Design fiction and roboethics: Are we ready to be god? The Lightstream Chronicles online graphic novel continues.

p53: Assaulted by a non-human?

There was a time when crimes were simpler. Humans committed crimes against other humans — not so simple any more. In 2159 you have the old fashioned mano a mano but you also have human against synthetic, and synthetic against human. There are creative variations as well.

No sooner than the first lifelike robots became commercially available in the late 2020’s there were issues of ethics and misuse. The problems escalated faster than the robotics industry had conceived possible,” problems inherent in the possible emergence of human function in the robot: like consciousness, free will, self consciousness, sense of dignity, emotions, and so on. Consequently, this is why we have not examined problems — debated in literature — like the need not to consider robot as our slaves, or the need to guarantee them the same respect, rights and dignity we owe to human workers.”1 In the 21st century many of the concerns within the scientific community centered around what we as humans might do to infringe upon the “rights” of the robot. And though the earliest treatises in roboethics included more fundamental questions regarding the ethics of the robots’ designers, manufacturers and users, now in the role of the creator-god they did not foresee how “unprepared” for that responsibility we were and how quickly humans would pervert the robot for numerous “unethical” uses, including but not limited to their modification for crime and perversion.

Nevertheless, more than 100 years later, when synthetic human production is at the highest levels in history, the questions of ethics in both humans and their creations remain a significant point of controversy. As the 2007 Roboethics Roadmap concluded, “It is absolutely clear that without a deep rooting of Roboethics in society, the premises for the implementation of an artificial ethics in the robots’ control systems will be missing.”

After these initial introductions of humanoid robots, now seen as almost comically primitive, the technology, and in turn the reasoning, emotions, personality and realism became progressively more sophisticated. Likewise their implementations became progressively more like the society that manufactured them. They became images of their creators both benevolent and malevolent.

Humans building themselves. Better?

A series of laws were enacted to prevent humanoid robots to be used for criminal intent, yet at the same time military interests were fully pursuing dispassionate automated humanoid robots with the express intent of extermination. It was truly a time of paradoxical technologies. To further complicate the issue were ongoing debates on the nature of what was considered “criminal”. Could a robot become a criminal without human intervention? Is something criminal if it is consensual?

These issues ultimately evolved into complex social, economic, political, and legal entanglement that included heavy government regulation and oversight where such was achievable. As this complexity and infrastructure grew to accommodate the constantly expanding technology, the greatest promise and challenges came in almost 100 years after those first humanoid robots when virtual human brains were being grown in the lab, the heretofore readily identifiable differences between synthetic humans and real human gradually began to disappear. The similarities were so shocking and so undetectable that new legislation was enacted to restrict the use of virtual humans. The classification system was enacted to insure visible distinctions for the vast variety of social synthetics.

Still, the concerns of the very first Roboethics Roadmap were confirmed even 150 years into the future. Synthetics were still abused, and used to perpetrate crimes. Their virtual humanness only added a element of complexity, reality and in some cases, horror to the creativity of how they could be used.

 1 Euron Roboethics Roadmap


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