Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Rise of The Machines

I was watching Almost Human last night, it is a new science fiction TV show where human cops are paired with humanoid robots. In this universe the latest model of police robots are very analytical and are based on logic. But the robot that the main character is paired with is an older model that uses simulated emotions – he’s more human than most humans.

Anyway this started me thinking… Sooner than we imagine we will share the world with new intelligent beings - artificial intelligences. Some of these will have robot bodies and simulated emotions. There will be robots that are incredibly human like in every way.

There will be people that believe robots do not deserve the rights given to other life forms and definitely not human rights. They will say they are objects just like a hammer - nobody cries when a hammer gets destroyed.

But there is also an alternative view. If something acts like a human, looks like a human, feels like a human are they human? I believe that any self-aware intelligent being is deserving of rights and even human rights. In the future I think this will become an issue that will be bitterly debated and might even result in violence.

Some people will resent and even feel threatened by intelligent robots. Supporting their resentment will be some religious groups who preach they do not have souls et cetera. Also the assertion that they are just tools to be owned, used or destroyed at the owner’s whim.

This conflict will take its place in the long chain of civil rights movements that have dominated the politics of the most recent decades. This could be a much tougher battle as we aren’t fighting for the rights of humans this time.

Some people might argue that is ridiculous to even talk about this, but there are several potential issues that make this something worth thinking about. Once true self-aware artificial intelligence is developed there will be an immediate revolution in robotics. These intelligences will be able to design and even improve themselves becoming smarter. A snowball effect happens with intelligent computers vastly outstripping the intelligence of humans.

Robots will eventually be our superiors in every way. I think it would be better for both of us to have an equal partnership. There will be things such as creativity that might be difficult for machines to emulate. Humans partnered with intelligent machines will always be more powerful than just an intelligent machine.

There has been many science fiction books and movies about machines taking over the world and eliminating humans. The thing is I do not believe that machines have any motive to seek world domination. Denying rights to artificial intelligences could give machines a motive to destroy us. We have much to gain by offering rights to artificial intelligences and even more to lose if we don’t.

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