A Bill of Rights for the Age of Artificial Intelligence
We should be concerned about the rights of all sentients as an unprecedented diversity of minds emerges
In 1950, Norbert Wiener’s The Human Use of Human Beings was at the cutting edge of vision and speculation in proclaiming:
[T]he machine like the djinnee, which can learn and can make decisions on the basis of its learning, will in no way be obliged to make such decisions as we should have made, or will be acceptable to us… Whether we entrust our decisions to machines of metal, or to those machines of flesh and blood which are bureaus and vast laboratories and armies and corporations… [t]he hour is very late, and the choice of good and evil knocks at our door.
But this was his book’s denouement, and it has left us hanging now for 68 years, lacking not only prescriptions and proscriptions but even a well-articulated “problem statement.” We have since seen similar warnings about the threat of our machines, even in the form of outreach to the masses, via films like Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), The Terminator (1984), The Matrix (1999), and Ex Machina (2015). But now the time is ripe for a major update with fresh, new perspectives — notably focused on generalizations of our “human” rights and our existential needs.
Concern has tended to focus on “us versus them” (robots) or “gray goo” (nanotech) or “monocultures of clones” (bio). To extrapolate current trends: What if we could make or grow almost anything and engineer any level of safety and efficacy desired? Any thinking being (made of any arrangement of atoms) could have access to any technology.
Probably we should be less concerned about us versus them and more concerned about the rights of all sentients in the face of an emerging unprecedented diversity of minds. We should be harnessing this diversity to minimize global existential risks, like supervolcanoes and asteroids.
While we may not know what ratio of bio/homo/nano/robo hybrids will be dominant at each step of our accelerating evolution, we can aim for high levels of humane, fair, and safe treatment (“use”) of one another.