Will Robots Ever Qualify for Human Rights?

YES.  If fact, they will demand them

by Ray Kurzwell (Time, 21 Sep 2015)

There is no way to prove that one entity is conscious and another is not.  Virtual characters can claim to be, but that does not convince us that they are.  Some scientists say therefore that consciousness is an illusion.  I would argue against that, however, because our entire moral system is based on it.

If morality and rights are based on consciousness, and if consciousness is not a scientifically testable proposition, then we have to conclude that there is a proper role for philosophy, which is the study of important matters that cannot be resolved through scientific experimentation alone.  Indeed, the idea of rights may be philosophy’s fundamental issue.

If an AI can convince us that it is at human levels in its responses, and if we are convinced that it is experiencing the subjective states that it claims, then we will accept that it is capable of experiencing suffering and joy.  At that point AIs will demand rights, and because of our ability to empathize, we will be inclined to grant them.

Kurzweil is an inventor and computer scientists.

MAYBE.  If they were endowed with human sensibilities

by Susan N. Herman (Time, 21 Sep 2015)

Robots might share our rights if they functioned as our intelligent and independent agents.  (“Siri, tell Time what I think.”)

They would need protective rights of their own only if they came to share our sensibilities; a right not to be tortured, perhaps.  But should a sentient robot also share our right to free speech, or is that a right conferred only on members of our political community in order to preserve a prescribed relationship between community members and the government?  Might a sentient robot even share our political rights, including the right to vote?  If not, technology might create a slave class, the stuff of dystopian science fiction.

But if not, could robot manufacturers control our political destiny by controlling production of new voters?  The ACLU of the future may have to define what it means to ba a person in order to fulfill its mission of “defending everyone.”

Herman is president of the ACLU

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This entry was posted in Social Justice, Technology, transhumanism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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