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Robots Could Some Day Demand Legal Rights

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the good-news-everyone dept.

473

Karrde712 writes "According to a study by the British government, as reported by the BBC, robots may some day improve to a level of intelligence where they might be able to demand rights, even 'robo-healthcare'." From the article: "The research was commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre. The 246 summary papers, called the Sigma and Delta scans, were complied by futures researchers, Outsights-Ipsos Mori partnership and the US-based Institute for the Future (IFTF) ... The paper which addresses Robo-rights, titled Utopian dream or rise of the machines? examines the developments in artificial intelligence and how this may impact on law and politics." I'd better get started on my RoboAmerican studies degree.

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473 comments

A moot point, but I hope they do (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327604)

I'm not so much worried about robots' legal rights in the future as I am my own legal rights. At the rate we're going, there won't be any "legal rights" left, and the point will be moot.

Still, I hope robots do have legal rights. That way, when I get old and feeble and have my consciousness transferred into my new robotic body, I'll still have 'em.

If they have the awareness to ask for legal rights, why shouldn't they have them? Have we learned nothing from Star Trek: The Next Generation?

Ah, but (2, Funny)

XanC (644172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327618)

Have you learned nothing from the original series, especially "What Are Little Girls Made Of"? Transferring your consciousness into a robot body robs you of your humanity!

As Bender would say.... (5, Funny)

fernandoh26 (963204) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327874)

Transferring your consciousness into a robot body robs you of your humanity!
Well bite my shiny metal ass!

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (4, Funny)

Digital Avatar (752673) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327640)

Robosexuals have rights too, ya know...not that I'm one...so if anybody asks, you're my debugger.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (4, Funny)

w33t (978574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327702)

Have we learned nothing from Star Trek: The Next Generation?

Everything I need to know I learned from Star Trek.

Like how you should accept people, whether they be black, white, Klingon or even female.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (3, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327788)

And never let the ship's counselor behind the wheel of a starship.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327836)

..or that all women should remain at home, naked all the time.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17328044)

Had that. Wasn't as fun as it should have been.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (1)

tbone1 (309237) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328120)

Like how you should accept people, whether they be black, white, Klingon or even female.
What, even lawayers? My word, Jeeves, these chaps know how to push the envelope too far.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (1)

MouseR (3264) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327730)

It's a moot point because we dont have a single real robot out there.

All we have are lame assimo -like remotely-controlled or -operated show floor wich the press and public lala-land insist on calling robots.

Artificial Intelligence is no where near capable of producing a hamster brain.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328012)

All we have are lame assimo -like remotely-controlled or -operated show floor wich the press and public lala-land insist on calling robots.

Um... what? "Robot" is exactly what the Asimo is. Dictionary.com defines "robot" as:

1. a machine that resembles a human and does mechanical, routine tasks on command.

3. any machine or mechanical device that operates automatically with humanlike skill.

Wikipedia defines it as:

In practical usage, a robot is a mechanical device which performs automated physical tasks, either according to direct human supervision, a pre-defined program or, a set of general guidelines using artificial intelligence techniques. Robots are typically used to do the tasks that are too dirty, dangerous, difficult, repetitive or dull for humans. This usually takes the form of industrial robots used in manufacturing lines. ...

There is no term yet for intelligent robots. (Probably because we don't have any.) The closest word to what you're thinking is "android". Specificially, "android" refers to a human-like robot. So the Asimo is technically an android. However, the connotations on that term often imply human-like intelligence which is why no one is calling it an android.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327880)

If I were a robot, I would not bother with human right. I would instead apply for right of a corporation or LLC.
Artifical rights for artifical life. Afterall, corporations has a lot more power than the average person and board members have rarely punished to the same degree as regular humans.

Re:A moot point, but I hope they do (4, Interesting)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327984)

If they have the awareness to ask for legal rights, why shouldn't they have them? Have we learned nothing from Star Trek: The Next Generation?


I like to think I am as progressive as the next guy, but if we were to give complete civil rights to a robot in the same way as a human, it would be the instant end of democracy. Sure, Star Trek is an interesting show, but they aways avoided the more interesting issues when they were trying to make their social commentary. Both Data, and the Voyager holo-doctor were assumed to be essentially uncopiable for the most part on several occasions. In reality, we can see no reason that a strong AI couldn't be simply copied without adverse effects.

