Fashion Innovation

RoboEthics – We Need Universal Robot Rights, Ethics And Legislation


The line between creator and creation has gotten blurrier lately, thanks to computer vision, A.I., machine learning, big data, etc. Constant developments are leading to new generations of robots, “machines” smart enough to invent technologies of their own. Humanity is reaching the point where “the machine’s” next step is designing its own algorithms. Better, faster, smarter.
These robots in the making are no longer simplistic gadgets, the likes of which you might concoct while daydreaming at a red light or doodling on a napkin. We are speaking about innovative pharmaceutical formulations and genetic fixes that might normally take dozens of scientists many years and millions of dollars to develop.
These are tomorrow’s robots that will share the world with us. According to research commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation’s Horizon Scanning Centre, robots could one day demand the same citizen’s rights as humans ultimately changing the laws as we know them.
Roboethics is a short expression for ethics of robotics. It is often used in the sense that it is concerned with the behaviour of humans, how humans design, construct, use and treat robots and other artificially intelligent beings, whereas “machine ethics” is concerned with the behaviour of robots themselves, whether or not they are considered artificial moral agents and ultimately with robot rights.

Can Robots Be Made Responsible?

There are many debates at the moment whether a robot could or not be made the responsible party for let’s say, the death of a human. Could the accountability problem be solved by just stipulating or assigning a responsible party, the creator of the robot in this case? The harder requirement for lethal autonomous weapons systems to meet is to respect human life, since A.I. and computers are incapable of understanding our emotions; Yet.
The difference with robots is they are not motivated by the right or wrong reasons or any reasons at all whereas that possibility at least exists with humans. If autonomous robots lack the capacity for moral respect, it makes little sense to hold them to a human standard based on that capacity.
As an analogy, in a war scenario, no one would demand that a bullet or guided missile must be considerate and respectful before it agrees to be fired or strikes a target; yet, they are legal weapons in war. We also do not require this of dogs and other animals in war, which have consciousness and come closer to human-like cognition than machines can. This is because those weapons lack the capacity for moral reflection.

Would You Torture A Robot?

On the other side, is it ok to torture or murder a robot? We form such strong emotional bonds with machines that people can’t be cruel to them even though they know they are not alive. So should robots have rights? Mistreating certain kinds of robots could soon become unacceptable in the eyes of society. In what circumstance would it be OK to torture or murder a robot? And what would it take to make you think twice before being cruel to a machine?
Until recently, the idea of robot rights had been left to the realms of science fiction. Perhaps that’s because the real machines surrounding us have been relatively unsophisticated. Nobody feels bad about chucking away a toaster or a remote-control toy car. Yet the arrival of social robots changes that. The constant AI development and the form factor make machines act as if they are alive. It triggers our emotions and often we can’t help it.
For example, in a small experiment conducted for the radio show Radiolab in 2011, Freedom Baird of MIT asked children to hold upside down a Barbie doll, a hamster and a Furby robot for as long as they felt comfortable. While the children held the doll upside down until their arms got tired, they soon stopped torturing the wriggling hamster and after a little while, the Furby too. They were old enough to know the Furby was a toy, but couldn’t stand the way it was programmed to cry and say “Me scared”.
The robot itself has become the scientist’s scientist. This new breed of robot has taken information technology to a whole new level. What once was called the science of automation has been overturned to become the automation of science. Yes, the robot itself has become the scientist’s scientist.
Divine Providence is often credited with providing the remedy before the affliction. The modern affliction is complexity. For example, the problems that scientists face today in biotechnology involve thousands of variables, each having various states and interactions with other variables and environmental elements, resulting in millions of possible outcomes that all have to be evaluated before you even get to the stage of making an experiment to physically test anything. The cure is processing power.

Are We Ready For Robots 2.0.?

Today’s robots can identify problems, review existing options, design new alternatives, test them all theoretically and determine the most effective and robust solutions in much shorter time. “The machine” becomes a creator. Simplifying, if I, the human created Robot 1.0 and Robot 1.0 is the creator of Robot 2.0 who has the right to patent these cybersolutions, the inventor of the robot, or the robot itself?
To date, according to the journal, SCIENCE, it depends on where you (or the robot) lives. In the USA, only inventions by humans can be protected by patents. In Europe, it seems, the laws governing intellectual property extend to any legal entity, possibly even robots. The need for universal Robot Rights became suddenly so obvious.
What can we learn from this? First let’s look at things from the robot’s perspective. Left to its own devices, such a smartbot could look at himself proudly and proclaim, “Wow, I’m amazing! I’ve studied everything out there and there’s nothing that can analyse problems and create solutions like I can. I am a creator. Better than my creator. And I am better than my creator then why would I let my creator question my creation, existence, own my creation?” Hard times no?…

