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Jack L. Key

I, Robot?
By Jack L. Key
Dec 26, 2007 - 8:04:00 PM

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I've been watching closely the technology and the work the Japanese especially have been doing with humanoid robots. As a child I was fascinated by Robbie the Robot, that lovable TV character of long ago, even if he was fat, had a transparent head, talked funny and rattled.

But watching the almost human movements and actions of the modern robots is quite different from Robbie's club-like appearance and gliding around motion. They even look like us in some respects as they go about doing their human tasks of running errands, serving drinks, cleaning house, and even walking the dog. Next they'll be playing the stock market or blackjack tables in Vegas - and winning.

I've read all the literature and heard the opinions that robots can never reach human status since they are just programmed to do their chores and do not have self-awareness, therefore will forever be pieces of aluminum, rubber and digital circuit boards. They may look, even act like humans, however, we know robots are without emotions and don't have a soul. But some scientists have said that humanoid robots, in view of their programming excellence, do actually have the general knowledge of a two-year old human being.

Uh-oh. That opens up a whole new can of worms.

Do robots then have rights? We all know two-year old humans have rights, whether they are self-aware or not. Now religion comes in to play, genetics, Darwinism, animal rights, human rights, medical rights, race and a long list of other legal, constitutional and humanities issues, creationism, what is a human soul after all, and whether robots are a part of nature's origins anyway, since they are put together by humans.

And what about robotic restrictions? Who can make robots? What kind? How many? What do we teach (program) them to do? Will they always be servants to humans? Can they fly airplanes? Go to the moon? Become soldiers? Earn money? Enter the Olympics? Vote? Play football in the NFL? Be teachers, psychologists or theologians? Or maybe politicians?

Can they rob banks? Or become cops? (See "Robocop"). Shoot people? Commit murders? Go legally insane? If so, will we then prosecute them? How can we charge and convict something with no soul? What defines robot morals and ethics? Can they be given capital punishment or simply be dismantled? What about the victim's rights v. robot rights?

Can robots be sued? Own property? Are there to be American robots only? Or just Japanese? Or Russian? Or Chinese? Or whole robot countries? What will the UN do? Can there be robot armies who fight humans' battles? Isn't it just a matter of proper programming anyway?

And this: Can robots marry and have little robots just like them? Why not? Bees do. Birds do, even homosexual couples do.

Why am I conjuring up this entire horrific scenario, you ask? Have you heard of something called the American Civil Liberties Union? The ACLU? Do you have any idea what this controversy could do for them? I'm concerned about the country's - heck, the world's - continued existence when all this comes about. The ACLU can stop the planet with this much ammunition! The number of ACLU lawyers will triple in 3 days. We'll be mired in legal battles until at least 5010.

The U.S. Congress can hold investigations and hearings on this little sweetheart subject until eternity. Can't you just hear the squeals of 60 Minutes interviewers when the interviewee talks back in a sonorous monotone? And the White House press corps can finally be told to shut up and get the (bleep) out of my face?

And when robots are allowed to run for office (the democrats will see to that) they can be elected without a platform or saying a word. Now that would be a relief. Out third major political party would stand for nothing. The other two already have a problem in that regard. A political party of "Rerobocraticans". Think of it. Illegal immigration would be a thing of the past since robots will do the jobs Americans won't do, and global warming wouldn't matter to them. Robots are always at room temperature anyway with built in heaters and air conditioning. Iranians and North Koreans have been robots for years and would no longer be risky business or need uranium to keep warm. Bin Laden and the jihadists would themselves be beheaded by robot armies and Gitmo could then be closed.

Now this all may sound like senile drivel or even wishful thinking to some, but the next time you tune in to world news and you happen to catch one of these guys walking around playing his trombone or guitar, then watch carefully - very carefully. Make your own guess as to how long we have left before chaos comes home. My grandfather used to tell me never to get too smart for my own good or it may come back to haunt me. And a whole lot of other people, too.

That little piece of good advice should be passed on to the Japanese, and please tell them in no uncertain terms to hold up production on the robot guys (and girls?) until we can sort all this out. Or a pox and the wrath of the entire globe will be upon them.

Quick. Before they decide to program them with tears - and laughter.



Jack L. Key is an author and writer of both online and print articles. He also is a US Navy veteran and retired healthcare professional. Contact him at:

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