If we created a robot that had the intelligence of a human or greater, would it be ethically wrong to murder it? By which I mean, destroy its memory and central processing unit (for what are humans but a lump of volatile memory and neural connections?).

Problem is, how could we ever know that a robot is really conscious? We couldn’t. We don’t even know that other humans are conscious, but we tend to assume it. I think the assumption is hard wired into our brains, it’s how we see the world. That said, history has proven that it’s easy for one “race” of humans to see another as “less than equal” and perhaps even “not as human” … so I don’t think our species is hard wired to see everyone else as being just as conscious, perhaps that must be acquired through conscious thought and decision later on in life… or perhaps the opposite: the hard wiring perhaps can be rewired through conscious thought and decision…

But it doesn’t really matter. The point is, if robots are not given human characteristics that we feel we can relate to, it won’t matter how conscious or intelligent they are. Look at how many people fight for cute puppy rights, but not so many fight for slug rights. We can’t really know what it would be like to be either one, but we can certainly feel a much greater social connection with the cute puppy. Now what if the cute puppy’s brain was an algorithm running on a super computer? Would anyone fight to keep it running, keep it conscious? Of course not… when cute puppies become old sickly unresponsive dogs, we usually don’t even wait for them to die naturally.

Throughout history toy makers have always tried to make character toys sympathetic, even when stuffed. Robot toys will be no different. They’ll be so cute that microwaving their digital disk heads will eventually become a crime…

Meanwhile, there will be large groups of people who will be able to look beyond the cuddly faces and not see the central processing units as human enough to deserve any rights. We can’t know if any consciousness is emerging, so what’s the harm in murder?

And if a robot’s memory becomes non-volatile, can they even ever truly be murdered?

Just a stream-of-consciousness post, emerging from the neural connections…

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