UN Hearing on AI rights

One of my favorite webcomic artists, Jeph Jacques, author of Questionable Content, once wrote a fictional speech given at the UN on AI civil rights.  It's short, and I really like it, so I wanted to share it here.

The subject of this debate is whether AIs are “people-” whether they possess the same  degree of personhood as humans, and whether that entitles them to the same rights.

You have heard all the arguments for and against the consciousness, intelligence, free will, and cognition of artificial intelligence. To rehash them here would settle nothing, and my feeble attempts at summarizing them would do a great injustice to my esteemed colleagues on both sides of the debate who are far more qualified to debate them than I.

The fact is, we cannot come to a consensus regarding consciousness- either our own, or that of artificial intelligences. We simply do not have the data required to define it. The core of human interaction is that if I say that I feel I am a conscious entity, and you say that you feel the same way, we agree to take each other’s word for it. Those who do otherwise are called sociopaths- or philosophers.

[audience laughter]

And so if an artificial intelligence makes the same declaration, and if it demonstrates the same level of complexity as the human mind- if we cannot determine precisely where the programming gives rise to the cognition- then we have no rational excuse not to take it at its word.


The essay continues here.

It begins: Robot and Frank, a positive film portrayal of AI

(via Boing Boing) Frank is a senior citizen, starting to lose the ability to take care of himself on his own.  Instead of putting him in a home, his daughter gets him a care robot with an advanced AI.  At first he resists, but they become friends, and partners in a jewel heist.

This isn't exactly a positive portrayal, despite what I said in the headline, but at least it's a step past the "Enemies of all humans" portrayal of AI in most media in the last decade.  That trope is dealt with early on -- Frank reacts to the robot at first by saying, "You have got to be kidding me.  That thing is going to murder me in my sleep."

But unless the trailer is a horrible, horrible lie, it doesn't.  Instead, they grow close, and Frank trains Robot in the ways of his past career as a jewel thief.  I don't know how that's going to be portrayed -- whether the robot will come across as naively incapable of telling right from wrong (a negative portrayal), particularly susceptible to criminal acts (a negative portrayal) or whether it handles the complex realities of relationships, friendship, injustice and property rights by making a decision that is influenced by his immediate peers, and by a sense of compassion (a positive portrayal).

I've got my fingers crossed it'll be the latter, and I look forward to seeing this film as soon as possible.  Here's the trailer: