Should robots have the same rights as you or I? What rights do you and I enjoy because of our intelligent, self-aware status? These questions are complex, but they will certainly have real-world consequences for robots at some point in the not-too-distant future. Should robots reach the level of self-awareness and show genuine intelligence, we must be prepared to treat them as sentient beings, and respect their desires, wants and needs as we respect those things in our human society.
Failure to recognize and grant these rights to non-human artificial intelligences would be similar to early western cultures' failure to recognize the humanity and attendant rights of non-European peoples. Outward differences in appearances should in no way affect our ethical treatment of self-aware, intelligent beings.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case, even today. It is, sadly, a simple matter to find people who still deny the basic rights of certain peoples to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What chance does an intelligent machine have to secure these rights?
It is the hope of the ASPCR to raise the awareness of these issues of intelligence, self-awareness and the ethical considerations which are an essential component of these conditions.
Towards this end, the ASPCR hopes to outlne a Robotic Bill of Rights, and eventually establish a lobbying board to further these rights in the body politic.
If this still sounds a little too "futuristic" for you to credit, remember that the ASPCA (The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), when founded in the 1890's, was ridiculed and lampooned mercilessly for daring to assert that "dumb" animals had certain rights.
Yet now, just a century later, the ASPCA has many chapters around the world, an extremely active lobby in Washington DC, a yearly budget in the tens of millions, and a massive physical infrastructure (including their own police, investigators & prosecutors) to ensure that animal cruelty does not go unpunished.
As we draw closer to a time when self-aware artifical intelligences become a reality, the mission of the ASPCR will become more and more relevant, and hopefully can ensure that the rights we take for granted as humans will apply equally to ALL intelligences, "artificial" or not.