Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Should Machines One Day Be Given the Right to Vote?


Apparently so, according to this statement just in from the World Transhumanist Association:

"In response to the emerging debate over "robot ethics" the Board of Directors of the World Transhumanist Association unanimously adopted this statement on artificial intelligence on March 1, 2005: The WTA supports the development of more capable artificial intelligence for the benefit of humanity. Any AI system that is powerful enough to pose a potential risk must be designed with adequate safeguards. Should future forms of artificial intelligence become sentient, they would be entitled to moral consideration. Nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of their morphology or the substrate of their implementation. Any person brought into existence, whether through "natural" or "artificial" means, has the right to a life worth living. Like biological parents, creators of AI-persons have a responsibility for their progeny's welfare and might in some cases be held accountable for their actions. As the prospect of general machine intelligence draws closer, more thought needs to be devoted to working out the legal, ethical, social, and security implications, e.g. to determine under what conditions artificial intellects or copies of existing persons should be given property rights or voting rights, and whether new public policies will be needed to ameliorate structural unemployment. The development of advanced AI could be the most important event in history, and it should be approached carefully, with clear thinking and serious moral engagement."

People with significant cognitive incapacities, like Terri Schiavo, are denigrated as human non-persons by most transhumanists (and their less radical cousins in bioethics). But man-made contraptions might one day not only be given moral and legal rights, but also the franchise. Indeed, the current big cheese of the World Transhumanist Association, bioethicist James Hughes, writes in Citizen Cyborg that some humans should be considered "sentient property" if they lack sufficient cognitive capacity to granted moral worth as a "person." (Here is my review of Citizen Cyborg.) Such is the future envisioned through the misanthropic lenses of radical transhumanism.


Subscribe to National Review