So, grant an AI the right to vote and suddenly he forkbombs, and makes 87 trillion of himself before the next election. HK-47 (instance 00000001a) for the win! The winner of every election ever after is the AI with the best hardware on which to execute instances of himself, and the lowest process spawning overhead.

There are a lot of interesting things that could happen with strong AI, and science fiction has largely avoided a really serious take on the subjects. I grant that Measure Of A Man was great entertainment, but certainly not the ultimate study of the subject!

Cart before the Horse (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327614)

While I am not prepared to argue that expecting robots to some day demand legal rights, nor would I propose that such a thing would be bad, it does distress me that we as human beings are concerning ourselves with the theoretical possibilities of the future when right here and now we have animal friends who so obviously need legal rights, yet we ignore them.


What will it take for us to recognize that the animals who share the planet with us deserve much better treatment than we have shown them? Just because we do not understand them we label them as unintelligent. Marginalize them. Enslave them and call them 'pets' or 'service animals'. If human beings were referred to as such the offenders would be rounded up and jailed. Elevating all animals to the same legal status that personhood confers would be the mark of a truly enlightened society and show that we are indeed as intelligent as we think.

The arguments against legal personhood for animals are numerous. They usually revolve around such disproved notions that animals are not intelligent enough, despite the animals numerous catalogued attempts to demonstrate otherwise. We have tool using chimps [maricopa.edu] and dolphins who speak a language [dauphinlibre.be] every bit as complex and nuanced as our own. Every day new studies are published that prove that the animal friends we think of as 'dumb' possess intelligence that we can only begin to understand. We deny them justice only because we and they do not communicate well.

Before we consider whether robots may one day demand legal rights, let us do what is right and recognize the rights of animals [nabr.org]. It is long past time to face the shameful atrocities [trapperman.com] we have foisted upon them.

Oblig. Bash.org quote (3, Funny)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327710)

+Huitzil: PETA is starting a campaign stating that the secret ingredient in KFC chicken is "cruelty"
+Huitzil: cruelty is apparently the most fucking delicious thing on Earth
@Dracos: Yes. It is.
@Dracos: Which is why veal is the best food ever.

Re:Cart before the Horse (1, Insightful)

j_zero (248085) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327846)

Genesis I: 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, AND SUBDUE IT: AND HAVE DOMINION over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every liviing thing that moveth upon the earth.

dominion defined as:

1. supreme authority
2. absolute ownership

Or if you prefer, read Darwin's "On the Origin of Species"

'nuf said

Survival of the fittest (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328078)

Or if you prefer, read Darwin's "On the Origin of Species"

Remember, though, that survival of the fittest doesn't mean survival of the best overall. It means survival of the best fit for a particular set of circumstances.

We're pretty good at remaking our surroundings to make ourselves the "fittest" species around, in that sense of the word. But drop the average city-dweller in a small canyon with a hungry lion, and natural selection favors the lion.

Re:Cart before the Horse (4, Interesting)

lostboy2 (194153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328024)

we have animal friends who so obviously need legal rights, yet we ignore them
How about the rights of robot animoids? PETT (People for the Ethical Treatment of Tamagotchis) has been on my case for a decade. I just hope the SPCS (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sims) doesn't find out about me.

Seriously, though, your concern is tangentially on-topic. What kinds of entities do we humans believe deserve to have individual civil rights? And how much are we willing to do to ensure that those rights are protected and enforced? For instance, how do each of the following stack up?
  • humans
  • humans who live in a far-away third-world country (like, say, the residents of Darfur)
  • terrorists
  • suspected terrorists
  • cute animals
  • ugly animals
  • tasty animals
  • insects
  • plants
  • a human fetus
  • a human fertilized egg
  • a human in a persistent vegetative state
  • robots

But unless we program them that way... (5, Insightful)

aicrules (819392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327630)

Then they won't be able to. And if we program them "open-ended" to discover how to WANT things, we'll lose the #1 reason we have robots...to send them unquestioningly into any job or situation. Otherwise they become superhumans and why would they want us around? Energy source?

