Nora Johnson: Rights of the Robots – When will they replace us?

Nora Johnson: Rights of the Robots - When will they replace us? Image - MONOPOLY919/Shutterstock

Reports that Google suspended an engineer after he claimed a computer chatbot he was working on had become ‘sentient’ and was thinking and reasoning like a human being reminded me of the story of the robot vacuum cleaner that recently made a break for freedom after giving staff the slip at a Cambridge Travelodge hotel.

The automated cleaner failed to stop at the front door of the hotel and was finally found the following day under a hedge. 

There is an interesting analogy here between a robotic vacuum and a Google chatbot However, there’s a difference. A robotic vacuum is pre-programmed in the factory with a chip in it, and even with the ability to learn the shape of your kitchen, it can’t do anything that’s out of the scope of cleaning the dirty surfaces.

Google’s chatbot, however, is like an advanced version of Google Assistant or Siri which can be constantly trained with new information and provide responses using natural language processing that the trainer hasn’t ever thought of. Maybe this engineer was pondering the chatbot’s rights?

Tell that to the European Court of Human Rights! What would it make of “robot rights”?  

Nora Johnson’s critically acclaimed psychological crime thrillers (www.nora-johnson.net) all available online including eBooks (€0.99;£0.99), Apple Books, audiobooks, paperbacks at Amazon etc. Profits to Cudeca cancer charity.


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