In a recent proposal issued by the European Parliament it was suggested that robots and artificial intelligence might need to be considered “electronic persons” for the purposes of social and legal integration. The very idea sparked controversy, and it has been met with considerable resistance. Underlying the controversy, however, is an important philosophical question: Under what conditions would it be necessary for robots, AI, or other socially interactive, autonomous systems to have some claim to moral and legal standing? Under what conditions would a technological artifact need to be considered more than a mere instrument of human action and have some legitimate claim to independent social status? Or to put it more directly: Can or should robots ever have anything like rights? This essay takes up and investigates these questions. It reviews and critiques current thinking (or lack of thinking) about this subject matter, maps the terrain of the set of available answers that have been provided in the existing literature, and develops an alternative way of responding to and taking responsibility for the opportunities and challenges that we now confront in the face or the faceplate of increasingly social and interactive robots.
This book discusses major issues of the current AI debate from the perspectives of philosophy, theology, and the social sciences: Can AI have a consciousness? Is superintelligence possible and probable? How does AI change individual and social life? Can there be artificial persons? What influence does AI have on religious worldviews? In Western societies, we are surrounded by artificially intelligent systems. Most of these systems are embedded in online platforms. But embodiments of AI, be it by voice or by actual physical embodiment, give artificially intelligent systems another dimension in terms of their impact on how we perceive these systems, how they shape our communication with them and with fellow humans and how we live and work together. AI in any form gives a new twist to the big questions that humanity has concerned herself with for centuries: What is consciousness? How should we treat each other - what is right and what is wrong? How do our creations change the world we are living in? Which challenges do we have to face in the future?