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Old 04-24-2007, 04:08 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Robo Rights! Cause you know, it sounds like a good idea?

Just thought I'd put up this little tidbit which I spotted from the news today online. I didn't see it already posted but sorry if it was somewhere

A study commissioned by the Government that suggests robots could one day have rights was attacked by leading scientists yesterday as a red herring that has diverted attention from more pressing ethical issues.

Researchers studying robotics said that the Robo-rights document, published in December and sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry, amounted to pointless philosophical speculation founded on poor science.

While there are important questions to be asked about the direction of robot technology, these have been obscured by considering “robot rights” that no scientists take seriously, the experts said.

Robo-rights was one of more than 200 reports commissioned by Sir David King, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, from Outsights, a management consultancy, and Ipsos MORI, the pollsters.

It said that if true artificial intelligence were ever developed, such robots might have to be given similar rights to humans, including the right to vote. “If granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time,” it added.

Owen Holland, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Essex, said that he was disappointed by the quality of the work, which included just five references. Three of these were to studies published more than 20 years ago, and only one was to research by a working scientist in the field.

“It was very shallow, superficial and poorly informed,” he said. “I know of no one within the serious robotics community who would use that phrase, ‘robot rights’.”

Alan Winfield, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of the West of England in Bristol, said that debating the implications of artificial intelligence was an unnecessary diversion from more pressing problems. “I am much more worried about robot autonomy than robot intelligence,” he said. “It is likely that we will have autonomous dumb robots very soon.”

Noel Sharkey, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield, said: “The idea of machine consciousness is a bit of a fairytale. I’m not certain it won’t happen, in the same way as when I was seven I wasn’t certain about Santa Claus not existing, but I was fairly sure.

“We need a proper debate about the safety of the robots that will come on to the market in the next few years. Military use of robots is increasing fast. What we should really be bothered about is public safety.”

Professor Winfield said a key issue around autonomous robots was who is responsible if one kills or injures someone. At present it was clear that such an event would be the fault of the designer or operator, but that may not be the case if robots start to act autonomously.

The three scientists will debate the issue this evening at the Dana Centre, part of the Science Museum in London.

It seemed like a good idea . . .

Maria a sleek, rather art deco female robot slave in the 1927 film Metropolis, who leads a rebellion against her human masters

Hal the charming computer in the spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which turns into a megalomaniac

V.I.K.I The artificial brain in the film I, Robot, which runs the robots serving mankind, and which decides that part of its duty to protect humans involves protecting them from themselves. It tries to take over

Deep Thought a computer in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, created to find the answer to the meaning of life. It finally computes the answer, 42, but no one knows what the question was

Skynet A computer network that becomes self-aware and declares war on the human race in the Terminator films
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