A report out of the UK envisions robots someday having rights. From the Financial Times
: "'If we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should,' said Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology...Robots and machines are now classed as inanimate objects without rights or duties but if artificial intelligence becomes ubiquitous, the report argues, there may be calls for humans' rights to be extended to them. It is also logical that such rights are meted out with citizens’ duties, including voting, paying tax and compulsory military service. Mr Christensen said: 'Would it be acceptable to kick a robotic dog even though we shouldn't kick a normal one? There will be people who can't distinguish that so we need to have ethical rules to make sure we as humans interact with robots in an ethical manner so we do not move our boundaries of what is acceptable.'...'If granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time,' it [the report] says."
First, it would be incredibly foolish to create "conscious" machines. (I sentence all would-be conscious machine makers to watch every episode of Battlestar Gallactica
Second, can a machine really be conscious? We could probably make machines that could learn. But even so, wouldn't they still just be following human programming? Besides, we don't even know what consciousness is in human beings yet.
Third, and most importantly, this is the kind of speculation that the transhumanists want us to pursue. Because if machines can have "human" rights, it means that there is nothing particularly exceptional about being human. It means we will have to earn our rights, along with machines, by possessing requisite capacities. And that means the end of universal human rights.
We are out of our minds to follow this course. And it is a very dangerous game. Remember what I have been saying lately: The most dangerous sentence in the history of the world may be, "It can't happen here."