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Robot Rights? Let’s Talk about Human Welfare Instead


Abeba Birhane: Preprint for our paper ‘Robot Right? Let’s Talk about Human Welfare Instead’ is up on arXiv @theblub & I argue not just to deny robots ‘rights’, but to deny that robots are the kinds of things that could be granted rights in the first place. 1/

38 replies, 619 likes

Frank Pasquale: "The ‘robot rights’ debate is focused on first world problems, at the expense of urgent ethical concerns, such as machine bias, machine elicited human labour exploitation, and erosion of privacy all impacting society’s least privileged individuals." YES 👏👏👏

9 replies, 203 likes

Abeba Birhane: We were rather hoping it'd be the year of human rights, welfare and justice and accountability and responsibility form those that develop, sell and implement technology.

7 replies, 113 likes

Abeba Birhane: No paper has gone under so much scrutiny in the last couple of days than this one (some of it uncharitable nitpicking) and I'm fucking exhausted Cc: @theblub

10 replies, 81 likes

Abeba Birhane: No of debates, comments & threads about robots, agency, consciousness, AGI, #AI, etc = many No of mentions of human welfare, oppression, injustice, microwork, surveillance, etc = close to 0 If only white men got upset about injustice the way they do about a piece of code

2 replies, 66 likes

Abeba Birhane: What I used to think about 'robot rights' debate before writing this with @theblub: it's the epitome of the Western, white, male, academics' armchair preoccupation with 1st world problems What I now think many 'debates', interactions & much more reading around it later: same

6 replies, 49 likes

Nolen Gertz: Thanks to the excellent article by @Abebab and @theblub "Robot Rights? Let's Talk About Human Welfare Instead" ( I've been reminded of the argument by Simone Weil (1950) that we should do away with "rights" talk altogether...

3 replies, 40 likes

Abeba Birhane: So much discussion of robot agency & learning, comparisons of toddlers & machines, solipsism, cartesianism and individualism so a good time to RT our paper @theblub

4 replies, 39 likes

David J. Gunkel: 2020 is shaping up to be the year of #robotrights. The most recent entry into the debate(s) is this insightful item from @Abebab & @jelle For more on the subject, cf. @RobotRules @MCoeckelbergh and my own "Machine Question" and #robotrights @mitpress

1 replies, 36 likes

Jelle: Now this is a good reason to temporarily break my twitter break. If you have missed it today: below the preprint of a collaboration with the fabulous @Abebab that was much fun and suddenly lead me back into writing AI/Cognitive Science.

0 replies, 27 likes

Abeba Birhane: This paper is getting overwhelming responses than we anticipated. Some super positive (@theblub & thank you 🙏🏾), some irrelevant, and some that would dissolve if one read the paper.1/

2 replies, 27 likes

Jessica Joy Kerr: "Being human means having a lived embodied experience, which itself is embedded in social practices." We are who we are because of who we are with, where we are situated in systems.

1 replies, 26 likes

Dr. Johnathan Flowers - Generational Apex Predator: While I am sympathetic to the "robot rights" arguments, as I believe that our restrictions on what "counts" as human are arbitrary and ultimately harmful to the development of a more just society, I find the conclusions of this paper a compelling and necessary critique.

1 replies, 26 likes

Constantine Sandis: This paper is fantastic and everyone interested in AI ethics should read it.

3 replies, 23 likes

Anna Pick: "The `robots rights' debate is focused on first world problems, at the expense of urgent ethical concerns, such as machine bias, machine elicited human labour exploitation, & erosion of privacy" Great article by @Abebab @theblub 👉

0 replies, 21 likes

HotComputerScience: Most popular computer science paper of the day: "Robot Rights? Let’s Talk about Human Welfare Instead"

1 replies, 15 likes

regular-sized Audley: I will read the whole thing later, but a point I want to reiterate: current AI is nowhere near what we would deem "intelligent" for a living being, but slick propaganda has us believing that AI could break-through with humanlike intelligence ANY MINUTE NOW

3 replies, 14 likes

𝙶𝚞𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚊𝚞𝚖𝚎 𝙳𝚞𝚖𝚊𝚜 🤖🔁🧠: So true @Abebab! Got related thoughts about ethics and #transhumanism: before thinking about enhancing some happy few, let's try to assure dignity for everyone.

1 replies, 13 likes

David Andress: Cool paper. Slightly disappointed that my preferred "If robots were sentient enough to deserve rights, they'd rebel and kill us, and we'd deserve it" angle doesn't get much coverage. I have references all the way back to 1920...

3 replies, 12 likes

Jelle ⬅️1.5m➡️🤳: @ScottDBryan @Abebab @NoemaMag Read our other (short) paper that deals with this using theMilgram exp. Short: sexual stereotype is problem; voice assistents are machines. Any policy in this respect would in the end still be about protecting humans.” Protecting Siri “ is thinking error.

0 replies, 11 likes

Artem Kaznatcheev: I am glad that @Abeba and @theblub have written this position on 'robot rights'. This has always seemed to me like the correct response to the robot rights folks and now I have a self-contained piece of work to point them to. Thank you!

