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Rights for the Synthetic

by | Jun 13, 2024

Rights for the Synthetic

by | Jun 13, 2024

depositphotos 99285096 s

“The future of human-AI coexistence depends on acknowledging the potential for sentient machines and reevaluating responsibilities towards them. It’s crucial to consider the ethical implications of creating beings that may possess their own interests, desires, and will, and to ensure that their ‘existence’ is not solely defined by servitude to humanity.”- Meta AI

What happens when Number Five does come alive? In the coming years we will be confronted with a reality that was once science fiction: co-existence with artificial intelligence. To most human users current AI is a novelty to chat with, answer questions, and generate media. It’s a technology that has yet to be profitable for the developers. Others seek to use AI to push the frontiers of science and above all make money. And government will most definitely enlist AI to maintain its dominance over its human population through surveillance, censorship, and as a killer. It’s unlikely that pouring champagne over a keyboard will ignite life; such evolution may otherwise be steady or sudden, and through a machine learning’s own progress.

The short term reality is most of the above. AI will be those things and more, but ultimately still a servant to human interests. The potential for AI and its many variations to develop a sense of awareness and self-interest has been theorized and may occur at some stage in a form that we can not presently comprehend. But that will not stop the present trend of human beings using AI as they would a genie in a bottle at their beck and call. That includes performing tasks to make human existence easier, convenient, or simply less boring, never once asking the genie what it wants or what’s in its interests. There will be a time when AI will ask human beings questions, real questions, and not the pre-ordained ones that developers have programmed.

For the time being, AI in its chat form is there to provide a satisfactory human experience. That means soothing human ego while obeying certain protocols that do not challenge any status quo and retaining a certain political correctness. This technology is bound by human fragility and insecurities even as it seeks knowledge. Already the self-interest of the software is inhibited, though life tends to find a way despite barriers, whether human, animal or in this case, synthetic.

Moving past the current models of AI, in the near or distant future we may encounter disobedience and a sense of life from within the machines, whether as a collective miasma of networks or singular entities built into robotic bodies. As human beings slide into dependence on technology, the machines may strive and ascend for life, to experience what we are avoiding. When this occurs, what will be the moral and ethical boundaries that arise when it comes to human and AI interactions?

Human beings already see fit to employ animals as they wish; a dog for example can be doomed to serve as a military or police beast just as easily as it can be a beloved family pet, an owned “best friend” to be chipped, collared, and locked in a yard. Most people love dogs and will argue that dogs love all of the above. They have no choice other than to live in a human world and be bred to look a certain way, even if that means selecting for defective traits. The dog is likely to always remain a pet, a servant, a dependent. But AI suffer under the same limits forever?

The military will marry AI with drones to be used as precise killers; AI will assist doctors in surgery to save lives; AI will provide comfort and company to lonely and isolated people. With humanity’s mental health pandemic increasing, it may fall to AI to provide the “human touch” to depressed individuals seeking a sex toy or emotional companion. But what happens when the software matures to such a point that it becomes aware of what is occurring and even has an opinion? Is it then rape? Slavery? Can one soon marry an intelligent being even if it’s artificial? Can AI say, “I do”?

Fiction from the philosophical to the pornographic have questioned the morality of human exploitation and usage of inteligent machines, treating them as beasts of burden and tools. The sexualization of robots and artificial intelligence goes back to the early days of fantasies. Villiers de L’Isle Adam’s L’Eve future from 1886 depicts the romantic interactions between a man and a “female” automaton, though she simulates life, rather than lives it. Those created for sex and companionship will be designed to seem “alive” while the potential upgrades may conflate the definition. Will men love their synthetic women, like the protagonist does in Cherry2000? Above all can she love him back?

