24 April 2007

Rights For Robots

I was tempted to file this under "People who clearly have too much time on their hands" until I realized that one of you would be quick to point out that I'd obviously had enough time on my own hands to read and comment on it.

The issue at hand? Apparently a UK government agency has issued a report calling for a debate on whether human rights should be extended to robots. Granted, they're talking about slightly more advanced robots than the kind we have today, the sort that would be smart enough to act as police officers, jailers, carers for the elderly, and sex slaves.

Whether you'd want to turn the care of your ailing granny over to a more sensitively tweaked version of the Terminator is another question, but apparently this is something we'll have to be contending with sooner rather than later. The prospect of designing robots as sexual companions also raises some nettlesome issues, most notably with regard to the effects this would have on traditional romantic and marital relationships.

Say, for example, a woman has a boyfriend or husband who's generally good-looking, kind and considerate, but has just a few annoying faults she can't seem to break him of. Farts at the dinner table, for example, or won't shut up when she's trying to watch America's Top Model. With this coming technology, what would be the point of putting up with him when she could simply get a sample of his DNA and have it turned into a robotic version of him with all the bad habits bred out of him? And with the added attraction of never losing his teeth, hair, or sexual stamina?

Add to this the introduction of an on-off switch for those occasions when the robot's owner feels like being single for the evening, and you have to wonder why anyone would put up with a human paramour again. An entirely new era in interpersonal relationships would no doubt unfold, in which (actual) people could be best friends forever without ever having to endure the complications or exacerbations of having sex with each other. In light of this promising development, it's a mystery why these crackpot scientists want to consider granting "rights" to robots, effectively making them indistinguishable (apart from being smarter, faster, stronger, and more durable) from the original humans. Didn't anyone learn anything from the first creation cycle?


amy said...

Could I get a robot version of myself and make it go to work? That'd be awesome.

Larry Livermore said...

No, because then you'd be violating its robot rights.