Monday, October 10, 2011

Considering Robot Welfare

I'm just following up on the post I wrote a little while ago about the "Will robots steal my job?" conference in Washington, DC. I was disturbed then that the proposed discussion seemed to be preoccupied with the economic problem of robots, rather than the ethics of having far more machine intelligence woven into our society.

It turns out that Robin Hanson was also bothered by this. He's actually read through the transcripts of the event and summarized his qualms:
My main complaint is that Tyler [Cowen] seems to completely ignore the experiences and welfare of the robots themselves (as do the other three panelists). Somewhat like Europeans in 1700 discussing the wisdom of their colonizing the world, but considering only on its effects on Europeans. I doubt this is because Tyler agrees with Bryan Caplan that robots can’t possibly be conscious. What then? Does Tyler simply not care about non-humans?
It's possible that robot welfare isn't really on Cowen's economist-radar. Frankly, I don't think it's on the radar of many people. But the more we discuss the future of artificial intelligence, the more our humanity is going to compel us to explore these issues. And where the robots are concerned, do the right thing.

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