Wired: Do Humanlike Machines Deserve Human Rights?

Wired asks the seemingly silly question: “Do Humanlike Machines Deserve Human Rights?

I’ve seen videos of the incineration of T.M.X. Elmo (short for Tickle Me Extreme); they made me feel vaguely uncomfortable. Part of me wanted to laugh — Elmo giggled absurdly through the whole ordeal — but I also felt sick about what was going on. Why? I hardly shed a tear when the printer in Office Space got smashed to bits. Slamming my refrigerator door never leaves me feeling guilty. Yet give something a couple of eyes and the hint of lifelike abilities and suddenly some ancient region of my brain starts firing off empathy signals. And I don’t even like Elmo. How are kids who grow up with robots as companions going to handle this?

This question is starting to get debated by robot designers and toymakers. With advanced robotics becoming cheaper and more commonplace, the challenge isn’t how we learn to accept robots — but whether we should care when they’re mistreated. And if we start caring about robot ethics, might we then go one insane step further and grant them rights?

Best quote in the article: “The point isn’t whether it’s an issue for the creature. It’s what does it do to us” (John Sosoka, CTO of Ugobe).

I suddenly feel the urge to go back and watch Ghost in the Shell, which, among other things, raises questions about the obligations that mankind has to that which it creates.

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