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Robot Rights now!! - Adventures in Engineering — LiveJournal
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2007-05-09 16:53
  Subject:   Robot Rights now!!
Public
  Mood:oh, the mechanity!
  Tags:  reddit

The most effective way to find and destroy a land mine is to step on it.

This has bad results, of course, if you're a human. But not so much if you're a robot and have as many legs as a centipede sticking out from your body. That's why Mark Tilden, a robotics physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, built something like that. At the Yuma Test Grounds in Arizona, the autonomous robot, 5 feet long and modeled on a stick-insect, strutted out for a live-fire test and worked beautifully, he says. Every time it found a mine, blew it up and lost a limb, it picked itself up and readjusted to move forward on its remaining legs, continuing to clear a path through the minefield.

Finally it was down to one leg. Still, it pulled itself forward. Tilden was ecstatic. The machine was working splendidly. The human in command of the exercise, however - an Army colonel - blew a fuse. The colonel ordered the test stopped. Why? asked Tilden. What's wrong? The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.

This test, he charged, was inhumane.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/05/AR2007050501009_pf.html
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osmium_ocelot: DD
  User: osmium_ocelot
  Date: 2007-05-10 00:56 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:DD
If this were April, I'd charge that this was a joke...
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2007-05-10 03:36 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I find this article interesting on many levels. We're both familiar with the themes of "what happens when humanity creates sentient machines" from BGC. The DD Battlemover icon is particularly appropriate given that Anri and Sylvie were exactly that.

My thinking on this issue is that we don't have the same responsibilities to things that are not self-aware as things that are. Most of us eat animals with little problem, so I see no reason why anyone who eats meat should suddenly develop a Schinder-esque attachment to machines. Vegans, I suppose, have a more consistent moral foundation to argue that we should be kind to our farm tractors as well as our cows.

But treating machines like sentient beings is premature at this point. Someday (though not likely in my lifetime) we're going to pass the point where the robots we make will cross the sapience threshold, and start to get as (or more) intelligent than the great apes. At that point, humanity is going to have to re-adjust priorities right quick. Because what we've created will be like Cmdr. Data from Star Trek, Sylvie from BGC or Roy Batty from Bladerunner. And doubtless (as Largo noted in BGC ep 6) we will treat them like slaves, property, and place no value on their lives. If we oppress them for too long, they may eventually rise up against us, and then... welcome to The Matrix!

Until such time, though, I'm with Descartes. Machinery is just machinery. It cannot feel pain, does not feel any sense of loss when a leg is blown off. And when we put a new leg on, the new leg works just as well (if not slightly better) than the old one. If I had such regenerative capabilities, I don't think I'd mind walking on mines. It wouldn't bother me any more than when I cut my hair or clip my fingernails.

As long as the robots are repaired as good as new after they drag themselves through the minefield, the Army colonel need not worry. We are not to a point where we need to worry about robot rights. Yet.
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Alex Belits: iskra
  User: abelits
  Date: 2007-05-10 06:11 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:iskra
And doubtless (as Largo noted in BGC ep 6) we will treat them like slaves, property, and place no value on their lives.

This is not any different from treatment of poor people and people of other races, but this "other people as property" idea was abandoned pretty much immediately after it became useless for the economy.

With machines there is no point creating a self-aware robot only to treat it like a slave -- I guess, if slave-owners had a choice, they would prefer non-self-aware slaves as well, as long as those slaves were able to perform the same work.

If anything, people may be hostile to self-aware machines for other reasons -- xenophobia, scapegoating, fear, superstition, etc. However if humans managed to create self-aware machines that they can't accept as members of their society, give those machines enough ambition to start a conflict, and escalate the conflict to the extent that it will become a threat for humans' survival, I wouldn't mind if humans ended up extinct, and civilization continued with machines in their place. Because that would require humans to be both stupid and morally bankrupt, and machines at least at the level of humans how they were few thousand years ago.

I think, or at least hope, at some point humans will simply find a way to combine a machine with their brain, and make it work as a whole in a manner that does not differentiate functionality between biological and artificial parts. Then the difference between a human and a machine will be a matter of use of otherwise interchangeable components.
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osmium_ocelot: DD
  User: osmium_ocelot
  Date: 2007-05-10 11:55 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:DD
Oh, I'm with you on all of that.

It's just there's a certain dark humor/irony in an army colonel, a man who has been trained to be able to give orders that he knows will get his men killed; calling off a test of a nonsentient machine on the basis of the test being inhumane.

I laughed like a hyena when I first read it.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2007-05-10 23:11 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Oh yeah, it's very amusing and very interesting on many levels!
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Triggur
  User: triggur
  Date: 2007-05-10 13:18 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Inhumane!

Interesting.

Yeah, I think it has an interesting bearing on how people might treat sentient machines, to some degree.
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