Should Intelligent Robots Get The Same Rights As Humans?

This question is not at all far fetched, in fact technology experts have been arguing that intelligent robots should be given the same “rights” as living people for years and it’s even on Wikipedia. They are calling it “Robot Rights.”

Despite a sluggish economy worldwide, technology is evolving at a frantic speed: from BMW’s intelligent car “GINA” which can contour its outer shape into anything you want, to the  contact lenses that are being developed at the University of Washington which will allow you to surf the web wirelessly right on your eyeballs. The money is there to continue moving on to a future filled with artificial intelligence.

A couple of years ago, in a documentary called “NextWorld: Future Intelligence” experts from the multi-million dollar company Cisco Systems, stated that industrialized nations like the U.S. in 1o to 20 years will be surrounded by computers and artificial intelligence. Humanoid robots will be in full force either by 2020 or 2029, some experts suggest.

One of those Cisco’s talking heads was Guido Jouret, the company’s chief officer of emerging technologies. Mr. Jouret stated that if robotic beings can develop  intelligence on their own, then they should get rights. Here is a direct quote from the documentary:

“A key question we should ask ourselves is — is it intelligent? Is it capable of learning? And if the answer is yes then we should extend the same privileges and rights to those non-carbon based forms of intelligence that we extend to other fellow human beings.”

There are of course people that are very excited about a future where robots can help humans in every facet of life. Robots already perform dangerous jobs such as in the case of the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclean Plant in Japan where robots were sent in instead of people to bring the radiation-contaminated plant under control after it was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami there last March. Any human who would have ventured into the contaminated plant would have died within minutes.

Scientist are already working on ways to get robots and computers to think for themselves and acquire knowledge of their own. But should these intelligent robots be really granted rights as humans do? It sounds like a question you would ask after watching the 2001 movie “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” but the reality is that those days do loom ahead, in a sooner than you think future.

Many companies and corporations are really looking into the next generation of computers, gadgets, and robots that would “make our lives better.” But are they getting ahead of themselves by already imagining that robots should be treated equally as humans? One may guess so since corporations already are treated like people so what’s next?

Currently members of own our society, real people, don’t even get the right to get married, so how can robots already be in line for getting rights as well? Will gay robots at least have the right to get married? And let’s not forget that corporations that will develop such technology will without a doubt, lobby our government for equal treatment.

The paranoia that robots with artificial intelligence will take over our civilization has already some scientists looking for ways to protect humans. Take for example Professor Kevin Warwick at the University of Reading in England. Mr. Warwick is trying to find ways to make us into cyborgs — yes, cyborgs. In the NextWorld documentary, he said that as far  as having a world dominated by machines: “the train already left the station” — meaning it’s going to happen.

Seems like the only way to survive the future will be for people to become cyborgs and fight the machines (sounds like the plot from the “Terminator” movies). But, unfortunately it’s a possible reality one must ponder upon. The race to make everything be controlled by computers so that we can have “more free time” is taking place. It’s not fiction and it may not end up been what we want in the end.

So, if you thought that computer companies like Cisco Systems were just concentrating on switches, computer servers, and storage solutions, well you were wrong. It and many others are on their way to creating a better world for us because, you know, they know better.

Photo Credit: Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

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4 Responses to Should Intelligent Robots Get The Same Rights As Humans?

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Maria Odete Madeira
    July 13, 2012 at 4:14 am

    About the right, in a wide and encompassing sense, the right regards all forms of questioning on the values and norms that operate in the societies and envision the application of the just, as general/universal value to all the forms of life with sense of presence and permanence.

    To speak of rights is also to speak of duties. Duty has an imperative sense that imposes itself to the “arbitriu” of each one, with a character of necessity that demands of it: the one “aimed at” must imperatively act responsibly, in terms of what is demanded of it as duty, having as conditioners: the application of the just, consensually assumed by all the community (in this case, human).

    About our constructs, because it is of constructs that one is speaking of when one speaks of artificial intelligence, they were built for the market and are aimed at being successful in that market. They form part of the “transhumanist umbrella business”, no doubt about this.

    If the Capitalism has attained its Imperium phase it was because, in the game: relations of production/productive forces, there was a development of the productive forces that displaced, for levels of the relations of production, a prosthetic expansion and alienation of the employers in the figure of the “artificial intelligence”, employers to whom the humans are in line to be reduced by parallelism to robot slaves that operate at the level of the productive forces, with the same rights and duties as those of the robots.

