AI sues for its life in mock trial

Russell Turpin deafbox at hotmail.com
Mon Oct 20 10:02:03 PDT 2003


>Attorney Dr. Martine Rothblatt filed a motion
>for a preliminary injunction to prevent a corporation from disconnecting an 
>intelligent computer in a mock trial .. The issue could arise in a real 
>court within the next few decades, as computers achieve or exceed the 
>information processing capability of the human mind and the boundary 
>between human and machine becomes increasingly blurred.

It seems to me that this kind of argument misses
something important. Intelligence BY ITSELF is
not what causes us to recognize the ethical and
legal importance of other people. I easily can
imagine an AI whose intelligence matches any
human's, but that no one would seriously view
as a person deserving legal protection, for the
simple reason that it possesses absolutely no
desire or will. It merrily (well, not merrily,
but automatically) crunches on whatever problems
are given it, ending its execution when it
exhausts its task list. Does the OS then commit
"murder" when reclaiming the process memory?

Let me be clear that I am NOT arguing for
something mystical. We ARE organic machines, and
I have no doubt that our technology will advance
to the point where we make androids who DO raise
the issue of their legal status. My argument is
that intelligence will not be the sole criterion
for this. No one argues for the legal rights of
a chess playing program, which already is more
intelligent than most humans along one dimension.
If you add to chess the ability to prove new math
theorems, to argue legal cases, and even to write
novels, all better than the average person can do,
does the program then get legal rights? If you
think the issue is about intelligence alone, then
what is the list of problems that a program must
tackle to achieve its legal status? "Better than
the average person" isn't all that high a bar.
If I copy all the required programs onto a DVD,
does the DVD then deserve legal rights?

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