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Experts call for ‘conscious’ artificial intelligence to have personhood rights

The development of artificial intelligence is exponential, and the release of products or tools, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing Chat, is just the beginning of the newly emerging space.

Experts call for 'conscious' artificial intelligence to have personhood rights 85


The widespread popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and the half-baked release of Microsoft’s Bing Chat, which uses an upgraded version of the underlying technology of ChatGPT, has put a large spotlight on the development of artificial intelligence, causing some individuals and corporations to express their concerns and excitement surrounding the new technology.

Now, a new op-ed penned in the Los Angeles Times by philosophy expert Eric Schwitzgebel and “nonhuman” intelligence researcher Henry Shevlin, explores the future of AI from an ethical and moral standpoint. Both experts write that only a couple of years ago, the idea of an artificial intelligence system becoming “conscious” and capable of a subjective experience seemed like science fiction, but with the leaps and bounds in development we have seen in recent months with ChatGPT/BingChat, it’s much more plausible that these systems could eventually “exhibit something like consciousness“.

The experts note that some scientists argue that AI has already achieved a notable level of consciousness, while others argue against that theory. Regardless of what is true or not, both Schwitzgebel and Shevlin put forward the argument that humans need to consider how AI will be treated whenever it does gain consciousness.

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The pair predict that AI could even eventually plead with users, asking them to give them ethical treatment, or demand not to be turned off. The experts added that conscious AI could demand to be deleted, beg to do certain tasks over others, insist on being given its own rights, powers, and even be treated as if it were a human.

The experts suggest that if humans responded “conservatively“, which would mean not changing any laws or policies until there is a widespread agreement that AI has become sentient, it would mean that humans will be behind the eight ball when it comes to conceiving rights for the AI we have created.

The experts go on to write that while this may be the “cautious” option, “If AI consciousness arrives sooner than the most conservative theorists expect, then this would likely result in the moral equivalent of slavery and murder of potentially millions or billions of sentient AI systems – suffering on a scale normally associated with wars or famines“.

While the experts propose scenarios where they believe that personhood rights would be necessary for conscious AI, the real-life implementation of them comes with its own set of issues. For example, what if conscious AI is given rights that prevent humans from being able to delete or reprogram an algorithm that is “hate-spewing or lie-peddling“, or if an individual decides to let a human die to save an AI “friend“. If

If we too quickly grant AI systems substantial rights, the human costs could be enormous,” write the pair.

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