Evan Selinger Asks: Should We Root for Robot Rights?

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on March 1, 2018


Instead of worrying that robots will be our next overlords, they could teach us to be better humans.
(Should We Root for Robot Rights?” by Evan Selinger, Medium, February 15, 2018)


Philosophy Professor Evan Selinger looks at whether society should actually be hoping for robot equals to walk among us in his article, “Should We Root for Robot Rights?” In this article that he wrote for Medium, Professor Selinger explores diverse viewpoints from artificial intelligence scholars. Joanna Bryson, University of Bath, advocates that society should be taking active measures to ensure robots are designed to remain our property. From another perspective, Wendell Wallach, Yale University, and Colin Allen, Indiana University, make the case that by having social conversations about human-robot ethics and developing the tools to teach robots right from wrong, we may well advance our understanding of human ethics.


Below are a few excerpts from “Should We Root for Robot Rights?


Maybe there’s a better way forward — one where machines aren’t kept firmly in their machine-only place, humans don’t get wiped out Skynet-style, and our humanity isn’t sacrificed by giving robots a better deal.


While the legal challenges ahead may seem daunting, they pose enticing puzzles for many thoughtful legal minds, who are even now diligently embracing the task. Annual conferences like We Robot — to pick but one example — bring together the best and the brightest to imagine and propose creative regulatory frameworks that would impose accountability in various contexts on designers, insurers, sellers, and owners of autonomous systems.


The social impacts of our seemingly insatiable need to interact with our devices have been drawing accelerated attention for at least a decade. From the American Academy of Pediatrics creating recommendations for limiting screen time to updating etiquette and social mores for devices while dining, we are attacking these problems through both institutional and cultural channels.


Social evolutions are messy and may follow a crooked path, but in the same way that tobacco went from king of cool to social misfit, there is plenty of reason to believe we can find ways to enjoy the personal connections and information sharing while learning to limit the antisocial influences.


Read the full article on Medium: “Should We Root for Robot Rights?


Evan Selinger is a Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he is also Head of Research Communications, Community & Ethics at the Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction, and Creativity (MAGIC). His research primarily addresses ethical issues concerning technology, science, the law, and expertise.


Professor Selinger, and his coauthor Brett Frischmann, have a new book coming out this spring that argues robots could teach us to be better humans. Re-Engineering Humanity examines what’s happening to our lives as society embraces big data, predictive analytics, and smart environments. Professors Selinger and Frischmann explain how the goal of designing programmable worlds goes hand in hand with engineering predictable and programmable people.