BBC Reports on British Paper on Robot Rights

The subject of robot rights, which I posted on here yesterday, remains under discussion in the British media and the blogosphere. Today the BBC reports:

The research was commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation’s Horizon Scanning Centre.

The 246 summary papers, called the Sigma and Delta scans, were complied by futures researchers, Outsights-Ipsos Mori partnership and the US-based Institute for the Future (IFTF).

The papers look forward at emerging trends in science, health and technology.

The scans explore a diverse range of areas from the future of the gulf stream and the economic rise of India, to developments in nanotechnology and the threat posed by HIV/Aids.

As well as assessing the current state of thinking the research also examines the possible implications for society.

The paper which addresses Robo-rights, titled Utopian dream or rise of the machines? examines the developments in artificial intelligence and how this may impact on law and politics.

The paper says a “monumental shift” could occur if robots develop to the point where they can reproduce, improve themselves or develop artificial intelligence.

The research suggests that at some point in the next 20 to 50 years robots could be granted rights.

If this happened, the report says, the robots would have certain responsibilities such as voting, the obligation to pay taxes, and perhaps serving compulsory military service.

Conversely, society would also have a duty of care to their new digital citizens, the report says.

This is clearly very hypothetical as we don’t even know if it is possible for artificial intelligence to advance to the point where a robot can be conscious and self-aware as in seen in science fiction stories ranging from Isaac Asimov’s robot series to Data of Star Trek. As discussed yesterday, some conservative bloggers outright rule out the possibility of sentient robots believing that robots were not born, lack a soul, and therefore cannot be conscious. For others the nature of consciousness is not as clear, and the question remains as to whether consciousness is a result of sufficient complexity in the brain which really could be developed by artificial intelligence. While hardly an urgent question for the present, this is a topic which must be considered as research in artificial intelligence advances.

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