If a robot could ‘feel’ (by design or evolution) should it have rights?
Robotic technology is a field that has advanced rapidly within the past two decades. Robots and artificial intelligence continue to play major roles in different societies. There are self-driving automobiles capable of transporting people from one place to another (Darling, 2012). Although such robots might be unable to make their personal choices, the greatest question is how to deal with them whenever they harm a person. This is also the same case when such semi-autonomous machines damage property. Many futurists believe strongly that new laws will be needed to tame the behaviors and actions of robots.
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Many analysts argue that a robot that can feel should have rights. Experts believe that future technologies will make it easier for programmers and software engineers to create robots capable of forming relationships (Darling, 2012). These relationships will be guided by the feelings and views of such robots. This development is possible because “many robots are capable of working as intelligent agents” (Howlader, 2011, p. 3). This means that they can act on algorithms to execute their activities and goals. A robot that can feel either by evolution or design should have legal rights similar to the ones possessed by human beings.
Advanced human technologies will make it easier for robots to acquire new skills and habits. They will also be able to learn new competencies from their activities. Any form of damage to a robot capable of feeling will make it less effective. The robot can be a valuable asset to an individual or a given organization (Lichocki, Kahn, & Billard, 2014). The robot should, therefore, be protected from malicious damage or theft. These notions show clearly that the concept of equal rights might be applied to robots shortly. Robots capable of performing complex or dangerous tasks will also require legal protection.
Many researchers have argued that such laws will create the best environment for positive coexistence between human beings and robots. Human beings will ensure their robots are protected from malicious damage. As well, such robots will minimize traffic-related accidents and eventually save more lives (Howlader, 2011). The outstanding actuality is that such rights will promote the continued production of superior robots capable of performing complex tasks.
Factors that can change the above answer
The above answer shows conclusively that robots capable of feeling and making decisions should have rights. These rights will ensure the robots are protected from damage and eventually deliver the most desirable goals. Robots used to maximize production in a given corporation will require relevant protection. However, some factors will have to be considered before providing rights to such autonomous robots. In the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Frank Pole and David Bowman are forced to deactivate HAL 900’s circuits. This event happens in an attempt to control HAL’s super-intellectual tasks. The film shows how “HAL 900 severs Poole’s oxygen hose and even sets him adrift” (2001: a space odyssey 1968). The computer goes further to disconnect every life-support function of the crewmembers. HAL 900 also states that the crewmen want to jeopardize the space mission by deactivating him.
This sci-fi movie offers powerful insights regarding the future capabilities of robotics. Although many specialists argue strongly that robots capable of feeling and making decisions should have rights, it is agreeable that such machines can destroy people’s lives and eventually result in extinction. If such rights are granted, more superior robots will be engineered in an attempt to maximize human activity (2001: a space odyssey 1968).
By the end of the day, it should be acknowledged that robots do not have minds or bodies. They only have software programs and hardware segments (Lichocki et al., 2014). That being the case, autonomous robots might take advantage of their rights to control human beings. As new technologies continue to emerge, future robots will perform complex tasks and affect how human beings operate. With various rights in place, owners of such robots might decide to take advantage of the situation to retrench workers and pursue unethical goals.
From an ethical perspective, robots are not human beings. They are unable to make rational decisions or execute reasonable actions. That being the case, providing such rights might be erroneous because the feelings and capabilities of a robot are contained in its memory chip. The best thing is to ensure the programmers and software engineers producing this technology know the limits. Autonomous robots might be beneficial to many human beings and societies (2001: a space odyssey 1968). However, such robots might decide to control human beings and eventually affect their lifestyles on the earth.
Although this subject is inevitable, future lawmakers and programmers should consider the best ways to ensure robotics are not granted some rights. There should be limits to safeguard the future of mankind. However, different analysts will always present diverse views regarding the provision of robot rights (Lichocki et al., 2014). This fact explains why the debate might not end any time soon (Lichocki et al., 2014).
What this issue reveals about our human society
The issue of human rights has dictated the survival of many societies for centuries. The law has been used by many societies to protect people from their neighbors, politicians, and criminals (Darling, 2012). This is the case because every human society faces numerous problems and obstacles. Wars have been witnessed in different countries thereby claiming the lives of many innocent persons. Societies have been working hard to identify new ways that can make it easier for their people to coexist and work together. This fact explains why ethical and moral laws are critical aspects of every human society.
The use of robots appears to redefine the nature of human existence in the universe. Some skeptics have argued that future robots will be able to make intrinsic decisions that can have both harmful and useful benefits to human beings. Although useful benefits might be essential for human welfare, the harmful ones might threaten the future of the planet (Wallach, 2010). To tame these issues, global society has been focusing on the best strategies that can support the coexistence between robots and human beings.
Some scientists have been advocating for ethically responsible robots. This means that new robots should be able to act ethically and uphold various social norms (Lichocki et al., 2014). Some scholars have gone further to explain why people should not fear robots. This is the case because robots “will never be responsible for themselves” (Wallach, 2010, p. 4). Robots belong to the people who manufacture or use them. They know how to operate and guide such robots. Individuals and corporations operating robots should, therefore, be responsible for their actions (Darling, 2012).
However, modern societies are facing numerous ethical problems than ever before. Many societies have found it hard to tackle some of the challenges affecting humanity such as lawlessness, terrorism, and crime. Most of the existing laws have been unable to deter rational beings from committing a wide range of felonies (Howlader, 2011). Human societies have been described by many sociologists as incomplete systems characterized by numerous challenges and ethical problems. The use of robots is therefore something that might present more societal problems.
It is agreeable that new generations have to deal with different problems. This fact explains why new laws are enacted every day to tame human actions. The provision of rights to robots is therefore a complex issue that requires maximum consultation. With every society grappling with a wide range of social problems and ethical dilemmas, it will be inappropriate to produce autonomous robots because they will affect human lives forever (Wallach, 2010). New research studies should also be conducted to understand how robots can be used to address various human problems instead of increasing them. This issue, therefore, shows clearly that every human society will be forced to consider various ethical and legal reforms (Darling, 2012). The best thing is for human beings to be aware of the dangers and possibilities posed by this issue. This knowledge will ensure the right ideas and ethical laws are put in place to safeguard the future of the human race.
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Darling, K. (2012). Extending legal protection to social robots: the effects of anthropomorphism, empathy, and violent behavior towards robotic objects. SSRN, 1(2), 1-13.
Howlader, D. (2011). Moral and ethical questions for robotics public policy. SYNESIS: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy, 1(1), 1-6.
Kubrick, S. (Executive Producer). (1968). 2001: a space odyssey [DVD]. New York, NY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Lichocki, P., Kahn, P., & Billard, A. (2014). A survey of the robotics ethical landscape. Web.
Wallach, W. (2010). Robot morals and human ethics: the seminar. Teaching Ethics, 1(3), 1-6.