Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is That A Person, A Chimp, Or A Robot?

What rights does a robot have?  This isn't much important right now, I guess, because lets face it, our current robots don't do much more than blow themselves up disarming IEDs or getting themselves shot at to save having that happen to soldiers, or they sweep our rooms, or they dance cute little dances and play soccer.

The problem is that some people with artificial limbs have a better robotic limb than most robots have got.  And the line is gonna blur, very fast.  And before you know it, a machine with nothing more than a human's brain in it will be pushing the boundary and asking the Millenium Man question...

Trouble is, we're already in trouble before we get to robots.  Primates and large apes are being considered for actually being "people" - and that on grounds that are going to open a whole lot more doors...  They are being described as having all the requirements to be considered "people," such as self awareness, using appropriate forms of communication to each situation, tool use, and more.

Trouble is, by that standard there are other species such as elephants, crows, and dozens more - and they would also all come within their whiskers of the same definitions. They are self aware, have cultures passed on within social groups, use tools to accomplish tasks, use appropriate communication methods, have rudimentary "languages" to pass information.

Now to another consideration - we can take an animal, mess with its genetics, and produce a tiny organic robot, a machine designed to do just one or two specialised tasks.  Is THAT a robot, an animal, or a person?

The further you dig, the deeper you get in.  Suppose I had contact lenses, an artificial heart, prosthetic arms and legs, a plate in my skull, and used a steady flow of chemicals to manage things like immune rejection, digestive timing, infection, and whatever else.  Am I still human?  I'll tell you I am.  If you somehow managed to upload my brain and personality into a small supercomputer, it too would tell you it was human.

So scuse me for bringing it up, but someone has to.  Because, at the rate technology keeps leapfrogging, the moment when a human brain in a mechanical body modeled on a chimp will show up in the news and demand an answer to this question...

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