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What rights will robots deserve?

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Imagine a world where humans co-existed with beings who, like us, had minds, thoughts, feelings, self-conscious awareness, and the capacity to perform purposeful actions—but, unlike us, these beings had artificial mechanical bodies that could be switched on and off.

That brave new world would throw up many issues as we came to terms with our robot counterparts as part and parcel of everyday life. How should we behave toward them? What moral duties would we have? What moral rights would such non-human persons have? Would it be morally permissible to try to thwart their emergence? Or would we have a duty to promote and foster their existence?

Intriguing ethical questions such as these are raised in Ian McEwan’s recent novel, Machines Like Me, in which Alan Turing lives a long successful life and explosively propels the development of artificial intelligence (AI) that leads to the creation of “a manufactured human with plausible intelligence and looks, believable motion and shifts of expression.”

As intellectual speculation, to consider the ethics of the treatment of rational, sentient machines is interesting. But two common arguments might........

© Fast Company