In a world where technology is becoming increasingly advanced, and becoming a larger and larger part of our day to day lives, the question of whether the machines that we make deserve rights is one that will inevitably have to be answered.
Our good friend Siri (or whatever you android people have instead…) is a prime example of how technology is becoming increasingly intelligent as it gains access to more and more information about our daily lives. Artificial intelligence is around us all day every day, adding events from your email inbox to your calendar, telling you where you parked your car, and monitoring your internet history so that you see relevant adverts when browsing the web.
Electronic personal assistants like Siri and Cortana are already able to hold conversations with humans, using information that is specific and unique to each of us. When do we consider our bots to be people? At what point can we say they have feelings?
At that point, isn’t unplugging or switching off your devices technically murder?
At the moment, there aren’t any robots truly smart enough to need this question to be answered (thank god), but it’s likely that in the near future, robots will be interacting with us like other human beings do, and we’re seriously unprepared for when that day comes.
Personally, I don’t think being able to interact with us in a human fashion is enough on its own to have to consider giving a machine rights. Human nature is based around the fact that we are conscious beings (as are animals) – we dont see potatoes being given rights do we? Consciousness of our surroundings, our daily events and our mental state allow us to feel emotions, such as happiness, sadness, grief and pride. To need rights, a robot needs to be able to feel pain. If a robot doesn’t feel emotional pain, we dont really have to give it any rights because the whole point of them is to protect ourselves from pain, both emotional and physical, which allows us to lead a happy life. It’s a scary thought that one day, we might make a piece of technology so intelligent that it can think for itself, lead a life, and feel emotions in a way that we once thought was unique to our species.
If a robot is technically another person, we shouldn’t even be allowed to own it, because it should be entitled to its own freedom, as well as all of the other human rights.
And on the subject of freedom, would an appliance that can’t move, mind being locked in a confined space?
Robots were initially introduced as a way of making our lives easier by doing the tasks that we don’t want to do. By doing tedious tasks efficiently for months on end, robots are saving money for companies (and taking away our jobs). But introducing robot rights is essentially going to just undo everything that we have done (to be honest – it wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve regressed *cough* trump *cough*). We would have to give robots time to rest, we would have to give them choice as to what they do, it would even eventually get to the point where we will potentially have to pay them to prevent them from refusing to work, claiming that they are ‘overworked and underpaid’.
You might be sitting here reading this thinking that this is all stupid, and to be honest with you, I would completely agree. Robots aren’t unique like us and they dont experience the world in the way that we do. But the frightening fact is that in the midst of the scientific revolution, the same was said about the animals that we share our homes with today, animals were seen to have the same levels of consciousness and feeling as your stuffed teddy bear, and many of humanities greatest crimes were based on the ideology that the victims were as humans as animals (i.e. not human at all).
So, I guess in the end, rather than asking why robots deserve rights, we should ask ourselves what makes us human, and therefore why we deserve rights over our electronic, artificial counterparts.