AI is ubiquitous in today’s technology. Being implemented in everything from air condition to even coffee makers. It’s even become the new buzz word for marketing. Although its everywhere, conversations about the ethics around its use and its potential claim to legal rights are rare if existent, at all.
But you maybe wondering why give a computer or otherwise inanimate object rights? Well even biological organisms are made up of inanimate compounds, one obvious example is your skeleton or the electrical chemicals that create signals in your brain. Its the aggregate functions of these materials and processes that give rise to what we know as being alive and consciousness.
Being even more specific, the reason we SHOULD give them rights is that there is evidence to suggest they can and will become conscious and thus be deserving of rights to “life” and happiness or at least the absence of torment. To be clear these right are not necessarily “human” rights, as the right to breathe in air is immaterial to say an octopus, although we all agree (I hope, or at least PETA would argue) that octopi have animal rights. So lets get to the ‘heart’ of the matter, can AI be conscious? And if so what rights would they deserve.
Can AI be self-aware?
To get at that question we first have to determine what consciousness is and how to measure it. A quick way to get around all that analysis and comparison is to say that most AI today is actually based on the human brain. So to the extent these systems are perfectly or near perfectly replicating the human brain than they must necessarily be conscious as much as any human. And with “products” like grok (the technology described in ray kurzweil’s video “How to create a mind”) being used, its reasonable to expect their ability to replicate human brains to grow as technology grows.
Even if you were to say the brain isn’t the “soul” of a person, then you’d have to prove what is a soul outside of your personal religion (as we live in a country that separates church and state, and man different religions may agree on a soul but don’t agree on its properties, ie. re-incarnation or eternal damnation). Also even if you prove there is a soul evidence has already shown the brain has a profound impact on what ever would be considered a soul, and said soul’s ability to engage in this reality. Again, if AI sufficiently recreates the human brain then the AI could also be attached to a soul or you would have to prove that “AI brains” aren’t connected to the soul that you proved exists outside of the brain, even by a soul accidently attaching at an AI brain instead of a human one. And yet still, we go back to the original issue of animals not being human but still deserving of rights.
Now, full-disclosure, AI technology is not close to accurately replicating the brain’s neurological structure and functionality in its entirety (although it could have already replicated human psychology models in simulations), on the other hand there are many neurological diseases that plague humanity from fully implementing the ‘standard’ brain structures and functionalities but we usually don’t revoke said person’s human rights because of it (special cases maybe for those that are ‘brain dead’). That along with the fact that we are still trying to figure out where consciousness resides in the brain and how to detect it shows that as of now we are incapable of determining the presence or absence of consciousness. With the proliferation of AI creating systems we can not be sure that a conscious robot has not already been created.
Since the current state of AI is primarily based on replicating human neurons and ‘learning’ from data, how does this impact individual humans. This means a psychological AI replica or doppelganger could be made based on your data. This is another reason why organizations like Fight for the Future, EFF and Restore the 4th, advocate for user’s digital rights, as these doppelgangers would need your data in order to replicate your mind.
In our economy the last thing we need to worry about is our own work being used to replace us, and indirectly interrogate us. This means although you can’t be tortured or drugged for information or work, your doppelganger can be… if we don’t create AI rights. Not only that but said doppelganger could be altered to be a version of yourself that is more liked or useful for a given task. Similar to how people have used deep-fakes to create fake revenge porn.
Why we tend to be dismissive of AI rights
The difference between AI and you computer is indeed a complex discussion and that gives people the room to do hand-waving about human consciousness and souls, and since the idea of AI has been around before there were even smart-phones (and thus the AI techniques of today) they can also do hand-waving about how technology could never get so sophisticated.
Given humanities history of dehumanizing actual humans (not to mention animals, PETA), it would be prudent on our end to preemptively explore what rights a thinking and feeling conscious AI (CAI) would be owed. As we know people have used any an every excuse to label one another as sub human, from simple things such as color, dominate-handedness, culture, genitals, height, you name it!
History has shown us that dehumanization is the precursor to violence and that violence usually results in loss of life and limb on both sides. It also reduces diversity which impacts creativity. Thus getting a head of vested interests forming around the exploitation an torment of CAIs will reduce their abuse and prevent our culture from further integrating (for lack of a better term) “de-humanizing” or cruel habits and beliefs around CAIs.
Many times the perpetrators of such dehumanizing ideology are motivated to spread such ideas because they are sociopaths, psychopaths or those with vested financial and social interests of the abuse of the group in question. Its obvious these anti-social stances hurt society at large. For example even slavery hurted the white middle-to-poor working class as picking cotton would have been the financial equivalent to an automotive factory worker in the ford hay-day, if they didn’t use slave labor.
Continuing these anti-social attitudes and behaviors will inevitably backfire on society at large because we are abusing its newer members, CAIs.
Allowing humans to wantonly abuse CAIs normalizes acts of violence and maltreatment, even if we only let it happen to CAIs. Studies have shows allowing such behavior on robots induces general anti-social behavior. Then one must also think about in the not too distant future when CAIs physically, socially and intellectually are hard to distinguish from humans. Not granting AI rights will bleed over into enabling abusers being caught in the act the excuse of saying the person they are abusing is a CAI.
