December 8, 2010

The Argument Against AI: The Rights of the Sentient

I have been exposed to the idea of robots with Artificial Intelligence since I was young.  I was raised with Data on the television, realizing he wasn't a person but felt he was still an important figure.  I read the Positronic Man in 5th grade, and had a lot of people around me willing to discuss the philosophical implications of a lot of hypothetical situations, including when I was growing up.  And now it's something I think about because I'm reading The Naked Sun, a fantastic mystery.  AI is not a new concept.

Something that has bothered me of late is the future of robotics.  Not that I'm afraid of a robotic uprising.  That's not necessary.  Anyone who knows the three laws of robotics knows that's avoidable.  It's more the future of people, and how the past can easily predict the present.

To see the problems potentially with Artificial Intelligence, you also have to see the problems that humanity experience in history.  Particularly the need to find "the other", the need to find someone that is different enough.  Someone that needs to "oppose" everything a community holds dear, and to use that supposed opposition to reassert their own existence and culture.  This has manifested in many ways: racism, religious wars, political battles... and a lot of horrible things happen.  Including creating a second-class citizen.

I'm sure that many of you are either descended from or familiar with a second-class citizen group.  In America we've had a lot that trend, involving indentured servitude, slavery, accusations of unethical acts,  biased laws, and other horrendous traditions.  It's a habit that prevents man from ignoring his violent instincts.  Not to say this is the only reason progress is stifled, but it's a huge one.

Now imagine if we had an entire race of sentient beings that can easily be programmed to be the other to hate?  Something that can be programmed to not fight back if persecuted and killed?

I fear what the future will be when we do have AI abundant on earth.  They'll be sentient beings that can be easily prejudiced against, and would be the only one known to have no urge to fight back.  That doesn't make oppressing robots with AI right, it merely makes it easy.  Considering how hard it has been to let people who fight for their rights get accepted in the mainstream , and how easy it is to fall backward after moving forward, how long would it take for a group who can't stand up for itself to be treated equally?  Years?  Decades?  A millenia?

I think it is better for the rights of all sentient beings to respect those rights, and although this may make me a cynic, I don't think humanity would be able to do this with any AI it creates. It saddens me to say it,  but the easiest solution at this point is prevention.  The easiest prevention is to not develop AI.

Wow, that was a depressing essay.   Something more uplifting next time, guys.

1 comment:

  1. I have a lot of sympathy for this particular conclusion. Having said that, if we really work on it, our better natures might just do us proud. Posts like this help spread the message, and it is a subject that needs to be considered by a wider audience. I think we can also prevent the worst by learning from past errors and being ready as a species for the next.