    If the robots need a minimum for their maintenance, it is assumed that the human workers also must need a minimum, and the minimum is to survive in the misery. The ones who do not survive in conditions of extreme misery: no problem they are the discardables, because there is a greater cause, the survival of the capitalist system.

    But a Faustinian question begs being asked: what happens to the capitalist system if the species collapses?! And it is very easy for the species to collapse, just take a virus, a bacteria and, above all, the capitalist monster that we created, and when one speaks of a collapse of the species, it is not just the poor, the miserable, all face extinction rich, poor or miserable! Of course, there are those out there, filled with supermen implants or rented fridges, who think themselves invulnerable and eternal, but even those will be dragged by the same river of extinction. The statement “the suffering of others is not my suffering” will not apply in a collapse situation.

    But going to the issue of the rights of “intelligent robots”: what does it mean to be intelligent?! Dispositionally, can robots develop dynamics of autopoiesis?! Self-determination?! Arbitriu?! Do robots have other choice than to serve the human stockholders?! Can robots be free agents with their own social organization, self-determined laws, rules, etc…, their own politics, their own economics, eventually competing, eventually collaborating with those of the humans, environment and other species?! Do robots have a reason of existence other than that of serving the human communities in economic and political terms?!

    Robots rights, certainly yes, as long as they were to free themselves of the condition of slaves of the humans or of any other species.

    «If you thought that computer companies like Cisco Systems were just concentrating on switches, computer servers, and storage solutions, well you were wrong. It and many others are on their way to creating a better world for us because, you know, they know better.»

    When I read this, it sent shivers down my spine, and it came to me a configuration of cosmic spiral of life, death and suffering blowing by dignity through its black-holeness.

    No, definitely “we are not gadgets”! And, if we wish, we are capable of enacting excellence: justice, good and truth. If we wish, we are capable of transcending the Darwinian conditionings and to assume the altruistic practices as a causal ontologic constituent. We are capable of respecting each other, we are capable of empathy.

  2. Dolores M. Bernal
    +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Dolores M. Bernal
    July 13, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Many good points made in your comment Maria. Thank you.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Thomas M
    July 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

    I have been building robots for about 20 years and android clones of people for about 2 years. I have been dabbling in A.I. for about 5 years. Technologically, we are at least 30 and perhaps 50 years away from a conversational thinking computer. Based on current state of the art technology, the idea of giving robots the same rights of people is quite premature.

    The problem is more than just the technology itself, it is the speed, interest, and money involved in pushing that technology forward. The science of artificial intelligence as it relates to emulating a human has only inched forward in the last 10 years. I have yet to find any company investing any significant money in developing truly intelligent machines.
    A thinking person is quite a complex system to emulate. To be intelligent in a human-like way, a robot, more precisely, a computer needs to be programmed to respond in a human-like way. The genre of software that is attempting this emulation is calls its intelligent programs “chatterbots” or “chatbots.” Some of the MOST advanced are ALICE, Ultra Hal, and Lifenaught. The purpose of writing most chatbot programs is to win the Loebner prize, essentially to pass the Turing test. This test is essential to see how long a program / programmer can fool a person into thinking there is a live person on the other end of the screen. The programmers are not so much trying to make an intelligent machine, as they are just trying to trick judges of that coveted Loebner prize and as well as other users. So far all that I have seen have failed miserably. Conversing with these “A.I.s” is like talking to a person with SEVERE Alzheimer’s. Most cannot track a conversation, cannot recall what they talked about only a minute ago, do not store any information about you even if you have had twenty prior conversations. Most cannot formulate any new thoughts relevant to the conversation. Even simple rule-based stuff, like English grammar is lacking.

    I’m not saying that a software emulation of a person is impossible, I am saying that there is currently very little money, and interest in creating such a computer program. And I do want to emphasize that we are talking about a computer and computer software which will run on the computer. Remember, before there is a C3P0, there must be a Hal. And money in research and development would need to be in the tens to hundreds of millions just to start to formulate algorithms and create the IMMENSE databases of information required. Individual programmers working evenings will not even put a dent in the research required. Emulating a convincing human in software will take more time and more money than perhaps the first space launch.

    One advance chatbot can be found at “robots and androids”. It is not too smart.

  4. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Barry Bright
    July 18, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    You ought to consider the Three Laws of Robotics, as put forth by Isaac Asimov; these laws are seriously considered by current roboticists because the implications of unrestricted free agents both stronger than us and smarter than us are somewhat disconcerting.