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I have recently invented a special new robot, which can survive and learn on its own, even without my help. It can answer questions just like a person, and it behaves like one.  Recently the government passed a law outlawing robots like mine, claiming that robots cannot think or feel, and that they have no rights. They view such robots as just machines, and their intention is to destroy them. In this paper, however, I will argue that this law is unconstitutional, and must be changed, since it does injustice both to me, as the robot’s inventor, and the robot itself.  

Argument 1

First of all, it needs to be made clear that ANDY is harmless. The reason for this is that I have made it in a way, so that it conforms to the Three Laws of Robotics as any artificial intelligent should. The First Law states that “a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm”. This means that ANDY is both prohibited from causing direct harm to a human being, and programmed to protect a person in need. The second law supports even more the claim that ANDY is not dangerous, and shows his good nature. According to it, “a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law”. This law guarantees that my robot is a force for good, one that would serve and help a human person, when given an order; even more importantly, a force that could not be used for evil purposes, since such behavior would conflict with the First Law. Last but not least, the Third Law simply adds to his character. ANDY is programmed to “protect his own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law”. In a real life scenario, this means that ANDY would force himself into saving a drowning person, even though he understood that this would cause his termination. Therefore, ANDY poses a threat to no one; instead, he is an entity programmed to serve and protect human life (Asimov, p. 6).

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Argument 2

It is understandable that my treating ANDY as a person may come as a shock to someone, who has not contemplated the matter seriously. Even the government has openly expressed its position on ANDY’s case. They believe he is nothing more than a machine; they cannot accept even the remote possibility of this robot having thoughts and feelings, and this is why they have passed a law against a robot like ANDY. Obviously, I completely disagree with their outlook upon the issue, but I will assume for a moment that I do not; I will assume that my robot is merely a machine, a bunch of metal components and wires powered by electricity. If this is the case, then this means that there is a clear violation of my property rights, since I am the inventor and owner of the robot.

According to the right to property, as described by our legal system, the owner is the only person with the authority to decide the machine’s use and the service it provides, and certainly the one who retains the right to exchange the robot at mutually agreed terms (Alchian). Therefore, since I, the inventor and the owner of ANDY in this case, do not consent to an exchange or trade that involves my robot, the government should not be allowed to take ANDY away and destroy him. In effect, this newly passed law is clearly against the highly valued and well-respected American constitution, and as such, it should be overturned.

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Argument 3

As I mentioned above, I do not treat ANDY as a mindless piece of matter. ANDY talks to me like a human, helps me with my chores, offers his advice regarding everyday issues, and in general exhibits many human-like behaviors. In fact, two months ago, when I was away on a business trip, he told me that he had missed me, which was a rather unusual statement for a robot. The question that naturally arises here is “can a machine think?”, a question that has troubled philosophers and scientists of the 20th century, and one that still remains unanswered.

The discussion over artificial intelligence became very popular in the 1950s among computer scientists, especially when Alan Turing, an important computer scientist of his time, published a paper called “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”. In his article, he described a thought experiment that he had come up with in order to create a standard that artificial intelligence could be measured by. The imitation game, as he called it, was a test involving three participants: an interrogator, a human subject and a machine, each of them being in separate rooms. The interrogator was allowed to communicate with the other two only via computer messages, and his goal was to identify which of the two was the human participant after a short discussion (Turing, p. 433-4). There are, of course, several objections that have been raised to Turing’s line of thinking, but in any case the imitation game was successful in showing that, at least conceptually, we are open to the possibility that there could be an artificial intelligence, one that we would not be able to distinguish from human intelligence.

The issue of AI is essentially related to the problem of other minds. In philosophy, the problem consists in that a human being cannot really justify the existence of any other subject of experience besides himself. In other words, although a person, a subject of experience, has the belief that other people also have minds, one has no way to conclude with certainty that this belief is correct (Problem of Other Minds). For instance, when one says “I feel happy”, one can actually say so, and be certain of it, because he has direct access to his thoughts and feelings; but if another person says the same thing, even if we accept that he is being honest, we can only indirectly infer that he is actually happy. People usually ground their belief regarding other people’s minds either by analogy or by an inference to the best explanation. The line of thought in the former is that “since I have a mind, and since other people seem to behave like I do in similar situations, then it must be that they have a mind also.” As for the former, it states that accepting the existence of other minds is simply the best inference one can make in order to explain the behavior of others (Hyslep).  

Therefore, as explained, it is rather difficult to be sure of another being’s inner state, whether a human’s or a machine’s, especially when it concerns a robot with such a human-like behavior as ANDY. This is why it is wrong to reject the possibility that my robot actually possesses a mind and experiences mental states, like thoughts and emotions. 

Argument 4

Last but least, I will go as far as to claim that ANDY deserves to be treated as a person, and not as just another robot, because he has a certain psychological makeup and attributable psychological characteristics that can be said to constitute ANDY’s personal identity. For example, he is kind, serving, and helpful in every opportunity he has; he is altruistic, as he expects nothing in return for his services; and he is always calm and soothing despite the seriousness of a situation. In general, he exhibits psychological characteristics similar to those of people, despite being programmed to do so. In fact, when it comes to personal identity, he fits the criteria better than a human person does.

Theories of personal identity, more or less, hinge on two criteria: the psychological and/or the bodily criterion. The former grounds the concept of personhood in a kind of psychological continuation, which is guaranteed by memory; while the latter asserts that the person essentially is his body, a theory also known as animalism (Lowe, p. 272). Among the various objections that have been raised to both theories, the issue of memory loss (Lowe, p. 278) and the loss of body parts (Lowe, p. 273), are the most common ones. As a result, it would be irrational to think that a person in t1 is different from the person in t2, simply because he cannot remember a period of his life that took place between these time instances, or because he has lost a limb. Whatever the case, my robot fits both criteria: on one hand, his memory has an indefinite capacity, and he has hardware technology that guarantees no data loss, while, on the other, his body parts are made from materials that persist through time. 

Conclusion

Regarding ANDY, I must admit that he is an extraordinary being, but not even I can be sure that he actually feels and thinks like I do. As mentioned above, though, I cannot really be sure of anyone else besides myself in this world. With regards to the government’s cruel and insensitive attitude towards the issue, however, I believe that the reasons behind it are emotional, rather than logical ones. Recognizing ANDY as a rational moral agent, or at least as a somewhat sentient being, would threaten their status as superior intelligent beings. It is mainly due to human arrogance and pride that they cannot bear the thought of another entity having a similar or even superior intelligence than theirs. Nevertheless, when stripped from emotion, it has been made clear that there is no rational explanation for the government to pass such a law, since it is arbitrary to conclusively decide that ANDY is just a machine, and treat him as such. But even if they do so, taking away and destroying my robot is clearly against my constitutional rights. In any case, the government ought to overturn the relevant legislation. 

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