Should Robots Awarded Citizenship Be Considered Pets?

Artificial intelligence is venturing into some ‘brave new world’ territory. We haven’t even finished the second decade of the 21st Century, and word is out that a robot has been awarded citizenship in Saudi Arabia. 

Aside from ‘singularity’ potentially overtaking mankind in the foreseeable future, from my perspective, today we face an equally important philosophical dilemma, namely — should robotic life-forms be considered our pets? After all, they’re not human — and like an adopted dog or cat, wouldn’t their creators or owners be considered their guardians . . . or more to the point, their pet owners?

Saudi Hottie

Saudi Arabia just awarded citizenship to a female humanoid. Not only is this event geopolitically ground-breaking being the first country to tread these waters, it’s ironic that a nation known for denying basic rights to female citizens would award this type of status.

The robot, known as Sophia does not don the traditional abaya, a headdress and cloak normally required of all women, by the Saudi government.

“I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship,” said Sophia onstage at one of her first public appearances in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh on October 25 at the Future Investment Initiative.

A PR stunt?

As soon as the announcement was made, attendees began to question whether or not the event was a PR stunt for Hanson Robotics, the company that developed Sophia.

TechCrunch questioned whether Sophia’s citizenship would hold up in court? TC Contributor Taylor Hatmaker queried, “was the whole thing a depressingly empty, unironic attempt at publicity for Sophia’s human captors?”

“Almost certainly yes, but only time will tell about how international law will handle the advent of AI-powered populations, a future that seems more certain to arrive with each passing day,” added Hatmaker.

Who’s responsible?

Using the descriptive term ‘captor’ is certainly a negative interpretation, but it does imply ownership. So in answering the question whether or not a robot should be considered a pet might the answer be might right under our noses. As far as ownership — its the dog owners — not the breeders who eventually own them — and as such have the legal responsibility for their actions. If my dog were to bite a neighbor, it would be my responsibility to make restitution. Shouldn't the same hold true with robots who caused harm to that same neighbor?

Real Pets vs. Robot Pets

Then there’s the issue of our real pets getting along with our robot pets. In my blog posting, “Introduce Your Household Pet To Your Household Robot,” I explored how Fido of Fluffy might feel about having some competition in the household and vice versa. Also would our robot pets be able to discern the difference between pets and pet owners?

Mayfield Robotics address the issue. They've designed their household helper, called “Kuri” to engage with both.

Kuri who's been under development for awhile now, talks about her newest camera upgrade. She is now savvy enough to distinguish when there’s a dog or cat in view, and assures potential owners this will lead to more adorable pictures & videos of their pets. This new technology will allow Kuri to understand the difference between a moving pet and a moving person, and will adjust photo captures in accordance with the subject matter.

Singularly nipping at our heels . . .

Now if singularity were to happen any time soon — as many in the computer industry are predicting — we might have a bigger problem on our hands. In the case of artificial life becoming smarter than humans, there just might come a day that instead of us treating robots like pets, the tables may just get reversed.

Recently, Elon Musk – the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and creator of the electric car firm Tesla Motors – proposed a startling futuristic possibility. Artificial intelligence might advance so far, he warned an audience in San Francisco, that robots could end up treating human beings like pets . . . and that doesn't make him too happy. “I [wouldn't] love the idea,” said Mr Musk, “of being a house cat.”

Your thoughts readers? Will there be more citizen robots in our future, or should they only maintain pet status in our households. Your call.

Primary Source: Saudi Robot