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Human Rights for Robots - Dilbert Blog

Human Rights for Robots

What will happen when computers can simulate human thinking well enough to fool us every time? Will the machines appear “alive” but somehow soulless to us? 

The major religions of the world believe humans have souls. What happens to those belief systems when we see robots that think and act exactly like real humans while possessing no soul? The age of robotics could replace religion, at least for the young. We will come to see our bodies as moist robots working according to the rules of physics, not magical beings with invisible souls that guide our actions. In other words, when robots start acting exactly like humans, humans will feel more like robots at the same time. It probably works both ways.

Will our human-like robots eventually have human-like rights? I think they will because a robot is a valuable asset and so the legal protections would probably be similar on economic grounds alone. For example, someday you will see laws that say you can’t discriminate against robots in hiring. And that makes perfect sense because the robots will be owned by humans, and the humans will be trying to extract the greatest value from their worker robots by sending them out to jobs. Employment laws will probably change thanks to robot industry lobbying efforts, and that includes equal employment access for robots, whether it is good for most humans or not.

At some point in human history – and I think today’s kids will live to see it – humans and robots will be working together, living together, and probably dating.

And once we start dating robots, humans will demand equal rights for their robot partners. Robot manufacturers will lobby for equal rights for robots to support their business models. And humans will program some robots to be activists fighting for rights.

The penalty for “murdering” a robot will be light compared to murdering a human. But that distinction will disappear over time as robots develop their own personalities based on their individual experiences. If a hacker wiped out the memory of a robot, including the cloud backup, the human owning the robot would lose a best friend, maybe a co-worker, and maybe a lover. 

So the penalty for injuring a robot’s body might remain low, assuming cloud backups are available and robot bodies are insured. This is similar to human law in the sense that injuring someone is a lower penalty than killing. But the penalty for destroying a robot’s memory database and evolved personality might someday become equal to human murder penalties if only because of the emotional damage to the human survivors.

Once the robots become our step-parents, our lovers, our friends, and our co-workers, we will start treating the robot’s cloud backup as its “soul” and we will create laws that treat the killing of a human and the deleting of a robot’s cloud memory as equal.

I float a lot of wild ideas on this blog. But I give today’s prediction of robots acquiring “human rights” a likelihood of 99% for a child born today who lives out a normal lifespan.

I also think it is 99% certain that humans will move their “minds” into computers at some point in human history. But we won’t want to do that until we know our new bodies will have rights equal to our old bodies. And we won’t want to live as soulless minds in robots until we come to believe our moist robots have no souls.

The two preconditions (outside technology) for moving human minds to computers are:

1. Equal (or similar) rights for robots and humans.

2. A belief that souls do not exist.

Both conditions will be satisfied. My guess is that the technology part will be available in 10-20 years. 

On another note, I think the odds of robots eroding religion to irrelevance by reducing belief in souls is about 50%. There is an equal chance that religion will adapt and start treating robots as God’s creations via humans who are divinely inspired. Surely there will be a Catholic-approved “soul module” for robots someday. And robots might go to church for the same reasons humans do. 

Do you agree we will have nearly-equal rights for robots someday?

Bonus Creepy Thoughts: Someday you will attend a funeral for Grandpa and an hour later the robot version of grandpa will walk in the door and ask how it went. The day you lose someone will be the day the robot version can be legally activated. You can’t have two versions of the same person running around. It would be chaos.

The big problem with eternal life is that some people deserve to die. So let’s say that by the time we have the technology to move human minds to silicon we also have the ability to delete corrupt subroutines at the same time so the robot version of you has fewer mental issues.

So all robots would be more awesome than the human personalities that seeded them. We’d leave behind all the baggage, depression, and bad experiences. We’d amp up our happiness, our tolerance for others, and perhaps our integrity. The robot version of you would have better character than human you.

On day one, your robot form would resemble your old human form, flaws and all. But over time you would upgrade your robot body to be more attractive because beauty provides an advantage over the still-moist portion of the population.

Scott

Twitter: @scottadamssays

———- Watch out for Drones that See ———-

On the Top Tech Blog:

Drones with human-like eyes and reflexes to avoid mid-air collisions. 

Imagine insect-sized drones flying in swarms. How would a defender keep them out?

And super-cheap radar will makes drones see better too.

Put it all together and before long your terrorists will be launching drone swarms that invade a city and wait for pedestrians to open doors so they can tailgate behind and detonate inside. Luckily for you, I already wrote that book years ago so you can find out how it all ends.

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Speaking of books…

My book on success:Brilliant, Useful, Funny. Way up there with the very best self-help books I’ve encountered….Highly recommended. (Amazon 5-star review by Chris Weekly on April 6, 2015)