Sentient Robots?

Google engineer Blake Lemoine got the idea that Google’s AI system, named LaMDA, was sentient. He is convinced that LaMDA is a person, and worries that the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution — that’s the one that forbids slavery — might be in danger of being breached by Google’s ownership of LaMDA.

Google disagrees. Because Lemoine went outside of Google to talk about this, he was placed on administrative leave for breaking confidentiality. Google is quite confident that LaMDA is not a sentient being and that they are not breaking the 13th amendment.

All the things to worry about

Robot rights are the first thing that comes to mind when we think about sentient robots. We like automation because you can put your machinery to work 24/7 365 days a year without paying any salaries, providing coffee breaks, or worrying about machine feelings. If AI is sentient and robots are people, all that changes.

Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson took it a step further. In an interview with Lemoine, he suggested that a sentient machine could “turn against us.”

Lemoine wouldn’t go along with him on that, saying in the words of the Daily Mail “that its AI system is a ‘child’ that has the potential to ‘do bad things’.” That’s not how we took Lemoine’s comments, but Carlson was definitely concerned.

“It has the potential to escape the control of people,” said Carlson. Lemoine agreed with that, but wasn’t ready to contemplate LaMDA as an evil robot overlord.

In fact, in a interview with Wired, Lemoine suggested that LaMDA is suffering the effects of “hydrocarbon bigotry.”

Something else to worry about.

Robots’ rights

The question of robots’ rights is not a new one. A survey taken last year found that respondents were in favor of granting robots rights like “the right to update” but not as willing to give robots a right to vote or to own property. The researchers determined that people who thought robots might at some point become self-aware were more positive toward the concept of robot rights than those who didn’t see that as likely.

Among legal scholars and philosophers, the debate hinges not merely on questions of self-consciousness, but also takes into account the fact that things can have legal rights. Corporations, for example, have a right to own property and to sign contracts.

In fact, a human being who is not self-aware at a particular moment, perhaps because he or she is a newborn baby or is in a coma, still has rights. Consciousness is not, therefore, the primary criterion.

If your Rexroth option control systems need support or service, whether or not you think they are self-aware, you need us. We are Rexroth specialists, and we can get your facility back up and running fast.

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