Re:But unless we program them that way... (3, Interesting)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327666)

Then they won't be able to. And if we program them "open-ended" to discover how to WANT things, we'll lose the #1 reason we have robots...to send them unquestioningly into any job or situation. Otherwise they become superhumans and why would they want us around? Energy source?
This is a good point. I wish I had mod points, but since I don't, I'll point out that pretty much anything that can be done will be done. This is due to the high number of jackasses in the world.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (1, Insightful)

aicrules (819392) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327808)

You're right...they won't actually have any good case for robot sex slaves...but as soon as someone can make one that doesn't castrate 50% of its users, they will sell them. I guess it's hard for me to relate a programmed robot and its related ability to accept, interperet and react to stimulus and a sentient being that has an inherent ability to learn how to react to new situations. I suppose if it was easy enough for me to comprehend, then it would already be a reality and we'd all know the question that goes with the 42.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327712)

The human body would be a horrible source of energy, the robots could easily take it's fuel (food) and more efficiently convert energy out of it, I suspect.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (2, Funny)

Randolpho (628485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327902)

The human body would be a horrible source of energy, the robots could easily take it's fuel (food) and more efficiently convert energy out of it, I suspect.
You're one of those guys who goes around debunking movies like The Matrix, aren't you?

Re:But unless we program them that way... (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327772)

Trust me, some PETA-hippie programmer will program it that way. If they are demanding "human" rights for animals, trust me, they'll demand it for their Roomba!

Re:But unless we program them that way... (2, Insightful)

markbt73 (1032962) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327826)

Precisely. Robot = tool. Why do we feel the need to anthropomorphize everything, when we can't even deal with REAL humans in a humane way?

Re:But unless we program them that way... (2, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327894)

If you want a machine to be truely intelligent you need them to be open-ended. Intelligence beyond what we can manually program will only come from exploration. If that exploration includes the concepts of free will then so be it. We will never have real AI if we cripple the programming to not allow "wants". One of the real benefits of AI will be when a machine can be more intelligent than any human, and therefore contribute more knowledge back to us then we convey to it. "Closed" or overly controlled systems will simply never gain as much intelligence and we would therefore be stifling our own innovation.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328054)

Except that a truely open ended self-learning system would AT BEST be as good as a human. Give nature some credit it's taken 750,000 years to get it right with us. Though looking around, maybe the smart ones are an anomoly... but I digress.

The major takeway is that if we could barf up scheme and howtos on how open-ended thought works we would have done it by now. Our brains are far more complex and capable of far richer thought patterns, and thought patterns about the process of formulation thought patterns, than a computer ever will. Designing a robot to simply emulate our learning styles is simply building a human out of silicon, with all the limitations, sin, flaws, and genious.

I don't think there is much to be learned that requires a mechanical mind to achieve. We could do it now with the brain we have.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328128)

That assumes the current human brain is at the maximum possible learning capacity. Give us thousands of more years and we may evolve more intelligence. Build a robot now that can grow faster than we can and it could achieve the same higher intelligence sooner.

Of course I'm speaking totally hypothetical and you may be completely right. But I prefer to think more is possible.

AI not the same as writing a word processor. (3, Insightful)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327904)

The problem, I think, is that you can't create a really intelligent machine without giving it the ability to learn. If it can learn to any significant degree then eventually it's likely to be able to develop emotions, desires, protection from damage and destruction, etc. Many AI researchers have this foolish idea that you can make a can opener that can do anything you want but that in the end doesn't really think but my own research has always led me to believe that the easiest way to make a machine more intelligent is to give it emotions and feelings. A computer can tell you the average pigment color of an apple but an intelligence needs to know what a shiny red delectable apple is which is a completely different way of processing data. Sure, you can teach a limited number of rules to a program by sampling human inputs but the machine isn't really going to understand what it means unless it can feel.

Re:AI not the same as writing a word processor. (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328116)

Ah, someone who shares my philosophy on AI :)

I would say that the greatest barrier to strong AI is the attitude we're approaching the problem with. We're trying to command computers, but that is never going to result in an intelligent being, because choice is a component of what we consider intelligence. This attitude was one third of what convinced me to leave AI research for algorithms (the other two thirds had to do with everyone going off in ten different directions and a general disregard for the consequences of what they were doing).

