this provides a sort of answer to this very interesting question.

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