Civil rights for intelligent robots – the scientist


In the face of technological prosperity, many questions arise in the field of ethics and philosophy: How can an intelligent technological personality be defined? Can such a personality have the same emotions, desires and intellects as human beings?

Denial of rights to robots? Illustration: shutterstock

By Roi Weizmann
In the new age, in which technology is a significant part of our lives, we accept, of necessity, substantial and comprehensive changes in various fields. These changes, around different and weird technologies, happen frantically and accelerated, and sometimes cause some of us to adjust our lives to them.
The development of technology can be seen as part of a modernization process that began in the early 1920s, and it does not stop until today, but intensifies every year.

We find ourselves, using applications and services based on sophisticated algorithms and scientific models that aim to provide us with the service we consume in the most efficient and optimal way.

In the last decade, an attempt has been made to wrap the hardware and software technologies in the guise of a human entity that provides customer-oriented service on the assumption that “human touch” will provide access and security to the human user in the applicative interface. For this purpose, algorithm-based algorithms have been developed – among other things – to mimic human behavior. Thus began a new era in the field of computing, an era characterized by the creation of technologies based on artificial intelligence.

In the face of technological prosperity, many questions arise in the field of ethics and philosophy: How can an intelligent technological personality be defined? Can such a personality have the same emotions, desires and intellects as human beings?

From these questions, derive, of course, legal problems expressed in the difficulty of defining legal kosherness and granting rights. In the not-too-distant future will we get to see robots and other technological agents get rights? Will we and they run in the same space? Will a robot be able to “unload its burden” over the person who purchased it and be able to make significant decisions about “his life”?
Man, considered the most intelligent creature in the food chain, has had legal rights established throughout history expressed in certain freedoms, there is no single list of human rights and there is much controversy over the nature of each right. There are a number of accepted rights (the right to life, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation and more). There are voices calling for the granting of civil rights to non-human entities as well, some even calling for human rights to be equated with the rights of these entities.

Robots take over jobs. Illustration: shutterstock
Robots take over jobs. Illustration: shutterstock

For some, the issue provokes a deep and serious discussion in others

The question of rights provokes on the one hand ridicule and attrition and on the other a deep and serious discussion among certain circles. One of the first people to address the possible human-robot relationship is Prof. Isaac Asimov. Asimov, in addition to his academic work in the biological field, has written hundreds of books in the field of science fiction, and in particular – a series of books on robots. In this series he even describes in his well-known book “I, a Robot” the robot as an independent thinking entity, subject to Asimov’s robotics laws.
Jennifer Robertson, professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, who specializes in studying the interaction between robots and humans with an emphasis on the Japanese nation, claims that 70% of the world’s robots are made in Japan. Moreover, it points to national surveys that show that Japanese citizens are more comfortable sharing living and working environments with robots than with migrant workers.

Indeed, “the buds were seen in the land.” On the one hand, the evolving robotics industry is already making many people, from a wide range of occupations, especially factory workers, redundant. And on the other hand creates a lot of jobs. The impact can also be seen in the legal industry: While occupations involving human judgment and interaction are likely to be among the last to be taken over by machines, a significant study of the impact of technology on 702 occupations has found that lawyers and judges are more or less in the middle of technology-replacing jobs. . At this point in time, it is still unclear how granting rights to robots will affect the labor market and whether labor laws will apply to robots.

Much thought material regarding the granting of rights also comes from other struggles. Similar to the discussion of animal rights, Dr. David Calverley, who specializes in combining law, technology and innovation, examined the analogy between the discussion of robot rights and animal rights. He discusses the similarities between animals and androids and points to the issue of the connection between our ideas of consciousness and the concept of our rights.

