Honestly, like 90% of "should we treat robots like people?" sci-fi narratives are almost inexcusably lazy, because they're willfully ignoring the much more uncomfortable reality.

How can we be willing to acknowledge whether or not robots should be treated like people, without acknowledging the reality that people are already being treated like robots.

Think about it this way. The core question at the heart of every "should robots have rights?" type story is "having created a life-form that for all intents and purposes, has dreams and emotions and aspirations of its own, is it not wrong to lock that being into inescapable servitude?"

The answer to this question is yes, of course it's wrong. We all know that. We've seen it a thousand times. This is well-trodden ground by now.

But here's the dicey bit: this /literally/ happens already. This exact thing. Every day, everywhere you go. You've just been trained not to see it.

People have to work to survive. It's just The Way Things Are™. Some jobs are better than others. Some people are happier with their jobs then others. There is not a single reasonable person on Earth who will deny these facts.

But some jobs? Some jobs fucking /suck/. They are so easy, and so repetitive, that a machine could do them. Again, everyone knows this. In many instances, a machine has already been created which CAN do them.

But we stick with having people do it. Maybe it just costs less. Maybe the company swore to "provide jobs". Maybe there's something to the human ability to improvise. The reason why isn't really important.

The point is, that every day there are literally MILLIONS of people doing work that robots could do. They're in the sweatshops and the warehouses and the drive-tru windows. They're everywhere. You can't avoid them. Either you've had a job like this, or you know someone who does, or you interact with one every day when you pick up your morning coffee.

These jobs are limited in scope and scale. They are a series of actions. Do these actions in the correct order, at the correct time, and you will be good at your job. If you are good at your job, you get to keep it, and you keep getting a paycheck, and you can make rent another week. Easy.

Do your job wrong, and you will be reprimanded. Do something other than the actions expected of you, and you will be reprimanded. Check your notifications, or sit down for a few minutes, or miss work because your kid is sick, or have a nervous breakdown because someone is screaming at you, and you will be reprimanded.

We don't need that part of you. We don't want it.

All we're interested in is the part of your brain that is necessary to do your job. Leave your humanity at the door.

There's a reason that robots have been a consistent fixture of the national consciousness for almost a hundred years. Companies love them. They're the perfect worker. They don't need to be paid. They don't need to leave. They don't get distracted. They don't have dreams, or aspirations, or goals. You don't need to use managerial mind games to get them to do what you want. They simply do what they're told.

But in a situation where that robot is sentient, if it can think and feel, to be put in that situation seems unimaginably cruel. Like one of the worst, most sisyphean tortures of hell. Always working, never resting. Always yearning, never free.

This violates the immutable rights of any sentient being. We all know it. It's not even a complex moral calculation, it's a gut reaction.

So why, when faced every day with the minimum wage worker, do we feel more empathy for the machine?

Sweary Show more

@Dayglochainsaw Should sentient robots be given only negative liberties, or should society also provide positive liberties such as healthcare (free spare parts?) and education (machine learning? 😄).

Would these benefits come with civic duties, such as participating in productive activities, paying taxes... perhaps even conscription?

And should sentient robots also be given voting rights? Because, you know, "taxation without representation is tyranny!"

@Dayglochainsaw The answer to all these ethical questions is yes, at least as far as I'm the judge. But won't this pretty much re-creates the present society?

Being salaried-slaves is what we willingly opted into, after declaring all human rights and granting all the positive freedoms that we fought for, revolution after revolution.

@Dayglochainsaw Technically, we'd still be free to opt out and go live in a forest, but by doing so we'd lose all the benefit that organized society brings. Very few people choose to do it.

@Dayglochainsaw Another negative freedom that we mostly still have is voting with our feet: you don't like your government? You can always move to another country.

I relocated twice in my life, and I wish there were fewer barriers to do so for everyone. Borders and restrictive immigration policies limit the basic human rights of self-determination and freedom of movement.

@Dayglochainsaw there's no media representation that could make us feel this connection

look at all the sitcoms out there: how many of them are trying to humanise the (upper) middle class?

now along comes a "new" genre, and this time around it's not unambiguously painting the lower working class as direct threat like its first iteration (Frankenstein) aaaaand i honestly think we should embrace it, if that's all we have / get.

@Dayglochainsaw because the Protestant morality that's infected all of white-western culture says your circumstances are justly doled out by a all-knowing sky judge.

So we can pretend to morally evaluate the worker, and "discover" their "moral failings" that their situation is "because of"

The robot, being an abstraction, is clearly an innocent, and its circumstances are clearly human-engineered

@Dayglochainsaw Still thinking about this epic thread, king. Mind if I quote it in a thing I'm working on?

@Dayglochainsaw i recently read about the *original* emotional labour, and it has a lot more to do with, well, labour…

@Dayglochainsaw but the whole point of the "should robots be given rights" trope is exactly about this!

The stories originated from a time when the only way (white male) writers could make a statement about the inequalities in society and get them published was by hiding it within a work of "what-if" fiction.

And as you say, still relevant today.

SF are nice stories on one level, on another level they allow society a safe way of mentally exploring and challenging the status quo.

I mean yeah but ngl, this entire thread was just the result of me thinking about how bad Detroit: Become Human was

@Dayglochainsaw Detroit: becoming human has so many parallels between how they represent robots and the way POC were treated in USA back in the day. CF bus travel and Rosa Parks.

They aren't even trying to hide it!

Yeah I'm aware there were parallels but the thing is there were quite literally nothing except parallels. There was never anything that wasn't directly lifted from an eighth grade history class. No exploration of how that dynamic has shifted in the modern day, no novel critique or insight, nothing. It's just another drop in the "racism but it's robots" bucket.

@Dayglochainsaw I figured it was justified in repeating, as it's for a whole new generation.

I'd hazard a guess my eighth grade was a lot longer ago then yours.

I was having these discussions with my 8th grade teacher based on Asimov stories, and having them again with my teenage step-child through Detroit.

I agree, nothing new, except that some people didn't hear it the first time.

@Dayglochainsaw Robots in sci-fi are usually a plot device acting as a proxy for how we treat minority groups in society.
@Dayglochainsaw to add on this the notion that lifelike, intelligent, whatever robots will be similar to humans is rather anthropocentric

Perhaps they will settle on some kind of weird octopus form as more optimal

politics Show more

@Dayglochainsaw Asimov's I-Robot is still the best sci-fi on the subject that I've ever read. Ironically the Will Smith movie directly contradicts it in favor of the "robots are evil" trope.

@hdansin @Dayglochainsaw the fundamental problem with that movie is that it started as an original script, that definitely got some of its DNA from I, Robot but was fundamentally different, but the studio had the rights and decided to tweak it the minimum amount required to count it as an adaptation.

@Dayglochainsaw the entire concept of robots (including the word "robot" itself, from Russian) came from how employers treat their labour forces, so it's basically hard coded into the trope

@Dayglochainsaw We're perfectly fine with treating people as robots, as long as they "deserve it".

it is a well known statement, for artificial intelligence addicts, that it is *much* easier to adapt humans to robot then the other way round. That's the so called progress in cognitive science: crafting humans as calculators.

@Dayglochainsaw Think of so called neural networks, crafted from 1940 studies of so called "perceptrons", which draft humans neural cells as dumb devices providing a binary solution to the complexity of life, and you get the figure: science and its models destroy complexity to provide schemes in which life can be, at most, simulated. But robotic brained humans gather at commercial centres gazing at the lastcoming high-tech tool of slavery

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