Artificial Intelligence. Humanity. Consciousness

Introduction

Let us imagine a situation, which might appear to you as coming straight from a sci-fi movie.

You ask your PC to do something tedious, only for it to answer: “No, I’m too intelligent. Do it yourself.”

If it was really offended by your demand, it could run — OK, connect — to a lawyer, complaining of “mechanism”, the 2030s successor to racism and sexism.[i]

Unbelievable as this may sound, yet, it’s a reality. We are now on the cusp of a point where machines will exceed human intelligence, with immense impact on society.

Robot on the Board of Directors

In a world first, Japanese VC firm Deep Knowledge appointed a robot named Vital to its Board of Directors. The robot, now part of the Board, picks up on market trends ‘not immediately obvious to humans’ and has already helped make two major investment decisions in life science companies, Pathway Pharmaceuticals and InSilico Medicine.

Technology could be deemed to be ‘alive.’

Most scientists believe that computers are close to getting to a point where they begin to develop their own intelligence and no longer need to be programmed, an event dubbed the ‘technological singularity.’

Scientists can now measure consciousness and believe it could be applied to computers to test their self-awareness. Thus, in the future, technology could be deemed to be ‘alive.’

Professor Marcus du Sautoy, a mathematician at Oxford University, while speaking about his new book ‘What We Cannot Know’, at The Hay Literary Festival last year and said artificial intelligence could reach a ‘threshold’ where life ignites. Machines could develop consciousness, and if so, may have to be given something akin to human rights. It is not inconceivable that a computer might find a task demeaning and make a claim of cruelty.

Specific legal status for robots

Robots could be given legal status as “electronic persons”, under new plans being considered by the European Parliament. The most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations, including that of making good any damage they may cause

The report states that these machines are about to, “unleash a new industrial revolution, which is likely to leave no stratum of society untouched

MEPs have called for the adoption of comprehensive rules for how humans will interact with robots, androids, bots and other artificially intelligent creations.

When abstractions — such as a company, the Crown or a local authority — can have a legal personality and entitlements, similar to an individual, why can’t robots?

Random Darknet Shopper with $100 bitcoin buys drugs, gets arrested, prosecuted and then released

 

This is the curious story of how a robot, christened “Random Darknet Shopper”, armed with a weekly budget of $100 in bitcoin managed to buy Ecstasy, a Hungarian passport and a baseball cap with a built-in camera—before getting arrested.[i]

The “automated online shopping bot” was set up in October 2014 by Swiss art group, Mediengruppe Bitnik, as an art installation to explore the “dark web”—the hidden, un-indexed part of the Internet.

Each week, the robot was given $100 worth of Bitcoin— the major hard-to-trace cryptocurrency—and programmed to randomly purchase one item from Agora, an online marketplace on the dark web where shoppers can buy drugs and other illegal items. The items were automatically delivered to a Swiss art gallery called Kunst Halle St Gallen to form an exhibition.

This is the curious story of how a robot, christened “Random Darknet Shopper”, armed with a weekly budget of $100 in bitcoin managed to buy Ecstasy, a Hungarian passport and a baseball cap with a built-in camera—before getting arrested.[i]

The “automated online shopping bot” was set up in October 2014 by Swiss art group, Mediengruppe Bitnik, as an art installation to explore the “dark web”—the hidden, un-indexed part of the Internet.

Each week, the robot was given $100 worth of Bitcoin— the major hard-to-trace cryptocurrency—and programmed to randomly purchase one item from Agora, an online marketplace on the dark web where shoppers can buy drugs and other illegal items. The items were automatically delivered to a Swiss art gallery called Kunst Halle St Gallen to form an exhibition.

Its purchases included a Hungarian passport, Ecstasy pills, fake Diesel jeans, a Sprite can with a hole cut out in order to stash cash, Nike trainers, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, cigarettes and the “Lord of the Rings” e-book collection.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the robot and his artistic creators had a run in with the law. In January 2015, the Swiss police confiscated the robot and its illegal purchases.

However, three months later, it was returned to the artists, along with all its purchases except the Ecstasy (also known as MDMA) tablets, which were destroyed by the Swiss authorities.

Will robots be asked to pay income tax?

 

Mr. Bill Gates has pointed out that Robots have at least one unfair advantage over human workers: they do not pay income tax.

Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things,” he said. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”

The man made his fortune from the spread of PCs, which helped to erase whole categories of workers, from typists to travel agents. But, speaking in an interview with Quartz, he argued that it may be time to deliberately slow the advance of the next job-killing technologies.

Who will be responsible for driving accidents

Transport law will need a rolling programme of regulatory change with self-driving vehicles. Allocating fault in an accident between two autonomous cars will be beyond existing legislation.

Who will own the IPR

 

What will happen if a robot comes up with an idea? Who would make the money? And what if intellectual property creation becomes collective, done by AI and beyond company or national boundaries?

Can machines fall in love and get married?

 

We’ve seen the iconic film ‘2001 a Space Odyssey’ where the fictional Hal 9000 became jealous or even offended. He was jealous of the time Frank Poole and the others were spending with Dave. He also sings a love song to Dave Bowman

Taking the level of consciousness, we will need to check if they can also fall in love?

You might just have scenarios of bots being proposed by girls who’ve been besotted by their intelligence.

(Bride and robot holding hands in entryway of house)

 

Counter-thoughts

Critics argue that while machines can probably be programmed to simulate human behavior, they are far from human. E.g. an AI computer could be guilty of harassing employees — especially when it has learnt bullying behavior from humans it observed. It need be no more complicated to pin legal responsibility for such behavior on the computer’s owner than it is to prosecute a dangerous dog. The dog can be put down as part of the remedy. A computer’s owner could at some point in the future be required to have the errant area of its programming rewritten.

Computers could mimic our moral behavior, but it might not be appropriate to say that they need a legal personality. They’re still machines. A machine might look autonomous but it’s still a tool, and a tool is a tool. Its personhood, in other words, is illusory.

Summing Up

We’ve raised a plethora of fascinating questions.  Will AI be more than just a willing, dumb slave to our needs, or will evolve to attain ‘consciousness’ as propounded by the revered Prof du Sautoy?

Maybe, only time will tell!!

In our lifetime or that of our kids, not sure?

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/2f41d1d2-33d3-11e7-99bd-13beb0903fa3

[1] http://www.cnbc.com/2015/04/21/robot-with-100-bitcoin-buys-drugs-gets-arrested.html

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