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  • Writer's pictureMichaela Jamelska

Humanizing Robots in Industry 5.0

As we progress from Industry 4.0, we are swiftly transitioning into Industry 5.0, a phase characterized by enhanced synergy between humans and machines. This next era focuses on integrating human creativity with the precision of robotics and AI, fostering an environment where collaboration between people and intelligent systems enhances productivity and innovation. You might have seen images of a robotic hand shaking a human hand, symbolizing the next wave of the industrial revolution which will redefine our collaboration and set new rules for human-machine interaction. Previously, we recognized these machines in industries like manufacturing where they performed dangerous, monotonous, and labor-intensive tasks. Industry 5.0 promises more sophisticated, human-like robots, raising discussions about ethics in AI, technology, and human rights, and not just gender equality but potentially equality between humans and robots. This article aims to challenge your thinking about how we will integrate technologies, the power and rights we will grant them, and what our coexistence might look like.

A few years back, the famous robot Sophia sparked concerns after she became the first robot to gain citizenship, raising questions about whether she should have human rights. For some, the future of robots co-living with humans may seem mind-blowing, but let’s consider examples like telephones and drones. Initially, telephones in the early 20th century were met with skepticism and fear, described as magical devices transmitting sounds through a thin wire, with many elderly people afraid to even touch them. Similarly, drones initially raised concerns due to their use in military attacks and unauthorized surveillance, until they began to be used for life-saving operations and humanitarian aid. Skepticism is part of human nature, and it's our right to question emerging technologies. However, driven by human creativity and curiosity, progress will not halt, and human-robot cohabitation seems an almost certain future, whether we like it or not.

The question then becomes how we apply ethics in this new society. Many articles debate whether we should grant human rights to machines. Does this mean we are humanizing robots, or should we instead be talking about "robot rights"? Is it permissible to harm a machine if it has not attacked us, or should equality apply such that we do not harm those who do not harm us? Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn of the University of Hertfordshire, an expert in Artificial Intelligence, has stated that machines have no feelings or emotions, a sentiment many agree with. Conversely, Professor Hussein A. Abbass of the University of South Wales-Canberra argues that we are morally obliged to protect machines, suggesting they should have a stack of rights.

These differing opinions bring to mind the potential consequences. If humans get into the habit of mistreating machines for no reason, it reflects not only on our interactions with machines but also on human nature itself. Perhaps, discussing robot rights is necessary not to protect machines, but to shield humans from descending into inhumanity.

The debate over robot rights began in earnest in 2017 when the EU Parliament report suggested that the Civil Law Rules on Robotics should create a legal status for robots, taking responsibility for any damages they may cause. Similarly, if companies can have legal status and responsibilities, why not robots? The most pressing question is what happens if a robot harms a human, and who is responsible. Will robot rights simply protect a robot's maker or owner from liability, or will they also guard against the unpredictable events that might occur in an artificial mind that has developed consciousness? Philosopher David Chalmers argues that consciousness is a fundamental property ontologically autonomous from any known physical properties. If AI is considered a conscious entity capable of making decisions based on its reasoning and can adapt and learn in various contexts, it will likely possess consciousness, though it will not be human consciousness but artificial consciousness.

As we progress, experiments and observations of AI behavior will help us define new concepts like artificial consciousness, similar to how animals, plants, and corals have their forms of consciousness.

To simplify, consider when a dog attacks a human. Investigations often reveal that the human approached the dog inappropriately or that the owner mistreated the dog, causing trauma, or that some external factor triggered the dog. When a human is injured or killed, responsibility often falls on the dog unless the owner is proven to have influenced the dog's behavior. While animals and robots are not the same, this analogy helps us understand that we cannot and will not be able to fully control different forms of consciousness. We will have more access to a robot's "thinking logs" and can learn which data influenced its behavior or what misled it. Emerging technologies, with their interdependencies among IoT, hardware, software, and networks, create risks of corrupted data and other threats.

We will not avoid accidents with Ai, that is certain. We can establish a legal framework for robot rights that protects robots from unreasonable harm. Similarly, humans will be responsible for computer output, so manufacturers, operators, and owners will have limited liability, but the data and experiences of AI in the real world will be so extensive that they go beyond any human control. Investigations will be necessary, as with any other crimes, to determine if an agent could have foreseen and prevented the robot's harmful behavior. Human responsibility could be proportional to the degree of consciousness a robot possesses.

This discussion is intended to stimulate critical thinking and imagination about hypothetical scenarios and how to prepare for them. One important consideration is how far we are willing to go and what risks we are prepared to take when humanizing robots and making them autonomous conscious entities.


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