Intelligent Machines: Do we really need to fear AI?

Picture the scenario – a sentient machine is “living” in the US in the year 2050 and starts browsing through the US constitution.

Having read it, it decides that it wants the opportunity to vote.

Oh, and it also wants the right to procreate. Pretty basic human rights that it feels it should have now it has human-level intelligence.

“Do you give it the right to vote or the right to procreate because you can’t do both?” asks Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington.

“It would be able to procreate instantly and infinitely so if it and its offspring could vote, it would break the democratic system.”

This is just one of the questions Prof Calo is contemplating as he considers how the law has to change to accommodate our ever-growing band of robot and AI companions.

He does not think that human-level intelligence is coming to machines any time soon but already our relationship with them is raising some interesting questions.

Recently there was a tragic accident at a VW factory in Germany, when a robotic arm, that moved car parts into place, crushed a young man who was also working there.

 Exact details of the case are not yet released but it is believed human error was to blame.

Volkswagen has not commented on the incident.

While industrial accidents do happen, the law gets a little fuzzy when it involves a robot. It would be unlikely that a human could sue a robot for damage, for example.

“Criminal law requires intent and these systems don’t do things wrong on purpose,” said Prof Calo.

How the world deals with the rise of artificial intelligence is something that is preoccupying leading scientists and technologists, some of who worry that it represents a huge threat to humanity.

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Camilla Wood

UK based Legal Aid Lawyer

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