A Student of History

April 2, 2007

Robots and Apes: Same as you and me

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 10:26 am

Two related stories I saw this week struck me as being particularly illustrative of how far down the slope of reason modern society has become in some ways, though I am still enough of an optimist to believe that this kind of idiocy (I’d call it silliness if the people who support the positions were not so much in earnest) is not representative of all.  I find it also telling that both examples come from the leftist fringe of our society.

The first story is this:

A robot rights movement is taking shape and preparing the world’s first ethical guidelines for human/robot relationships.

The “Robot Ethics Charter”, which will be unveiled later this year, will insist that humans should not exploit robots and should use them responsibly. It is expected to be a version of the classic three laws of robotics developed by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov. These are that robots must not harm people, and that they must obey orders and protect their own existence unless either conflicts with the first law.

“As robots will have their own internal states such as motivation and emotion, we should not abuse them,” argues Professor Jong-Hwan Kim, one of South Korea’s top robotics experts. “We will have to treat them in the same way that we take care of pets.” A spokesman for the Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said: “The move anticipates that day when robots, particularly intelligent service robots, will become part of daily life.”

Robots have emotions?  They may be programed/built to mimic emotions, but do these folks really believe that robots have genuine emotions as we do?  It looks that way.  They regard these things as “pets.”  Now, I agree that as this article points out, one of the things that the movement seeks is to make sure robots are used responsibly, and that they not harm people.  However, once you start talking about “abuse” of robots, it is a short step to giving them rights and devaluing human beings.

Now this part I am not making up, and will not comment on it so as to avoid giving it dignity:

High on the [upcoming] Rome agenda will be the issue of sexual relations between humans and machines.Dr David Levy, author of a paper on robot prostitution being presented at the conference, claims that sexbots, like Jude Law’s Gigolo Joe character in the Spielberg film A.I., will be commonplace in just 40 years. “I think robots will be developed that have the emotional capability to encourage humans to fall in love with them,” he said.


The next piece I read is about animals, and their “status.”  Specifically, a group advocates rights for Great Apes. Here is how they explain this:

[It] is founded upon undeniable scientific proof that non-human great apes share more than genetically similar DNA with their human counterparts. They enjoy a rich emotional and cultural existence in which they experience emotions such as fear, anxiety and happiness. They share the intellectual capacity to create and use tools, learn and teach other languages. They remember their past and plan for their future. It is in recognition of these and other morally significant qualities that the Great Ape Project was founded. The Great Ape Project seeks to end the unconscionable treatment of our nearest living relatives by obtaining for non-human great apes the fundamental moral and legal protections of the right to life, the freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and protection from torture.

I can live with people not torturing animals-and I think every other sane person on the planet can too!  It is wrong to mistreat/torture animals and I can’t see any reasonable objection to it. 

However, the group called the Great Ape Project says that they “question the arbitrary denial of fundamental rights and protections to non-human great apes despite the morally significant characteristics they irrefutably possess. It demands a reflective consideration of extending basic protections to the non-human great apes and forces us to come face to face with the moral and ethical dilemmas of continuing to allow these unconscionable deprivations to exist.”  This might be OK, but it opens the door to treating humans and apes in the same fashion as if the apes had the same rights, responsibilities, etc. humans do.  Is this what we’re coming to?  The Great Ape Project is trying to do just that, with absurd propositions.

Again, while not a PETA terrorist, I certainly think animals should not be cruelly treated arbitrarily.  However, when folks begin to talk (like those involved in this project do) about Great Apes having “the right to life, the freedom of liberty and protection from torture,” its the first two issues that begin to cross the line when we speak of animals.  Because the Great Ape Project isn’t just about preventing animal torture or maltreatment. 

Rather, as their own “declaration” states, “we demand the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orang-utans.”  Thus humans = apes = chimps = gorillas. 

Even more bizarre is how these people think the world should operate:  “Members of the community of equals are not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty; if they should be imprisoned without due legal process, they have the right to immediate release. The detention of those who have not been convicted of any crime, or of those who are not criminally liable, should be allowed only where it can be shown to be for their own good, or necessary to protect the public from a member of the community who would clearly be a danger to others if at liberty. In such cases, members of the community of equals must have the right to appeal, either directly or, if they lack the relevant capacity, through an advocate, to a judicial tribunal.”

Yes, the GAP thinks that apes, etc., should be entitled to the same judical process humans are.  I guess the group’s ridiculous slogan says it all: “equality beyond humanity.”

This opens up a whole new line of lawyer jokes, by the way.

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