Robot Liberation Front

Jonathan David Carson, Ph.D.
Animal rights was bad enough, with its implicit equation of animals and people, but now we have robot rights.  Instead of the Animal Liberation Front equating us with rats, we have the American Association for the Advancement of Science equating us with robots. 

"Robot Ethics," an editorial in the November 16 issue of Science, its flagship publication, calls for "science fiction" to "be our guide as we sort out what laws, if any, to impose on robots and as we explore whether biological and artificial beings can share this world as equals."  The American Association for the Advancement of Science looks forward to "a man marrying a robot woman, and living, as one day all humans and robots might, happily ever after."

Why is the United States so far behind its European and Asian allies in robot ethics?  Because "many U. S. robots are created for the military."  Apparently, killing terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan with robots is unethical, but having sex with them is not.  Make love, not war.

How is this sick and soulless future to be brought about?  Through "interesting litigation defining robot responsibilities and rights."  For the scientific establishment and the courts, people have no more rights than machines.

Not only has the American Association for the Advancement of Science lost what little mind it had left, but the South Korean government has promulgated a Robot Ethics Charter, and the Japanese foresee "robots in many homes and have issued policies for how they should behave and be treated." 

Science fiction was once far ahead of science on the road to insanity, but no longer.  Science fiction long ago considered "how much freedom to accord robots"; now it is government's turn.  Scientists go to the movies and come back and instruct the government in "roboethics."

One of the staples of bad science fiction, which seems to be the only kind there is lately, is the suggestion that computers are actually alive.  Behind this juvenile theme is the unsubstantiated belief that human beings are actually just very complicated machines.  So the ultimate purpose-and effect-of endowing computers with life is robbing people of it.

If we give horses the right to vote, what are they going to do with it?  If we give robots the right to vote, we know what they will do: they will vote for the candidate they are programmed to vote for.  We can't give horses or robots the right to vote; all we can do is take away the right from people. 

First they take away rights from people and give them to animals.  Then they take away our rights and give them to machines.  What is next, rights for abstract entities? Will dividing a number be equivalent to cutting someone in half?

No one should gratuitously harm animals, and cruelty is a bad thing, no matter who or what the victim, but people who start out trying to treat animals like people end up treating people like animals.  Even the most intelligent mammals have only rudimentary human intellectual faculties, but humans can kill as remorselessly as a cat playing with a mouse.  Animals cannot behave as people, but people can act like animals. 

Once environmentalists sought to protect people from pollution; now they say that people are pollution.  Once they wanted people to live in a pristine environment; now they want us to die to make it pristine.  If environmentalism, which appeals to a wholesome love of the natural world, and animal rights, which plays on our sympathy for suffering animals, can go so wrong, how wrong can robot rights go?  It has no love or sympathy to go astray, nothing but a cruel and simplistic materialism.

Don't kid yourself.  Science is dead.  Technology is thriving in the private sector; science has died in the government.  Technology makes gadgets; science seeks the truth about things.  "What is truth?" says Pilate.  "What is truth?" say the universities.  When the establishment questions the existence of truth, we can only blame ourselves if we believe what is says.
Animal rights was bad enough, with its implicit equation of animals and people, but now we have robot rights.  Instead of the Animal Liberation Front equating us with rats, we have the American Association for the Advancement of Science equating us with robots. 

"Robot Ethics," an editorial in the November 16 issue of Science, its flagship publication, calls for "science fiction" to "be our guide as we sort out what laws, if any, to impose on robots and as we explore whether biological and artificial beings can share this world as equals."  The American Association for the Advancement of Science looks forward to "a man marrying a robot woman, and living, as one day all humans and robots might, happily ever after."

Why is the United States so far behind its European and Asian allies in robot ethics?  Because "many U. S. robots are created for the military."  Apparently, killing terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan with robots is unethical, but having sex with them is not.  Make love, not war.

How is this sick and soulless future to be brought about?  Through "interesting litigation defining robot responsibilities and rights."  For the scientific establishment and the courts, people have no more rights than machines.

Not only has the American Association for the Advancement of Science lost what little mind it had left, but the South Korean government has promulgated a Robot Ethics Charter, and the Japanese foresee "robots in many homes and have issued policies for how they should behave and be treated." 

Science fiction was once far ahead of science on the road to insanity, but no longer.  Science fiction long ago considered "how much freedom to accord robots"; now it is government's turn.  Scientists go to the movies and come back and instruct the government in "roboethics."

One of the staples of bad science fiction, which seems to be the only kind there is lately, is the suggestion that computers are actually alive.  Behind this juvenile theme is the unsubstantiated belief that human beings are actually just very complicated machines.  So the ultimate purpose-and effect-of endowing computers with life is robbing people of it.

If we give horses the right to vote, what are they going to do with it?  If we give robots the right to vote, we know what they will do: they will vote for the candidate they are programmed to vote for.  We can't give horses or robots the right to vote; all we can do is take away the right from people. 

First they take away rights from people and give them to animals.  Then they take away our rights and give them to machines.  What is next, rights for abstract entities? Will dividing a number be equivalent to cutting someone in half?

No one should gratuitously harm animals, and cruelty is a bad thing, no matter who or what the victim, but people who start out trying to treat animals like people end up treating people like animals.  Even the most intelligent mammals have only rudimentary human intellectual faculties, but humans can kill as remorselessly as a cat playing with a mouse.  Animals cannot behave as people, but people can act like animals. 

Once environmentalists sought to protect people from pollution; now they say that people are pollution.  Once they wanted people to live in a pristine environment; now they want us to die to make it pristine.  If environmentalism, which appeals to a wholesome love of the natural world, and animal rights, which plays on our sympathy for suffering animals, can go so wrong, how wrong can robot rights go?  It has no love or sympathy to go astray, nothing but a cruel and simplistic materialism.

Don't kid yourself.  Science is dead.  Technology is thriving in the private sector; science has died in the government.  Technology makes gadgets; science seeks the truth about things.  "What is truth?" says Pilate.  "What is truth?" say the universities.  When the establishment questions the existence of truth, we can only blame ourselves if we believe what is says.