Waaaaaaahhhhh…where are my socks, you fool!!!? “I’m sorry, my young master. I shall find them right now.” If you ever have a robot servant, don’t. I repeat, DON’T mistreat the poor thing like that! Robots are for more than just helping you find a pair of socks. You can do that yourself. If you’re so undeniably fortunate so as to have a robot servant at your beckon call, put it to use for the powers of the light! To even reach this point requires so many things. Robots, like machines, traditionally held the ability to do only a few simple physical tasks. A smartphone can listen to music, retrieve information about the music, and then suggest other music you may like based on an algorithm, but it can’t pick up a pair of socks from the floor. Physical tasks of labour are infinitely more complex. Thus, if you have a robot that can, you’re living on the razor’s edge of technology.
This robot must have intricate, quantum-computing connecting carefully designed appendages to robot eyes that can sense stimuli (like the bright purple socks on the floor) and relay that information into some central processing hub where AI can then decide to act on the info to retrieve them. The question is… will humans make robots to do the banal, basic tasks that we can already do, or really put them into action to HELP!!!!?
Robot rights The key to life is carbon. Almost every living thing in the universe is composed of lots of carbon, arranged in atomic form to hold life. The chemical formula of a cell of e-coli (a lethal bacterium) is C4:H7:O2:N1. Take away a few atoms of Hydrogen and you have….nothing at all. C4:H7:O2:N1 produces a living, animate being that can replicate, react, and respire, but C4:H5:O2:N1 does not. So, if all life is simply a difference in chemical formula, if a robot has been built with a chemical formula, why shouldn’t it be classed as animate and living? You may say that humans have rights because of our intellect, but koala bears have rights and all they do is take naps in trees and scratch their butts and ears (in that order).
If we create a robot that possesses intelligence in advance of humans, can’t it be living? We define living things in biology as beings that react (check - robots can react), respire (robots may not respire O2 and CO2, but they will process energy), and reproduce (what if a robot deliberately built another robot?). If we agree robots have rights, we may have to change our constitutions, our social hierarchy, our education, our economy, our world. Or, we can just make them pick up socks like servants because we built them.
So, as our world welcomes, makes use of, and develops AI and the robots that will use it, we have an ethical decision to make. Will we go down the Wall-E route and make our own lives just insanely easy by spending carbon, pollution, and materials on robots to do things we should do ourselves, or will we ethically make a stand to clean our oceans, save lives, give koalas more interesting things to do with their time?
Even as science and technology becomes ever more intricate, we are still left with simple choices between right and wrong. Is it right to sell robots with advanced AI to write 10 words on a page instead of you? Possibly not. Will a company make an AI-powered robot to do just that? Undoubtedly.