Once robots enter our homes and lives, do they deserve fundamental human rights?
Allow me to be a little philosophical for a minute and ask a simple yet controversial question: “Should Robots Have Rights?”.
Wait! I can already feel you rolling your eyes and asking, “what next? Should my toaster get the weekend off so it can self-actualize?”. But hear me out because I believe you will consider this question seriously by the end of this article.
Robots are about to play a much more significant role in our daily lives. Robots will replace many facets of our human jobs within the next ten years. They'll assist lab researchers, clean our homes, and serve us food. The robot market is growing, and the public’s interest in having a robotic companion is higher than ever. But how will we treat these robots? Will we treat them as our equals? Our butlers? Or perhaps as disposable servants? Will we take extra care of them, making sure they are always looked after? Or will we boss them around until they stop functioning and then just throw them away in the nearest dump?
Well, since humanity has yet to have robotic help, it is impossible to determine. However, if we look back at how people treated actual Human servants before, things aren’t looking so good for our robotic friends. It’s easy to imagine a world where people treat their humanoid robots like actual slaves, abusing them and making them work tirelessly until they collapse and are then replaced by a newer model. However, I do not believe that this will be the case. At least not at first.
If we think about it, Robots may not be everywhere right now, but they ARE pretty common. For example, a lot of people own a vacuum cleaning robot, and we don’t see them walking around the house, kicking the robot and screaming at it. In fact, because these robots aren't very cheap, we tend to treat them with a lot of care. For example, I personally clean my robot vacuum cleaner after every use, and I try to keep it in the best condition possible. Not because I think it deserves equal rights but because I would like it to keep working for as long as possible before buying a new one.
And that might be the basis of robot rights. It’s not actual rights for robots; it’s rights for robot owners. My car doesn't have rights, yet no one has the right to scratch its paint; Because it’s my car, and I want to keep it in pristine condition. Of course, no one can say anything if I decide to destroy my car with a baseball bat, but that doesn’t happen often, does it? People tend to be quite protective of their property. Not to mention state-owned robots that will be protected by federal law or company robots protected by giant corporations.
All this doesn’t mean Robots will have actual rights, but it does mean humans will be conditioned to treat Robots with care. However, the question of fundamental, basic “Human” rights for robots will come one day, perhaps much sooner than we think. At some point, we will have to look at artificial intelligence and ask ourselves if it has achieved consciousness. Is it Alive? Does it feel sad when we abuse it? Does it feel happy when we praise it? And does it actually have hopes and dreams? That day is still quite far away, but if and when that day comes - you might have to consider giving your toaster the weekend off :)