Economist Robin Hanson uncovers some original sin when it comes to fantasies about robots. It seems human beings really do like the idea of dominating and exploiting. But we knew that:
On Tuesday I asked my law & econ undergrads what sort of future robots (AIs computers etc.) they would want, if they could have any sort they wanted. Most seemed to want weak vulnerable robots that would stay lower in status, e.g., short, stupid, short-lived, easily killed, and without independent values. When I asked “what if I chose to become a robot?”, they said I should lose all human privileges, and be treated like the other robots. I winced; seems anti-robot feelings are even stronger than anti-immigrant feelings, which bodes for a stormy robot transition.
I know we have no moral obligations to machines (or do we?), but the desire this registers is telling. As Martin Buber said, we often treat human beings as objects (an “it”) rather than a person (“thou”).