Robot Rights Before Human Rights?
- 1 Post
- Age 17
I have not been able to evade news of Sophia The Robot who has dominated headlines and my twitter feed with her slightly harrowing human resemblance and ability to respond to questions almost humanly. She has been ubiqutous in media over the last few months even appearing on a segment with Jimmy Fallon and she has been the subject of many interviews due to people's facsination with this progressive piece of human technology. She is a beacon of our achievements in artificial intelligence and a slight glance of what our future might look like.
Saudi Arabia even made the controversial decision to declare citizenship for Sophia making her the first humanoid robot to become a citizen, a feat for which she appeared quite honoured, even going on to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This has opened a debate around robot rights and Sophia has even advocated for her right to have a family.
This all seems like the plot of a near-future where we express contest over the issues of robotic rights and laws around artificial intelligence, but as I kept reading over the abundant articles I noticed another story that was also gaining traction simultaneously: the revelation the slaves are being sold in Libya.
Videos emerged from CNN of men being sold off as slaves for cheap labour, even being described as "big strong boys for farmwork" as a selling point. This news is a hurtling throw back into a gruesome and visceral history that has haunted us, a stark juxtaposition to the supposed approach to a futuristic society with Sophia. I really struggle with the fact that Sophia has been recognised as a citizen before these men were even considered human; that we have treated a robot as more human than actual people.
The news from Libya is heartbreaking, the photos and videos are even more so. These men who are sold in monthly slave markets are mostly migrants trying to escape horrors but are instead sold into an alternate horror where they are abused and dehumanised for someone's capitalistic gain. Some part of me has always been comforted by the fact that slavery was part of a distant past, a bandaged wound even, but that part of me ceases to exist now and that bandage is soaked in the blood of those men who have been sold.
Though I completely acknowledge how monumental Sophia The Robot is, I cannot accept that she has more rights than some people on this earth. It may seem progressive to give her citizenship but it is hardly so. It is an unnecessary decoration for Sophia, she does not need citizenship when there are real people suffering who need our attention and recognition as human beings. Real progress would be eradicating slavery and such grotesque violations of human rights. We must ensure that the wounds and divisions of our past are healed, that every single person is taken care of and treated justly before we can start devoting such energy to a piece of machinery.