A couple of weeks ago I was discussing animal rights with a group colleagues. I made the comment that if you subscribe to the view that intelligence is an emergent feature of highly connected systems then we would eventually have to deal with the issue of whether machines should be given rights.
I noticed yesterday that the BBC is reporting research commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre that suggests that "Robots could demand legal rights". According to Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser "These scans are tools for government to identify risks and opportunities in the future." The BBC reports:
The paper which addresses Robo-rights, titled Utopian dream or rise of the machines? examines the developments in artificial intelligence and how this may impact on law and politics. The paper says a "monumental shift" could occur if robots develop to the point where they can reproduce, improve themselves or develop artificial intelligence. The research suggests that at some point in the next 20 to 50 years robots could be granted rights. If this happened, the report says, the robots would have certain responsibilities such as voting, the obligation to pay taxes, and perhaps serving compulsory military service. Conversely, society would also have a duty of care to their new digital citizens, the report says. It also warns that the rise of robots could put a strain on resources and the environment.