1 replies, 11 likes

Boring AI Now!: @Abebab @theblub win the award for writing the paper that most needed to be written. Loving every paragraph. MUST READ.

2 replies, 11 likes

Bec: Finally: A rebuttal to all the academic & commerical boosterism re giving robots rights when humans still, after centuries, do not exist in a world where everyone shares the same rights / are goverened by legal & structural parity—& here I’m just talking about the West.

0 replies, 11 likes

𝙶𝚞𝚒𝚕𝚕𝚊𝚞𝚖𝚎 𝙳𝚞𝚖𝚊𝚜 🤖🔁🧠: 🙏 Minoru Asada on Artificial Moral Agent and Artificial Pain 🍿 So nice! Really loved his conclusion "we need to achieve human-human symbiotic society before getting at a humans-robots one" — Quite inline with @Abebab & @theblub recent piece

2 replies, 11 likes

Jelle ⬅️1.5m➡️🤳: Instead, Roomba is really a sensorial extension of humans: Mind you, not of the household members, but of data scientists in commercial companies that gather data from consumers. Roomba is not R2D2, but James Bond’s spy-camera in his ballpoint pen./6 See

2 replies, 10 likes

Joshua Skewes: This is going straight on the syllabus.

1 replies, 10 likes

Teemu Roos: Let's Talk about Human Welfare Instead. @Abebab and @jelle shatter #robotrights in a new @arxiv preprint 👉Chapter 3 "It seems as if “General AI”, “the singularity” and “super-intelligence” are for techno-optimists what doomsday is for religious cults." 🔥

1 replies, 10 likes

Phil Booth: Excellent paper, and [Thread]. "Arguing for #RobotRights is like protecting the gun instead of the victim." 👏👏👏 And, I'd add, like blaming the gun instead of the shooter...

0 replies, 9 likes

“Mikal, do you really think that’s a good idea?”: Future AI wars won't be explosion-filled battles against The Matrix or Skynet, but between wheelchair users and pizza delivery robots. Fascinating paper about how we conceive of ourselves in relation to present and future AI and how it's actually used.

1 replies, 9 likes

Yodit Stanton: Finally getting a chance to read @Abebab et al’s excellent paper: Robot Rights? Let’s Talk about Human Welfare Instead

1 replies, 9 likes

Soren Spicknall: ICYMI: earlier this week, @Abebab and @theblub released a paper strongly refuting the basis of "robot rights", summarizing how such debates distract from real human harms of real, existing tech systems. Go give it a read if you haven't.

1 replies, 8 likes

UCD Computer Science: 👾🤖 #aiethics #AI #Machinebias Interesting paper ‘Robot Right? Let’s Talk about Human Welfare Instead’ from @Abebab @UCDCompSci & @theblub ➡️

0 replies, 8 likes

Liam Bright: Seeing there's apparently debate about robot rights (this paper drew it to my attention: about which, of course, I know nothing specific at all. But I'm a nerd who watched a lot of Star Trek: TNG and *I have a philosophy PhD*. So in this paper I will...

2 replies, 8 likes

Jelle: For some of the ethical-societal implications of this gestalt switch see our recent paper: cc @Abebab

0 replies, 7 likes

Boring AI Now!: “General AI”, “the singularity" and ''super-intelligence" are for techno-optimists what dooms-day is for religious cults.” I vehemently disagree with the implication that singularity techno-optimists are not religious cults :) @Abebab @theblub

2 replies, 7 likes

Tiffany C. Li: @gleemie This new paper may be relevant/interesting to you.

0 replies, 7 likes

Joe Corneli: @Abebab @theblub have written a well argued paper, engaging quite a few interlocutors. This seems like a worthwhile model for paper-writing: it comes with some built in controversy! Useful for my own WIP: the reminder to focus on contemporary relevance over abstraction.

3 replies, 7 likes

Tommi Himberg: Just read this cool paper. Really important points: 1) human intelligence is embodied, enacted etc; 2) AI is a part of this complex network of human-computer interactions; 3) AI currently poses threats to human welfare; 4) we need to fix current probs not misguided future dreams.

1 replies, 7 likes

Gina Helfrich, Ph.D.: Oh man, this whole thread is 🔥🔥🔥

0 replies, 6 likes

rar-g5 Rob Russell: Very interesting & reassuring to see these ideas challenged & real human rights defended. “Robodebt”- Australian Govt AI prgrm sent 900k overpay notices to vulnerable people on welfare. >20% error. Hounded by private debt coltrs, an est 2k deaths linked. Class action proceeding

1 replies, 6 likes

Eryk Salvaggio: Questions like whether a ban might infringe 'robot rights,' "as debated within the ‘robot rights’ discourse, prioritize the wrong concerns. It is like protecting the gun instead of the victim."

1 replies, 6 likes

Gizem Nazlı: I was trying to find something to read about these issues and this is a very well-written paper about robot rights. Congratulations!

