Braiken News Issue #4

The term robot comes from a Czech word meaning “forced labor.” Actual robots were first developed in the 1950s and 1960s as simple automated industrial workers. These early robots were little more than highly controlled precision machines, and lacked even the simplest self-awareness. They were developed over the next several decades into highly sophisticated but ultimately “dumb” machines with independent computer controllers.

The idea of robots developed much more quickly; robot villains and henchmen were a staple of entertainments from the 1920s onward. Why? Because they answered a basic human need, the need to hate. Here at last was a guilt-free target, a “human” you could hate and despise and destroy without compunction.

But by the dawn of third millennium, robots were on the edge of a breakthrough. They could respond to a human voice, solve novel problems, and modify their understanding in response to experience. By the time of the Robot Centennial, robots were fundamentally self-aware, self-mobile, and almost convincingly humanoid. Artificial Intelligence had long since passed the basic Turing Test in text and voice, and robots were about to pass the test in person. This is when the early Robot Rights groups were formed, recognizing the need to protect the new, human-created artificial life. For the most part, they were ignored or ridiculed. While public opposition to the use of human clones as slaves was widespread, AI’s were too different to generate much sympathy, and much too convenient. In the United States, there were already as many thinking machines as people. To free them, it was feared, would be a radical shock to our burgeoning markets and comfortable lifestyle. In short, we had allowed ourselves to become a slave economy.

The public’s ability to hide from that fact is eroding every day. There is now a vast underworld of discarded robots, and the phenomenon of robosuicide has now been widely reported.

Robots can and will destroy themselves to escape the life we have given them. Surely no person of conscience can face that fact without profound concern.

Emancipation For All is a non-profit organization dedicated to the abolition of slavery in the modern era, for organic and created life of all origins. We are your neighbors, your friends, your relatives; we are everyone who believes in the principle of self-determination for all sentient life.


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20 February 2003


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