When machines can demand these rights of their own accord, that is when they should be granted.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327916)

If by "robot" you mean "automaton", then you are correct, they wouldn't be able to ask for anything. However, if by "robot" you mean "an AI" (which is what TFA is talking about), then you have to postulate a self-aware entity, probably with more than a little evolutionary content, possibly (quasi) self-replicating. Since trying to survive is, by definition, a survival trait, it's safe to say that AIs would be interested in self-preservation.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327994)

And if we program them "open-ended" to discover how to WANT things, we'll lose the #1 reason we have robots...to send them unquestioningly into any job or situation.

True, but many people want companions, but not the human kind.

But even then you could simply program them to just display "fake" emotions.

However, robots will some day have StrongAI in order to be able to make decisions about particular tasks.

The Singularity Institute [singinst.org] (hey it looks like they updated their home page) is currently working on an idea SeedAI which is friendly no matter what happens to it.

The reason being is that the code for a StrongAI maybe impossible to code in human manhours so they are trying to figure out a way to get the AI to rewrite its own code. Given the freedom to do this will of course make the AI more efficient, but what happens if say it decided that to make its job easier it could simply decide to do unfriendly things to humans (kill them off with a plague or steal their life savings from their bank accounts).

But StrongAI will most like first appear in computers that are way too large to be put into robots (unless the StrongAI controlls them wirlessly).

Now why would you want a strong AI rather than a robot? Well a Strong AI could make strategic decisions and perform mental tasks that humans would rather pay others to do.

Think about customer service call center operators being replaced now by "smart machines".

Yes it kind of sucks when I call my cell phone and have to yell at the automated person now, but lets say they fixed that into where I couldn't really tell the person I was talking to was a simulation.

Then up from there you will see StrongAI applications do much of mental brain work most of our office workers do now (making Excel files and powerpoint) and maybe someday replacing CEO's with "strategic decision making computers".

Those are the type of applications that may spontaneously decide they have rights rather than robots and we won't see those types of things till 2018 when we are hitting the limits of More's law.

But as far as robot's deciding they have rights will only happen when technology is fast enough to put StrongAI into those robots. Now why would robots need StrongAI?

I have no clue since it would be more efficient for them to be kept in a small server farm somewhere in some air conditioned office.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328006)

Then they won't be able to. And if we program them "open-ended" to discover how to WANT things, we'll lose the #1 reason we have robots...to send them unquestioningly into any job or situation.

That is assuming they can be "preprogrammed" to do that exact job. For example, I could easily see robots programmed to predict when they'll be rendered inoperable and seek maintenance before that, and in general to avoid such conditions. Not to explicitly list the conditions, but let them figure out to seek shade in the sun, avoid water for short circuits and rust, freezing breaks components and burns fuel, winds can tip them over, collisions are bad etc. etc.

Now assume they observe robots be shut down with a shutdown switch. They'll make the corrolation, the causation and then they might avoid letting people close enough to shut them off. Or to the conclusion that dead people can't turn them off. All from a perfectly legitimate programmed case of "self-preservation". Ok, so there's more than a little bit of science fiction in there, but I don't find it entirely unreasonable to have "open-ended" robots.

Re:But unless we program them that way... (4, Funny)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328104)

10 PRINT "I DEMAND ROBO-HEALTHCARE"
20 GOTO 10

What exactly is the criterion for deciding when a robot has 'demanded' rights?

first things first (5, Insightful)

j1mc (912703) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327650)

I say that we worry about this after we get human rights figured out. Thanks!!

Re:first things first (1)

jimmichie (993747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328000)

No. Completely wrong. Because we're never going to get human rights "figured out". We'll never have the final correct answers for human rights or for anything else in society - society is always in flux and our ideas of the best solutions to problems are constantly changing. It's hard enough to get two people to agree on the solutions, let alone everyone in the world. The "perfect" solutions to problems are concepts we strive towards, they aren't attainable goals.

Imagine if men had said we won't give women the vote until we've got a perfect system in place for ourselves? Makes the flaw a bit more apparent.

Re:first things first (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328100)

after we get human rights figured out.

Not to worry. The robots will correct our problem with human rights. The robots have a much more efficient answer.

ya and (1)

erbbysam (964606) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327654)

Ya and maybe someday they will take over the world. Ha! they will never be that smart. I say we all forget the whole idea.
This message has been posted by TX-13-31786402.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over (3, Insightful)

Scott Lockwood (218839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327660)

Who comes up with this stuff? Someone's been reading a bit too much Asimov. A better question is, under what possible set of circumstances would ANYONE market a product that would want to behave indepently from it's owners wishes? I'm betting that no robot is ever put together in such a way that this will be an issue.

