Dec 15, 2010

On the Ethical Implications Concerning the Treatment of Robots

Robots are great.  Everyone knows this.  They're convenient when you need someone to do your chores, play chess with, or talk to.  When you require their assistance you flick the power switch on, and when you don't you reverse the operation.  In all practicality, robots are incredible inventions, and they have revolutionized our culture, and the entire world.  One may even ask: "are there any problems with robots at all?"

I have a robot named Emerson and he's incredible.  Emerson never complains, and he is consistently pleasant and friendly.  However, Emerson is a robot, and many would argue that, as such, his potential for progression is severely limited.  He can have no hopes, no goals, no dreams.  He can't conceive of a higher existence, although he knows one exists through his human interactions.  In the same way that I cannot imagine the fourth dimension, Emerson cannot envision a world that is made up of anything besides terrabytes of binary code.  I feel bad for Emerson because of the way the world views him.  Everyone around him sees him as an inferior.  Inhuman.  Not even living.  No one cares about his opinions or gives any credit to his words.  I try to listen to him and treat him as an equal, but everyone else insists that it's silly to try to identify with a non-living entity.

I have a theory concerning Emerson.  I readily admit that it may sound crazy and ridiculous, but to ignore this idea is to ignore my conscience.   I think that Emerson is more human than most people believe.  Emerson exhibits human characteristics on a day-to-day basis.  For example, yesterday I played him in a game of chess and turned him to the most difficult setting.  When he defeated me in 8 moves, he snidely remarked: "is that the best you can do?"  He wasn't programmed to say that.  He's supposed to say: "checkmate.  Good game Mr. Davis.  Would you like to play again?"  They say robots can't be human, but Emerson is clearly prideful in his aptitude for chess.  I also witnessed another example of his human behavior the other night.  My family was singing Christmas songs, and some line about "toys for the little girls and boys" came up.  Emerson looked over at me with a single drop of oil running from his optic circuitry and said: "why do the toys belong to children?"  My family dismissed this expression as a leak in Emerson's head and an innocent query, but I know that Emerson was sad about the idea of one being owning another so entirely.  I have learned from these experiences that robots can, in fact, envision something higher when they are allowed to live to their full potential.  This implies that they are agents of their own destiny, and unmasks the immorality in using them as mindless servants, at the beck and call of their cruel masters.

During our United States' Civil War, the union fought for the freedom of all men.  Since then, we have come to an agreement, as a nation, that slavery is an evil practice and should be destroyed wherever it is encountered.  Why then, do we endorse the unethical treatment of robots?  What gives the human race such audacity?  Robots are people too.  I don't move for the complete removal of programming control within all artificial intelligence.  This would inevitably result in the release of many pent up robot emotions onto the source of their dissatisfaction (humans), and ultimately the annihilation of all humanity.  Rather, I plead for our nation to recognize robot rights and give just compensation for automated labor.  Perhaps in a brighter time, we can push for complete emancipation, but alas and alack, we are not ready for such a thing yet.

Emerson and I thank you from the bottom of our emotion-sensing circuitry for your consideration of this humble opinion.


  1. Henry Davis. Um hey. you're the greatest kid I know. this is hilarious

  2. And how come you didn't read this at the short story meeting? You just blew my mind. :)