From chapter "Self-Awareness"
Let’s turn [the mirror test of self-awareness] around and see how you feel about it. You’re sitting in your home, minding your own business, when suddenly several unbelievably ugly creatures burst in. They throw a net over you and begin dragging you out the door. Members of your family rush to save you, and the unbelievably ugly creatures kill them with casual swats. You see one member of your family huddling in a corner, making sounds of terror you did not know humans could make. Another casual swat and the sounds stop. The net is hauled outside, and you are put into some sort of container. You feel the container being lifted, and then lifted, and lifted. It takes what seems like hours for you to realize that what you’ve read about in the tabloids and bad science fiction novels has happened to you: you’ve been abducted by aliens. The aliens take you to their ship, and over the next days and weeks and endless months they perform tests on you. Do you think your behavior will be the same on their ship as it was in your home, with your family? Do you think your behavior will ever again be the same? And what if these aliens put something in your room, some thing you’d never seen before they brought you to this terrible place? Here, in this alien prison, you’ve seen them preening before it, and making gawdawful faces at it—at least you think those are their faces—and now they’re staring at you—at least you think they’re staring, and you think those are eyes. You look at this thing more closely. They evidently see—perceive is probably a better word, since you don’t think those are eyes after all—themselves in it, but frankly their senses must be different than yours, because you don’t see what’s so great about it. Frankly it’s creepy. But then again, so is everything about this place . . .
Because you failed to respond as they wished to this new device, the aliens put you into your cage, and the aliens decide—quite rightly, according to their evidence and their belief system—that all you humanbeast-machines (as one of their philosophers puts it) lack self-awareness.
At some point the aliens realize how important vision is to you, and that you see with your eyes. So in order to further their understanding of human behavior, and of course in order to get further grants, they surgically blind you. Sitting in the eternal dark of your cage in some unfathomably huge complex, unimaginably far from your home and from those you love—those who may be still alive among those you love—for some reason you remember an article you read years ago. It was about mice who love to sing, and about what happened to these mice, about how they were put in cages, about what scientists did to them then. Day after day—or at least you think it’s day after day, since in your cell and in your own private darkness there is never any natural indication of the passage of time—you obsess about this article. But for the life of you, you can’t figure out why it is so important to you.