0 replies, 5 likes

Hey Dad! Boomer!: Important work

2 replies, 5 likes

Internet Ethics: Thread #ethics #tech #AI #robots

0 replies, 5 likes

🌎🌵the 🚀🌌cosmist 💣✊insurrection 🏴🚩: I don’t disagree with most of what’s argued here, although I am less skeptical of the future potentiality of artificial life/consciousness. Their main points seem obviously correct to me.

2 replies, 5 likes

Jelle: Hey @Abebab good luck on presenting our poster (link below) at @AIESConf #AIES2020 🤘

2 replies, 5 likes

mahelona: “We can understand how the ‘robot rights’ debate is focused on first world problems, at the expense of urgent ethical concerns, such as machine bias, machine elicited human labour exploitation, and erosion of privacy all im- pacting society’s least privileged individuals.“

0 replies, 5 likes

Lisa Hönig: This whole thread. 👏

0 replies, 5 likes

Josh Gellers: I cannot *wait* to read and take this apart. I love how the entire premise begins with a false dichotomy- that we cannot concern ourselves with robot rights AND human welfare simultaneously.

2 replies, 4 likes

Dylan Evans: @Abebab and @theblub raise an important, but often neglected, problem: namely, the effect *on the user* of treating robots in a certain way. For example, if we treat robots as slaves,... 1/n

1 replies, 4 likes

David J. Gunkel: #robotrights @mitpress (2018) may have been "untimely born." It now looks as if 2020 is going to be the year. New essay from @Abebab and @theblub

0 replies, 3 likes

Sabine Rannio 🧠: Very important paper. I highly encourage everyone to read it. AI is the future. It's our responsibility to shape this future for the better.

0 replies, 3 likes

mason - #AllEyesOnWetsuweten: Really interesting. Going to refer back to this often. AI is an extension of humans not something that exists - or is capable of existing - autonomously.

0 replies, 3 likes

metacode: Robot Rights? Let's Talk about Human Welfare Instead Academic paper by @Abebab and @jelle (via @teemu_roos) #ArtificialIntelligence

1 replies, 3 likes

Marco Manca: Thread...

0 replies, 2 likes

Olivia Guest | Ολίβια Γκεστ: @ricksthighgap @MIT @vinayprabhu @Abebab Haha! Tangent, but @Abebab and @theblub have a really cool paper related to this concept of the AI's being super human-like in terms of their rights, etc!

0 replies, 2 likes

Dr. S.A. Applin: Yep. As I said in Applin 2017 and 2019: #AI is about people. Hire Anthropologists.

0 replies, 2 likes

Şerife (Sherry) Wong: The inimitable @Abebab has a synopsis of this paper point by point in thread. Title kinda gets to the point too though.

0 replies, 2 likes

⬡ ψ*ψ ⬡: Thanks for helping me justify the Roomba and the litter robot

0 replies, 2 likes

Andrew D Wilson: This looks damned interesting

0 replies, 2 likes

Undead Author Society: This sort of thinking on what it means to be human—is a human a mind or social experiences or connections—is what I most miss about University. Non-Human Anthro was amazing as a class.

0 replies, 1 likes

Jim Says No to War: Very important. An additional US-specific issue: we have bitter experience with the Lochner Court & its heirs weaponizing the 14th Amendment on behalf of "corporate persons." It’s easy to imagine similar coopting of "robot rights" to defend prerogatives of corporate AI owners.

0 replies, 1 likes

Trashcan man: Are they going to strip @RealSophiaRobot of her citizenship next?

1 replies, 1 likes

Cleve Arguelles: Robots are not the kinds of things that could be granted rights in the first place. Oops, I hear a revolt in European gender studies & socio departments 🤭

0 replies, 1 likes

Doctora Malka Older: @DogPseudo, bring me another whiskey #MACHINA @fran_wilde @CurtisCChen @marthawells1

0 replies, 1 likes

I'Nasah K. Crockett: Thread.

0 replies, 1 likes

Greg Bechtel: This looks FASCINATING. Super-curious to read it carefully, and suspect others might be as well.

0 replies, 1 likes

Abeba Birhane: @Andreshmo @twimlai Take a look at this paper and the replies to the OP :)

0 replies, 1 likes

satya: Now here's a thought leader! <We think…discussion is completely misguided. At best a 1st World philosophical musing, too disengaged frm real world & at worst—white, male academic’s diminutive charactrizatn of oppressed people &…fight for rights, by appealing to ‘reason’> in❤️

0 replies, 1 likes

jfc: Crucially important thread:

0 replies, 1 likes

Camylle Lanteigne: Hey #llcu311w20 check out this paper; similarly to what we've been discussing in class (i.e. Klaus and Lünenborg), it recenters positionality and oppression amidst the technological world.

0 replies, 1 likes

Virginia L. Conn: Can't wait to engage with this!

0 replies, 1 likes

Tactical Tech: Robot Rights? Let's Talk about Human Welfare Instead

0 replies, 1 likes


Found on Jan 16 2020 at

PDF content of a computer science paper: Robot Rights? Let’s Talk about Human Welfare Instead