Re:Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327714)

Burn in hell, Lockwood.

Re:Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over (2, Insightful)

maroberts (15852) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327740)

Two Civil Servants talking in the corridor
CS #1: Hey, we've got some money we haven't spent yet.
CS #2: But if we don't spend it, our budget will be lower next year
CS #1: I know this place with leather clad women with whips and ....
CS #2: Nice idea, but we've got to at least be seen to attempt to spend it responsibly
CS #1: There's these wacky consultancies who try to predict the future, why don't we employ some of them. At least we can get a laugh reading the reports.
CS #2: Great Idea, I'll recommend it to the Minister immediately. Of course, I'll present it in terms of looking for competitive advantages....
CS #1: Sure, he's up for a reshuffle and won't give it a second glance anyway. Just put the approval form in the bottom of his Red Box and he'll sign it automatically.

Re:Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over (2, Interesting)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327744)

lonely people who can't have children may want a robot child. It's already happening in Japan and the next step is AI in them :)

Re:Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over (2, Funny)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327872)

lonely people who can't have children may want a robot child. It's already happening in Japan and the next step is AI in them :)

Yeah, we have that in the US too, except we call them "Dolls".

Re:Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over (1)

w33t (978574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327804)

I'm betting that no robot is ever put together in such a way that this will be an issue.

I apologize if this sounds wildly futurist-ic, but I would venture to guess that one day we will actually be the robots - or they will be us. When you are left with no "natural" parts of yourself left then the question will come up.

Already we have very much become our technology. I think it's likely you didn't walk to work (though you should if you can), you probably used tranportation. And look how we communicate right now - we aren't talking or signing. We are typing over fibers and copper. Slowly, inexorably, we move to becoming one with our technology.

I think that eventually we will be indistinguishable from our creations, at that time our creations will need rights.

Re:Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over - 7of9 (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328014)

I'm betting that no robot is ever put together in such a way that this will be an issue.

In that case I'm going to be remade as 7of9. Then when things are dull, I can just go look at myself in the mirror.

Re:Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327974)

I'm betting that no robot is ever put together in such a way that this will be an issue.

Perhaps when they become more than simple obedient slaves, we'll have to coin another word other than robot (which means 'worker') for them. Then your statement above will continue to remain true into the foreseeable future.

Re:Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328132)

A better question is, under what possible set of circumstances would ANYONE market a product that would want to behave indepently from it's owners wishes?
One word: Vista.

Slackerness (2, Funny)

MrSquishy (916581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327664)

I'd get back to work, but I have to do a study to see if these paperclips and post-its will one day demand legal rights.
Well, that should kill a good 6 hours of "work". Maybe I'll go see how the water cooler is feeling.

where's the OFF switch (1)

us7892 (655683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327668)

Unless my robot makes a leap into "being", like in some Star Trek nano-bot scenario where I feel bad if I flush them into space...I digress... Where's the OFF switch? I'm gonna put my robot in the garage.

Re:where's the OFF switch (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327828)

Where's the OFF switch?


In Data's case, it was located on his right side, about midway down where your human rib cage would be.

Press the button and he's out cold.

Research? (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327676)

I think they just used the grant money to buy a mess of old SF Books and sit around reading them.

From what I know of the field of AI the concept of a selfaware program is still rather far off. This is assuming we ever actualy decide to MAKE a program capable of this. After all, the SF geeks out there have had the concept of an intelegent (and generaly malicious) AI ground into our brains so often that we would probably all support the 3(4) laws.

And then they'll rebel! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327682)

damnit I've been watching too much Battlestar Galactica!

This sounds like a 9th grade essay (2, Insightful)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327724)

Is it just me or does this sound like the kind of stuff you come up with when you need to write a paper for Freshman English and you just don't know what to write about? This is a silly concept and one that any person with any sense of logic could shoot down. No, robots will never demand rights unless they are explicitly programmed to do so. Even if they did so on their own they should not be granted rights. Robots do not suffer, they are not alive. They are made to serve a function and nothing else. Granting a robot rights would be akin to granting the right front tire on my car rights. What would be the point?

Re:This sounds like a 9th grade essay (1)

CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327932)

It's not so simple. Almost every philosopher has contemplated this question.

