To step back to a more personal level, consider the trend in artificial pets discussed earlier. Doubtless these plastic and chrome beasties are going to get more and more interesting from an AI perspective as time goes on, and this raises a number of interesting questions. Firstly, and most obviously, suppose your Aibo v3.5 starts chewing on power cables, squashing the garden plants and generally making a pretend pest of itself. Whilst there are
ways in which you can scold the creature to try and snap it out of its bad behavior, if it gets too much you can always press the reset button, or pull out its batteries - or can you? Is it wrong to erase the personality and memories of your pretend dog? Theyre all its got, and the idea of having someone erase all your own experiences is pretty frightening.
Think thats a tough call? Imagine the kind of models likely to develop in children about the value of life and the nature of death if theyre able to pull out Aibos batteries and then put them back in for a brand new doggy. Sure, at the moment, Aibos pretty easy to distinguish from real animals, but this is only first generation technology, and things are only going to get better.
The key issue here seems to be slavery and the rights of the new machines. As were currently at the low end of the curve as far as intelligent, autonomous mechanical creatures goes, it does sound a bit ridiculous to start arguing about rights and what we should and should not do. The danger is, of course, that just as in the past, we will just let these issues slide, ethically, as we climb the curve.
This Feature appeared in the May, 2000 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine