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Will Robots Walk Among Us?

Giving Robots Equal Rights

November 23, 2017, Bruno Jacobsen

Last month, Sophia, a humanoid robot, was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship. This is a first for robots, and begs the question: should robots have equal rights to human beings? 

Sophia, developed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics, looks, speaks, and expresses emotions nearly as well as a human. Even if we argue that she is fundamentally different from human beings, to grant it citizenship is putting it at a status approaching equality with us.

So should robots have the same rights as human beings? 

Some might argue that robots are programmed to behave the way they do and have no consciousness, something we believe differentiates ourselves from other animal species. But if we stop to think for a moment, it is not hard to find examples of human beings who have lost their consciousness or have been born with some impairment that significantly reduces their self-awareness, and yet they are citizens, with equal rights.

What's more, with the developments in AI, we may indeed be reaching a level where robots are not only capable of exhibiting the same type of creativity that we do, but also progressing to a level where AI is acquiring similar or better general intelligence than that of humans, possibly gaining consciousness themselves. What would happen then?

Some have already proposed that robots are taxed, which is a possibility, although not widely-supported, way of compensating for the loss of jobs that AI will continue to propagate. This also does something else. It puts robots further closer to us, benefiting from similar rights but also subject to certain obligations. 

But while it is possible to grant them the same rights and obligations, is that the preferred outcome?

What implications would such a move have for businesses, which would likely have to adjust their policies to account for this change? What would it mean for lawmakers? What would it mean for politics? Could they ever vote or even run for office?

And what would it mean for us? Would we ever be able to accept them as one of us and dwell among creatures that look and behave like us, but we know are fundamentally different?

Check out this blog post on how the robot revolution affects the manufacturing business

What do you think? Will robots ever walk among us, as free and equal citizens? Leave your comments below!

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