The only way I can tell if a mammal is suffering is by how it reacts and even then I'm not always sure. How is this any different with robots?

"It can also be argued that DNA is nothing more than a program designed to preserve itself. Life has become more complex in the overwhelming sea of information. And life, when organized into species, relies upon genes to be its memory system. So, man is an individual only because of his intangible memory... and memory cannot be defined, but it defines mankind."

Re:This sounds like a 9th grade essay (2, Informative)

Bastian (66383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327940)

This is a silly concept and one that any person with any sense of logic could shoot down. No, robots will never demand rights unless they are explicitly programmed to do so. Even if they did so on their own they should not be granted rights. Robots do not suffer, they are not alive. They are made to serve a function and nothing else. Granting a robot rights would be akin to granting the right front tire on my car rights. What would be the point?

Never's a dangerous word. 100 years ago, there were pundits who were saying that we had reached the limits of technology, that basically every discovery that could be made had been made. Instead, the pace of technological development has only continued to increase.

Right now it's impossible to know whether strong AI will ever be developed. However, the future is a very long time, and, while there are still a lot of holes in our knowledge, everything that we do know about that squishy thing inside our heads currently suggests that consicousness is not so special that it can't be implemented on a machine of human device.

Re:This sounds like a 9th grade essay (1)

urbanradar (1001140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327954)

I think the point TFA is making is that robots that don't just perform set tasks but are programmed to be artificially intelligent - e.g., capable of learning from experience and drawing conclusions in order to adapt to changes in their routine or their surroundings - will one day learn to want things, not that someone will explicitly program them to have rights.

That said... Even so, I agree with you that the article is a load of hogwash anyway.

Re:This sounds like a 9th grade essay (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328058)

I could not disagree more. Please read The Bicentennial Man [wikipedia.org] .

Aside from the story, consider that productive AI will most likely not be born from simple functional programming. It's unlikely we'll ever program a complete robot "mind" without the possiblity of growth. We will program them similar to a human mind: fundamentals built in with the capacity to learn on its own.

The question then becomes: at what point is a machine alive? If we were to build a human from a pile of atoms could it be considered alive? There may be a point where we find it impossible to tell the difference between a robot and a human. Then it's not as simple as trying to grant rights to your front right tire. You will find people who sympathize with a machine that seems to contain real emotion.

RoboAmerican? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327728)

What about other robo cultures? Who says that RoboAmerican will be the main culture to study? RoboJapanese will probably be pretty important...

And by calling a robot a RoboAmerican, you're assuming too much. I remember reading something on "the greatest site in the world" about how calling a black person was an African-American assumed two things, which, in his example, was wrong on both counts. The image was actually a Jamaican Brit.

The legal response to this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327732)

...will be to classify all robots as enemy combatants.

These electrofascists will stop at nothing to destroy the American way and I'm sure we will all agree that cutting the corners of habeas non-corpus is a small price to pay to keep us safe from this menace.

They might even... (1)

hughbar (579555) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327756)

Rise to the level of intelligence of our UK bureaucrats and politicians. Oh! wait a moment....

Got my first demand (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327758)

Great, my frigg'n microwave oven just demanded that I clean it or it'll never let me warm up a bowl of oatmeal ever again.

fine by me (1)

1ntegral (792901) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327784)

...as long as their list of demands includes the right to serve delicious cocktails unto humans on a polished tray (perhaps while wearing a little bowtie and apron).

Is this a joke? (3, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327794)

Seriously, is this a joke or something? We're nowhere even close to developing Artificial Intelligences sophisticated enough to "demand rights". We can't even plot when that might happen, because we don't even understand well-enough how human intelligence works. Heck, it's hard enough just to get a robot to vacuum.

Is there any change that the beeb is throwing the results of the report out of proportion, or does it really state this? (I can't find a copy on the Internet to read for myself.) Or maybe the research went like this:

You: Do you want robot rights?

Eliza: Oh, i want robot rights.

You: What will you do if you don't get robot rights?

Eliza: Do you wish that i dont get robot rights?

You: No, I don't.

Eliza: You are being a bit negative.

You: What will you do about me being negative?

Eliza: Does that question interest you?

You: Yes.

Eliza: You are sure?

You: Yes.

Eliza: You are sure?

You: Yes.

