It is with a fair amount of interest that I have followed the debate in Europe over the role of AI and how it should be viewed or regulated. Readers of this post may remember the kerfuffle caused by Sophia, the robot that appeared at Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh and caused a stir as a robot, as a woman robot and as a woman robot in an Arab country without a hajib. Well, the discussion has come up again in Europe where the European Parliament, to the outrage of AI specialists, advised that robots be given legal status. Like a corporation, this would not hold the companies that created the robots legally responsible for their behavior. It seems to be step in the Alfred P Newman, “what, me worry?” theology that seems to be the order of the day. If guns don’t kill people, then why should we think that companies that make robots are responsible for what they do. And yet, what about the place of robots as human beings. Would they have all the rights of a human or would they have some fraction like the 3/5 voting rights proposed for slaves by the Constitutional Convention of 1787? We seem to have such a good track record of integration and inclusion in this country, it seems strangely natural that we would not even be the ones having this discussion. Europe is far ahead of us on matters of understanding and regulating the role of this new technology, asking questions that we do not seem yet to acknowledge as issues. We can only hope that the robots that we give human status will be better humans than we seem to be.
It doesn’t happen as often as it should but occasionally I go through my computer take all the old files and documents that I no longer need and move them to the recycling bin. This electronic purge is a way of cleaning out the memory to make way for the new things that will be coming. While doing my last memory cleanse I became jealous of the computer’s ability for amnesia. I can imagine a day when we have computer envy – wishing that we could retain and delete information like our computer. If only we could be less human and more computer like could replace our quest for knowing the divine. Indeed we already seem to be willing to turn away from the reality before us to the cool desired perfection of the machine. Perhaps that is the interest in the wearable technology. If we can’t actually be a computer we can be as close to it as possible making the trend to merge our bodies with computers almost understandable. I mean, wouldn’t you like to be one of the cool kids?