By Chan Shi Yun, TIME
Published: 19 Mar 2019 - 05:16 PM
Pepper, a sentient AI robot with the nickname ‘Emotional robot’ due to its intellectual and emotional-reading capabilities.
‘In times of a crime committed by robots, who is to blame, the creator or the robot?’ This was a question posed during the COSTAR Council Session. In our rapidly advancing society, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is inevitable as they are a radical change in the global technology scene with their abilities to increase productivity and efficiency. This begs the question of whether AI deserves to have rights just like humans. The delegates started a heated debate on the rights of AI.
In the world of AI, there are various types built to perform different functions and roles. Most delegates therefore argued that if any rights were to be given to robots in the future, it had to be dependent on the type of AI and the rights should be based on the functions they perform. This is to maximise the benefit of AI having rights but also maintain their functionality, therefore increasing their efficiency in helping humans complete their jobs. One particular type of AI pointed out was the ‘Sentient AI’. Sentient AI is known as AI that have been programmed to think on their feet and are able to perceive feelings, similar to the intellectual and emotional capabilities of the humans. With this powerful ability, many delegates questioned if this type of AI should or should not be given rights.
During the debate, there were two clear groups of delegates – a group that were opposed to AI having rights and a group that agreed that AI should be given rights.
The group of delegates that were opposed to giving AI rights, which includes the delegate United States of America, reasoned that AI was only created with the sole and pure purpose of being technological tools for humans. One delegate pointed out, ‘They are built to serve, not to be served’. They mentioned that if Sentient AI were given rights, with their powerful intellectual and emotional capabilities, it poses a risk of AI abusing the use of the rights to cause damage in our society. Another delegate also pointed out that by giving AI rights, it might result in a negative precedent in which other AI will demand for more rights in the future. The delegate of the United States of America disagreed with giving AI freedom of expression as it heightens the fear that humans can hack into robots and exploit their rights. On the other hand, the group of delegates who were in favour of AI having rights argued that rights are moral and legal entitlement to have or do something. In this case, granting rights is to protect the vulnerability of the people concerned. Therefore, they emphasized that AI should have rights so as to prevent excessive exploitation of the use of AI by humans. The delegate representing Korea strongly expressed his opinion of AI’s rights, ‘Robots that work in the manufacturing sector should have labour rights and not be overworked just for the benefit of human society’.
Overall, the majority of the delegates agreed that if any rights were to be given to AI, freedom of expression and the right to reproduction were two particular rights that cannot be granted to AI. Granting freedom of expression poses a risk that humans can hack into the AI system and abuse the use of their rights for personal benefit. Granting the right of reproduction may lead to AI dominating the human race not just in intelligence and power but also population. The delegate representing the United Kingdom emphasized that if AI was to dominate the society, it poses the risk of job security of humans being threatened when there are more AI to replace humans. In a long-run, it will cause humans to lose their jobs to the very technology humans created.
As the Council session closed, there were two main stands that remained on whether or not AI should be granted rights. In conclusion, the countries were unable to come to a consensus on the issue of AI rights. Further discussion on the issue was stalled due to the differing opinions of the delegates.