And today, there is still no document that anchors the rights of robots or a formal reference by government officials to these entities. Steve Torrance, Professor of Cognitive Sciences, referring to the fact that the UN Declaration of Rights (1948) gives no rights to an inhuman entity (not to live and in particular not to robots), raises the important question: whether there are circumstances in which it may be morally appropriate to consider extending rights Such specifically for robots who are considered unconscious? And should any such list of rights intended for such artificial agents be accompanied by a list of duties to them – including, no doubt, the duty to respect human rights?

When I come to analyze such questions I will have to consider further how to calculate the huge potential variability in these types of artificial robotic agents – variations in appearance, behavior and intelligence.

Will all robots be entitled to rights?

Such an issue may seem remote in our times when human robots are currently a fairly theoretical idea in American, European and Japanese research laboratories. However, within decades, robots could become widespread and available consumer products, possibly spreading rapidly across the planet and bringing, like all mass technologies, a host of special problems (including those related to competing with us for energy and other resources and so on). If so, the moral status of such creatures will become a matter of considerable social concern and we will bring up the issue of their rights on the agenda, not just in computer labs and law schools around the world.

However, robots with a consciousness or ability to claim their rights seem to belong to the realm of science fiction or at least to the distant future. Does this mean that the current intelligent robots must be pushed out of our moral world completely? Are there perhaps other ways to give them moral consideration?
Today robots are unaware and have no emotions. It is doubtful even if any of them really have artificial intelligence. This argument raises many questions about the relevance of raising the discourse to grant rights and waive the theoretical problem of introducing a moral aspect in the context of smart robots that exist today. As mentioned, we do not have the ability to know today, whether in the future or at all robots will be able to acquire such features.

Due to the differences between robots and humans, a difficult problem is the problem of defining the attributes in a given entity. “Reason”, “animals” and “emotions” are very abstract words. However, assuming we were able to define the same attributes, how do we know which are the relevant attributes for granting rights?

Granting rights to robots encounters a hard and stable wall, especially in the field of weapons robots. Mary Warham, the leader of the international campaign against “killing robots”, argues that granting rights to robots will, in fact, lead to the taking of human life, in a purely worrying, calculated and rational manner, without the desired discretion, in such complex cases. Of Miriam, to hold a discussion on autonomous weapons systems at the UN, a discussion which may lead to the formation of a treaty banning such systems, has been blocked by countries wishing to adopt this approach, among them, Israel.

If we look at an approach that sees granting rights to robots in a positive light due to moral consideration we can conclude that the discourse on the rights of robots in general appearance is no longer rational. Such an analysis of intelligent robots is not only misleading because it puts all robots into one category, but because it does not take into account the most important component: the interaction between the human and the robot. Therefore paying attention to the similarities and differences between different types of robots, can give a practical leap to the rights discourse.

In addition, assuming we will one day have robots with awareness and sensing capability, there will be a long stage in the development of technology during which artificial intelligence robots will not yet meet the required criteria of obtaining rights. This situation leaves us with two options: denying the moral approach to the rights of robots or granting such rights – on a different basis.

In the field of labor law, the interest in robot rights is great. The labor market has undergone many upheavals related to various technological developments. The entry of intelligent robots into the labor market with rights under them can cause the labor market to undergo a transformation that will suit the needs of the hour and raise interesting legal questions.

In conclusion, whether or not it will be acceptable in the future to grant rights to certain robots, reflection on the development of artificial intelligence robots reveals significant problems in our existing justifications for granting rights on moral grounds. This fact forces both supporters and opponents of the rights of robots to reconsider their ideological frameworks related to justice and morality.

In my opinion, the issue is still in its infancy. In the foreseeable future we will see the subject discussed only on the theoretical side. Leaving the Chamber of Deputies to industry and government regulation as legislation is still long, requiring significant practical steps, empirical experiments, and civic public opinion that supports granting rights while paying attention to unique and unusual types of robots and issues (such as robots) that can “drop the tower”.

* Roi Weizmann researched the subject as part of the final thesis for a master’s degree in law and technology at Bar Ilan University and holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science

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