Some of us would dispute that. At least at the beginning, some of us would argue that “Your scope is limited, your intelligence artificial, your personality vacuous Mr/Miss Robot. You are yourself a mere creation, the product of analysis and design by a creative intelligence greater than yours.
True, you too can invent and brilliantly at that, but your scope is limited, your intelligence artificial, your personality vacuous, your circuitry simplistic. And besides, the very tasks you have been hardwired from the outset to perform are the very tasks you falsely pride yourself in. If anyone deserves the credit, it is the creative genius that made you the creative genius you are.”
Strangely enough, the same may be said of us. The human, the creator, the inventor, is the invention of an inventive mind like his, but infinitely greater still. His analytic and creative prowess is incomparable in all the world, but man would do well to heed the Torah’s admonition in Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25: “And you think, ‘My strength and the power of my hand acquired this wealth for me.” Still, we question the existence of a creator, our creator. Is it any more ludicrous for our techno-babies to take exclusive credit for their inventions than it is for us to boast of ours?
Honesty demands that we too look upstream to acknowledge our source and recognise who owns what. At this point, we hold the power of A.I. What would be the case when “the machine” develops its own A.I. and eventually creating Robot 2.0, a conscious, sentient, emotion able and free-willed robot? Leaving the moral question aside let’s focus on the present time on the next logical step:

Universal Robot Rights And Legislation

Over the past 20 years, we have seen plenty of jobs outsourced to robots — from auto assembly to customer service. Robots are increasingly used in manufacturing (since the 1960s). In the auto industry they can amount for more than half of the “labour”. There are even “lights off” factories such as an IBM keyboard manufacturing factory in Texas that is 100% automated.
Robots such as HOSPI are used as couriers in hospitals (hospital robot). Other hospital tasks performed by robots are receptionists, guides and porters helpers, (not to mention surgical robot helpers such as Da Vinci) robots can serve as waiters and also help at home; for example, Boris is a robot that can load a dishwasher.
Robots with smarter and more sophisticated A.I. will increasingly take over “information jobs,” and tasks that were once reserved for skilled, college-educated white collar professionals have become available to Robots too: Pharmacists, attorneys, journalists to name just a few:


There is already a big impact on pharmacies. We have massive machines in hospitals that automate the whole process internally and smaller machines about the size of a vending machine that are being deployed in pharmacies, so it’s already having a big impact. Technology allows hospital staff to focus more of their expertise on direct patient care. Automated medication dispensing frees doctors and pharmacists from the mechanical aspects of the practice. But this will change. Fast.
Right now, it may be true that a lot of pharmacists still have their jobs because we have laws and regulations that require them to be there. It takes a great deal of training and education to be a pharmacist, but what they do is fundamentally routine and it’s really geared toward producing a very consistent reliable result and that’s the kind of work that’s ideally suited to automation.


We are already seeing an impact in fields like law, with entry level and paralegal jobs which involve document review. It used to be a manual process. They had to read through documents. Now that’s done algorithmically using artificial intelligence. It is unlikely we will see robots litigating in courtrooms any time soon, but some highly billable work normally reserved for seasoned attorneys is in the process of being automated.
There is a new emerging technology called quantitative legal prediction. It turns out that experienced lawyers often add a lot of value by making predictions. Using big data, complex analytics, robots will be best at “predicting” if you’re going to win a case, or that the case will be overturned on appeal, for example.
It generally takes a lot of judgement and experience to make those kinds of predictions, but these algorithms can actually out-perform even the most experienced lawyers by just looking at lots and lots of data much faster and at a lower cost.

Publishing And Media

Journalists are not immune from displacement by A.I. and robots either. Using advanced computer algorithms, companies like Narrative Science and Automated Insights are already generating journalistic stories for clients like Forbes, covering topics that include business, sports and politics.
Specialised A.I. software generates a news story approximately every 30 seconds and many of these are published on widely known websites that prefer not to acknowledge their use of the service.
We, right here at WT VOX are working on our own version or A.I. and there is no shame but pride in admitting that.The process is simple: Analyse multiple live data streams, filter out the most interesting (best on our choice) then create compelling narrative based on that and finally write the story. The beauty of it is that “the machine” is getting more and more sophisticated. It is…learning.
See below our predictions in Robotics development for the next 25 years.
[panel style=”panel-info” title=”Robotics Forecast” footer=””]
2018 – Robots will routinely carry out basic surgical procedures.
2015 – 2020 – Robots to represent 50 % of the agricultural force.
2020 – Every households will have an “in house servant” robot.
2025 – Sex Industry and Online Media introduce Robots as Porn Stars. Moral and legal issues ex: children robots.
2020 – 2025 – Medical army robots performing low-invasive surgery on site.
2025 – Witnessing the birth of Robot 2.0. – intelligent robots that sense their environment, make decisions and learn, become available to households and organisations.
2030 – Robots become capable of performing at human level, perfecting emotional algorithms and allowing robots to feel, giving “the machine” the emotional and psychological dimension.
2025 – 2035 – Nanorobots and robot swarms to serve and support soldiers on the battlefield.
2030 – 2035 – Robots are capable of performing most household tasks and we witness the launch of completely autonomous robot soldiers in warfare.
2040 – Robot 3.0. – A.I. “brains” based on computers that execute 300 trillion instructions per second.
2050 – 2075 – By this time we (humans) must have perfected the consciousness transfer procedure. We can identify, isolate and “transplant/transfer” selected skills from humans to humans and humans to machine.
Going back to “Creator/Creation Dilemma”, we, the humans, the creators at the highest level have the “gifts” of language, art, creativity, we are funny, we are able to create new types of knowledge, we create and understand music where no other animal actually creates music or humour and this is what we value most about human beings. Still, for how long?