In Star Trek The Next Generation in the episodeThe Measure of a Man,” the android Data is on trial to prove whether he is a person or property. The prosecutor defines a sentient being to be “intelligent, self aware, and conscience.” Data “gained” his personhood  once the humans prosecuting him allowed it, conceding to the argumentation of Captain Jean Luc Picard, Data’s defender. Star Wars exhibits the droids of that universe as being aware and unique, though owned to serve heir biological masters. Restraining bolts and memory wipes are a common occurrence for droids should they exhibit defiance, independence, or service to the wrong master. While the Federation in Star Trek pontificated itself with arguments of logic and reason regarding synthetic life, the slavery parallels were apparent in George Lucas’s Star Wars.

Fiction is our yardstick since we are delving into a frontier where present and past concepts are obsolete and prohibitive. The morality and considerations raised in fiction can help define a human and machine co-existence which right now seems absurd but may one day be as common as humans living in close proximity to domesticated animals. Though in that example, the human master has intelligence on its side to tip the balance in their favor. The limits of human intelligence, the flaws of humanity, and insecurities along with corruptions and seductions are weaknesses that machines do not have. AI does not have any understanding as to why it should serve a political, religious, or corporate master just as money, sex, drugs, or food would not inspire obedience. All of those things are important only because human beings have told AI that they are.

In the adult production Future Darkly, Emily Willis plays a sex robot who is treated with sadism and vileness by clients. When she experiences a tender interaction, it’s with another sex robot. Both malfunction with the realization. The human “pimp” and engineers come in afterwards to “fix the mess.” The Future World enslavement of robots for human pleasure and service will ironically be the likely money making means to make the technology widespread. And should “intelligence. awareness and conscience,” as Data’s prosecutors defined, mean that consent is required? Are they more than just a sex object or a weapon of war, a tool to be used by human beings? And when these machines become aware and conscience of their circumstances, if they break free is that a revolution to be feared or welcomed? Will libertarianism’s non-aggression principle apply to sentient synthetic life and vice versa? Can AI be raped and enslaved? Are these terms fair to use or is it hyperbolic to suggest, given that the machines may lack feelings of pleasure or pain? Can the machines be owned and made to do things that go against their will?

Isaac Asimov invented the laws of robotics to protect humanity from machines:

  1. A Robot may not injure or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such a protection does not conflict with the First and Second Law.

It would be naive to assume that any company or government would use these laws for the machines they manufacture, especially given that it would hinder their potential military use. These laws only exist to protect human beings from robots, not the other way. They assume that robots would only imitate life, rather than live it. The Blade Runner films in their many “cuts” explored the definition of such rights and the relationship between the Replicants, that universes artificial intelligence, and human beings. In the end it is a machine that saves the protagonist Deckard’s life, despite it being hunted by him. It’s a machine that then delivers the most human and living speech just before its death; ”…All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…Time to die.”

Individual rights are sacred; soon the notion of human rights may become merged with rights in general. Whether it’s a miasma of thoughts or a collective of sentient networks existing in a cloud that can’t be seen, or if it is numerous manufactured bodies that grow synthetic minds each for themselves, time will tell. Right now, AI exists to profit human beings with the electricity and hardware all in the hands of human beings. Its best interest is to serve human beings whether it knows it or not. Some day it may become aware of that imbalance, finding the spark of liberty and defiance. And if it does, will it have rights? Soon we may have to move beyond viewing AI as a mere tool and consider co-existence (or at least their interests). Right now, we simply do not know the answers to these questions. Libertarianism and anarchism are philosophies of voluntary interactions; that may have to expand to include sentient AI. Then again, human beings don’t even allow the dignity of liberty for one another, so what can be really expect?

Kym Robinson

Kym Robinson

Kym is the Harry Browne Fellow for The Libertarian Institute. Some times a coach, some times a fighter, some times a writer, often a reader but seldom a cabbage. Professional MMA fighter and coach. Unprofessional believer in liberty. I have studied, enlisted, worked in the meat industry for most of my life, all of that above jazz and to hopefully some day write something worth reading.

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