Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Robots will have rights!

That’s right folks: robots will have the same rights as humans. According to an article written by the Financial Times, by the year 2056 the world will be having a new group of citizens brought into the fold. Robots are currently seen as inanimate objects; however, computers are currently being given artificial intelligence systems and becoming more powerful by the day.

Think back to the old days of the computer. Back in 1966, the idea that we would have a computer that would fit on a desk and could be carried around with you everyday was something that could only be seen on Star Trek. Today, we have everything Star Trek came up with. Interestingly enough, Star Trek even asked the question as to whether or not a robot should have rights.

In a previous post I did called “The Measure of a Man,” I stated in regards to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation the following on Lt. Commander Data:

“The key element to the hearing is whether or not Data is a sentient being. Maddox contends there are three criteria in order to be declared sentient: intelligence, self awareness, and consciousness. So let us examine the three elements of sentient beings.

Intelligence-the ability to learn, cope, and deal with new situations.
Self awareness-conscious of your existence and actions, aware of one’s self and ego
Consciousness-as Webster’s Dictionary defines it as the state of being aware especially of
something within oneself.

The whole array of the argument is something which is very unique. Can a machine be sentient? The argument Captain Picard used when dealing with the idea of a race of Data’s was that these androids would become a race and possibly achieve sentient status. If that were to happen, then these new people would be effectively slaves, all in the name of the betterment of humanity. In the end, the judge in the hearing rules that Data has the right to choose and is, in effect, sentient.”

Where we decide to draw the final line on where robots receive rights still has yet to be determined, especially since this moment has yet to occur. The most important element to remember is that if we do not acknowledge the fact that we are building a workforce to do everything for us, NOT to give them some kind of protection under the law means we are purposely creating a slave race. In addition to this, saying what can and cannot be considered intelligent or have the ability to learn would liken us to the days of slavery.

Now as for robots themselves, I for one hope the first one built is named Bender. How is he powered up? Beer. In the event you want to see how entertaining he is, check him out on Futurama. He is awesome!

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