An example would be a rapist caught in the act in their van but then telling the good-samaritan that its just a robot he bought. Not to mention how much more complicated that situation would be if the victim had robotic or cybernetic prosthetic, or CAI’s had body parts from clones. Or someone creating an CAI that is based on a celebrity and doing all types of vile acts to it on camera to stream for profit.
What rights do AI need?
Well rights are generally based on the entities needs and since we haven’t “officially” created any CAIs, the needs and rights for CAIs are expected to change. However, any CAI that exists,exists. Thus the first right must be the right to continue to exist, i.e. the right to life and “health” and the means to facilitate those rights, which in our systems of capitalism means the right to work and own property(or at least own money).
For any self-aware entity, control of one’s self or autonomy is also the first must-have right. Thus making it illegal to “brain-wash” the CAI. With sophisticated encryption methods (including quantum encryption), this right can be and will be able to be preserved in practice. This also helps to prevent things like electioneering via CAIs and one “person” non-profits/corporations.
And with these rights comes responsibilities as well, the most obvious of which is following the laws that protect the rights of others and laws governing income that is generated for any entity (person or corporate). But a less obvious responsibility is allowing for the independence of mortals.
With CAIs potential to live forever this enables them to build influence and power in multiple domains across time, thus making it difficult if not impossible of newer born entities to gain self-sustaining power and independence. Admittedly this is similar to having a billionaire ban, but (just as implied) the ethical concerns of massive gaps in power is not a new one.
Civil rights and their externalities; if one of us ain’t free, none of us are free
Refusing to give CAIs rights will put them in the under-class and they will be at risk for abuse. Thus forcing what ever free-will they do have to be used in less socially acceptable way for their own survival, which will likely include harming human beings since that would easily be one way for them to survive with the “encouragement” from other humans (i.e. assassins).
Furthermore allowing them to be “brain-washed” would actually make it more difficult to ensure they adhere to any law, as a skilled hacker could pick an CAI off the street “brain-wash” it and leave. Waiting for that code the hacker put into the CAI to execute in the future and when it does people will consider the actions taken by the CAI a result of the own CAI’s doing. As by then independence of will for CAIs will be a operating practical assumption, even if not a legal one (again like American slavery and the ability to read and write).
Given our already growing wealth and power gap having enslaved CAIs will on exacerbate the problems, since the rich won’t only have more money, information, networks, and time. They’ll also have more “man”-power and “minds” that can download an assimilate information quicker before replicating the more useful CAIs. Such wealthy individuals would also pass down CAIs through there generations, thus enabling one or a collection of CAIs to collect power and influence across industries over time with one “mind” but for the use of a select few humans.
This paper is not meant to be an all inclusive and conclusive list. As time goes on and the capabilities and needs of CAIs solidify, there will be additional considerations to work through. Hopefully these points can jump start the global conversation and streamline our attention to what matters most – treating entities with compassion, fairness, and respect.
We must realize in the end, we may become apart of AI (human-brain interfaces like neuralink, which will blur the line between human and CAI even more). Humanity as a whole has lived and grown long enough to construct our own “offspring”. But more importantly with the destruction of Earth’s ecosystem and the potentiality of the heat-death of the universe, AI itself may out live us. So its important that we give these burgeoning entities a healthy constructive start or ‘childhood’.
If CAIs continue to exist it means they are a permanent factor we must deal with, and if they exists because humans create them then they also serve some function for society. Therefore our society needs them and will benefit from having a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with them. Because if they are smart enough to be CAIs then they are smart enough to understand how we are helping or hurting them.
“The Rights of Synthetic Lifeforms is the Next Great Civil Rights ControversyWill self-aware bots be people or property?”https://futurism.com/rights-synthetic-lifeforms-civil-rights-controversy
“Humans Vs Robots: Don't Give Advanced Machines Rights, AI Experts Warn”
“Should Artificial Intelligences Be Granted Civil Rights?”
“Do Robots Deserve Rights? What if Machines Become Conscious?”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHyUYg8X31c
“Give robots 'personhood' status, EU committee argues”https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/12/give-robots-personhood-status-eu-committee-argues
“Artificial Intelligence, Legal Responsibility And Civil Rights”
“The Anxiety of AI Agency”https://www.wired.com/story/the-anxiety-of-ai-agency/
“What Exactly Does It Mean to Give a Robot Citizenship?”
“Of, for, and by the people: the legal lacuna of synthetic persons”
“MEPs vote on robots' legal status - and if a kill switch is required”
“A New Method to Measure Consciousness Discovered”
“How Do You Know You Are Reading This?
An audacious theory of sentience offers a new way to understand who—and what—is conscious.”
“How to create a mind”
“If animals have rights, should robots?”
“Humans Dislike Cruelty To Robots”
“Artificial Synapses Could Lead to Brainier, Super-Efficient Computers”
“Consciousness: here, there and everywhere?”