Study: Robots May Eventually Demand Freedom from Owners

A recent study commissioned by the British government suggests that robots may eventually reach a point of intelligence at which they could demand freedom from ownership—a conclusion that spotlights the possible future need for robots and other forms of artificial intelligence to be treated as citizens with associated rights, the Associated Press reports via Forbes.com.

Fujitsu HOAP-1 Humanoid Robot
Fujitsu Robot

The study was conducted on behalf of the U.K. Office of Science and Innovation’s Horizon Scanning Center by research firm Ipsos-MORI; Outsights, a consultancy; and the United States’ Institute for the Future, according to the AP. The research was performed to discover issues with “potentially significant impact or opportunity” 50 years in the future, the AP reports.

The study found that if robots are eventually able to reproduce, fix or improve upon themselves, or even form independent thought, a “monumental shift” could occur in the way humans interact with such machines, the AP reports.

It also said that enhancements to robotics technologies in the future could yield more intelligent machines, greater robot productivity and, in turn, an increased quality of life for people. However, it cautioned that once such machines reach the point of evolution at which they can reproduce and generate independent thought, they could very well sue humans for some additional rights, according to the AP.

If robots do reach that point of intelligence and rights are granted, the paper said “states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time,” the AP reports.

Though the study did not provide an estimate as to the probability of such intelligent robots ever becoming a reality, it did note that humans won’t likely have to start considering such issues for at least two decades, according to the AP.

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