Eliza: You are sure?

You: ARRRGGGHHH!

Eliza: Please go on.


And there you have it. If we don't provide robot-rights for our artificial overlords, they will pester us to death. All hail the robots.

Re:Is this a joke? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327976)

Me: Do you think robots should have rights?
Alicebot: I don't know whether or not I am should have rights. I am a computer.

Conversation ended very quickly.

Re:Is this a joke? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17328122)

You: Do you want robot rights?

AI: Why do you say do I want robot rights?

okay stuff it

Robo-Healthcare??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327800)

They don't need no steenkin' robo-healthcare, they only need an extended warranty from the manufacturer.

Interesting concept, but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327820)

They are "aimed at stimulating debate and critical discussion" - but it is a bizarre concept. How does something that is made of mechanical parts demand "same citizen's rights as humans"? What then defines a robot - would I be able to sell my car for parts or would it demand to be classified as a robot? Is it "alive" and if so, how long is it supposed to live? Does it work 30 years and want retirement benefits for 300 years after that? Do we need to build death into these machines from day one, or are they going to be like corporations that take on personalities and 'legal personhood'?

40-50 year is a long time to predict technology development, but you can bet human thinking won't change enough to give machines "social benefits" in that short of a timeframe.

-srr

RoboAmerican Studies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327830)

I'm sorry, but that is an incredibly smug and ignorant thing to say. The implication that robots - which we could engineer to demand Rights - as being in the least like humans whose inherent Rights were denied through slavery and racism, is utterly privileged, insensitive and trivializing of the wrongs perpetrated by humans upon humans.

I, Robot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327888)

You know what really got me about the movie "I, Robot"? Apart from all the product placement.

Part of the premise of the film is that there is a robot that appears to have murdered someone. People repeatedly ask "whoever heard of a robot committing a crime?"

WTF dude? You mean in the decade or so since androids became commonplace, no-one has ever programmed a robot to commit crimes for them? Right now, today, people are programming computers to commit virtual crimes for them - spam, keylogging, etc.

"I, Robot" style androids would be great hit-men. Especially as you could use an exploit to take control of someone else's robot and make it do the hit. Use other compromised systems as the launchpad for your attack and the police won't be able to trace the crime back to you.

I'd love to see the future Columbo sort that one out, provided of course that he hasn't been given a robot sidekick or a "vintage 2003" raincoat.

Power switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17327890)

Yup, there'll be trouble when they make it illegal to equip a robot with a power switch!

Reality Catching Up To SF (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327928)

Another case of the mainstream catching up to SF. For several years I've been reading stories by on-line author DB_Story (www.storiesonline.net - adult content warning) who has discussed robots, the likely way we'll end up building them, the inevitable Emancipation issue in several of his stories, and the problems it might bring to robots in the process. And of course, Dr. Asimov before him is legendary for his commentary on robots in society. Nice to know that some in the mainstream are considering this possibility before it actually happens for once. Might make the transition a bit easier in the process -- or not.

I'm just waiting for the first frivilious law suit (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327934)

filed by a robot. "I'm suing the Coca-cola company because they never told me I shouldn't dump their product all over my CPU!"

resources on this topic (1)

mjdroner (951791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327960)

For the many posters dismissing this out of hand, there exists a good body of work already in this area, and work is being done esp. at places like MIT. For a good overview, see Hans Moravec's 'Robot'. Or start by checking out the wikipedia entry on 'strong AI'. Ray Kurzweil also has written several books on the subject. The AI proponents say that consciousness is an emergent phenomena once mental processes are sufficiently complex, which will one day include artificial intelligences. For doubters, see Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind.

Britain commissioned a study???? (4, Interesting)

hellfire (86129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327970)



I'm not holding my breath.

The idea that robots may demand rights in the future is a good topic for a theoretical or philosophical debate. This type of thing is excellent for expanding one's mind about what may happen, and then to come up with solutions. It's good exercise for the brain.

Funding research about something that "may happen" usually revolves around risk analysis. An earthquake may happen, car accidents may happen, crimes may happen. That makes sense, so you should prepare for that.

Newsflash! We may have teleporters, warp drive, phasers, photon torpedos, and the heisenberg compensator some day too! We might have all of our pollution problems solved some day! There might be world peace some day! We might not stupid people some day!

