|"Please don't kick me!"|
"Even for fully informed adults, the difference between alive and lifelike may be muddled enough in our subconscious to warrant adopting the same attitudes toward robotic companions that we carry towards our pets. A study of Sony AIBO online message boards reveals that people were dismayed to witness the story of an AIBO being tossed into a garbage can. Not long after the Pleo robot dinosaur became commercially available in 2007, videos of Pleo “torture” began to circulate online. The comments left by viewers are strikingly polarized – while some derive amusement from the videos, others appear considerably upset, going so far as to verbally attack the originators and accuse them of horrible cruelty.
The Kantian philosophical argument for animal rights is that our actions towards non-humans reflect our morality — if we treat animals in inhumane ways, we become inhumane persons. This logically extends to the treatment of robotic companions. Given that many people already feel strongly about state-of-the-art social robot “abuse”, it may soon become more widely perceived as out of line with our social values to treat robotic companions in a way that we would not treat our pets."
|printf("Ouch! Stop! Please stop!");|
Of course if some particular robotic device is capable of suffering, then yes, protections must apply. Based on our current knowledge of physics, it's very unlikely that any existing robot matches this criterion.
(*Irrationally believing it to be inhumane doesn't make it inhumane, and much of how the modern legal system was conceptualized was precisely to protect against such emotionally-driven justifications for harming innocent people.)
(Edit: The article author, Kate Darling, gave the following brief response via Twitter: "Thanks! I discuss property in the paper this article is based on. The "crime" should only ever be one if harm to society outweighs." ... I think the notion of "outweighs" is misguided.)