Implications of AI: legal responsibility and civil rights

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18 Mar, 2016 08:18 AM

Just a few years ago, the idea of artificially intelligent robots would have seemed like pure science fiction. The first mention of an automaton in in Homer’s Illiad. More recently, early science fiction writers like H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov wrote about artificially intelligent robots. Today, we’re treated to at least one movie each year that deals with the subject of artificial intelligence.
Only in the last few years has artificial intelligence began to seem like a reality. Every day artificial intelligence is more science and less fiction. Already there are real world applications for artificial intelligence. They’re beginning to take over jobs that were once handled by humans. In the next few years, experts predict that artificial intelligence will continue to become more a part of our daily lives. It’s predicted that by 2025, robots will be replacing humans in one third of today’s jobs. We’re only just now coming to terms with the implications that a future shared with artificial intelligence has in store.

The robot apocalypse

A favorite motif in artificial intelligence fiction is the robot apocalypse, in which artificial intelligence decides that humans needs to go and turns its focus to obliterating all human life. Nearly every Hollywood movie about artificial intelligence in the last decade has included this plot line. Though these movies and stories are science fiction and pure speculation, many brilliant minds are concerned that there could be a real threat in creating artificial intelligence, especially if they’re given control of our weapons systems.
Big names in the scientific community like Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla Motors) and Stephen Hawking, along with more than 1,000 other AI and robotics researchers have signed an open letter citing the dangers of using AI in weapons development.

What about the legal and social implications

Though Hollywood—and the general public—like to imagine worst-case-scenarios—there are other important implications that haven’t been given as much consideration. Consider the example of the automated shopping robot designed by a Swiss art group. It was programmed to purchase illegal products over the Darknet. It was able to purchase a Hungarian passport and some Ecstasy pills as well as a few other illegal products before it was “arrested” by Swiss police. Ultimately, no charges were brought against the robot or its creators but the idea remains, how will society deal with the criminal activities of artificially intelligence beings in the future, especially when they are acting on their own and not on the programming of humans? Will artificial intelligence be held legally responsible? If so, will they need the same human rights that most people have in free countries such as the right to legal counsel? Will we see artificially intelligence beings fighting for equal rights? Only the future can tell, but perhaps it is just as likely we’ll see a robot civil rights movement as a robot apocalypse.

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