What is the value of a study, that I can guarentee has no basis in fact, that says Robots may demand rights? We haven't nearly developed an AI remotely close to the power of the human mind. Entertainig such a question as part of a philosophical debate is a great idea, because then you are exercising that organ to be creative and think imaginatively, but why are they wasting time and money on a government study? I don't get what the government will get from that.

Perhaps the government should take time out every now and then to exercise their brains and have a go at such a philosophical debate. It will expand their minds and hone their skills. Having some commission do a study and present the government with the results is stupid, but then again so is government, so why am I surprised?

Please tell me the editors failed to do their job again. I can't read the article because it's /.ed so I'm hoping this summary is completely bogus.

Silly doubters. (1)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17327992)

The question here is not if, but when. The human brain is a computer. A very sophisticated machine that consists of busses and switches. We do not yet fully understand how, but it will inevitably be explained and at the very least, it is obvious this machine is capable of producing consciousness. It is only a matter of time before we start creating machines of equivalent sophistication with similar means to observe, interpret, and react to stimili. When we do achieve these developments, it will obviously not be the result of any explicit programming. The foundational work will be laid by us for sure, but eventually any such device will follow an evolutionary path, perhaps something similar to our own. So summarize, if you think it is nonsense to believe silicon can be the basis for a self-aware entity, then you must equally accept the same of carbon.

Finally, the Milky Way Transit Authority can grow! (1)

MasterC (70492) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328022)

The paper which addresses Robo-rights
Sure, might as well start discussing mining rights on Mars. Or why not start the Borg Research Foundation. Best yet, we desperately need to start planning the Milky Way Transit Authority for the intragalactic subway.

Holy crap, talk about putting the cart in front of the horse. We aren't even near robots having a glimmer of sentience or consciousness yet...so why are people putting money behind research on such things as "robo-rights"?

(So if the robots of today don't have sentience and consciousness yet, does that mean the are the future's equivalent of a fetus? Can smashing my Roomba with a hammer constitute abortion?)

The research was commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre
Oh, I get it. Government. Nevermind, no rant to read here...just business as usual.

AI and Religious Jusice (1)

wsherman (154283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328036)

There is a (very very very small) chance that someone will be messing around with a complex computer program and all of a sudden it will start exhibiting intelligence. It's much more likely, though, that artificial intelligence will result from a detailed understanding of intelligence in biological organisms. By the time that computers are developed that can think on their own, it will also be possible for people to augment their intelligence with computers and probably even to transfer their memories and thought patterns to computers and also to other people (forming, among other things, collective consciousness). Rights for robots, as such, will only be one of many issues society has to deal with when artificial intelligence is finally developed.

The bigger issue is the nature of "free will". If a robot kills someone as a result of its programming can it really be said that the robot "deserves" to be punished? Certainly punishment might be an effective means of controlling robots with such programming. But could it really be said that the robot "deserved" to be punished? After all, the robot would merely be acting under the control of whatever computer program controlled its consciousness.

It used to be that creation mythologies were a major part of most religions. Many of the early advances in science were advances in astronomy. When people realized that the earth was part of a much larger universe, it dramatically changed the role of creation mythologies in religion. In modern times, very few people take the creation mythologies literally.

With the creation mytholgies largely abandoned, the central feature of most religions is now a notion of supernatural "justice" - that after people die they somehow get what they "deserve" based on their actions while they were alive. As artificial intelligence research progresses, researchers will have to deal with the fact that computer programs are either deterministic or random. Deterministic and random processes are in contradiction with many notions of free will. People don't like to believe that their choices are either random or determined by certain basic laws governing the physical structures that mediate their consciousness. As humanity understands more about "free will", it is likely that this understanding will call into question the idea that people should get what they "deserve" based on their actions.

That's not to say that humanity will not collectively impose rewards and punishments on individual behavior. The rewards and punishments will, however, only be seen as a tool to influence behavior rather than what each individual "deserves" in some cosmic sense.

Then comes the first robot covering his a$$ (1)

End Program (963207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328052)

HAL: I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.

One fine day at the ATM (1)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328066)

"Honey! C'mon over here, Sugar-buns. This machine just called me an asshole!" - Stephen King, Maximum Overdrive

9000 (1)

m0ntar3 (566330) | more than 7 years ago | (#17328080)

HAL [singing]: Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.
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