Thursday, January 14, 2016

Robotic Entrepreneurs

In another post, the AI ogre that became terribly smart and developed an antipathy to humans was dismissed as not corresponding to the way in which AI would be developed. It is an ogre created by those who don’t work on day-to-day AI creation, but by someone with an overview perspective, slightly lacking in necessary details.

There might also be regulations developed by some governance body on any alien planet which was developing AI, to assist in avoiding any catastrophes caused by errant programming or programming review. But there are other regulations which would come into play, because they don’t cover robotics.

In a previous post, the replacement of jobs by robotics was discussed, in fact in several of them. But consider one specific job: entrepreneur. Would an alien civilization allow robots to form enterprises? This assumes there are enterprises on the alien world. Perhaps they have developed a different form of enterprise control. Recall some of us here on Earth think the decentralization has some useful qualities. Perhaps aliens have all figured out we are wrong and have gone down a different road. But in the instance where they have not, let’s consider the possibility.

Here on Earth, if some robot walked into a bank and said it wanted to start a business, and needed a loan, what would be the reaction? The loan officer would check the laws, which mention persons. If a robot got the loan, how would the bank take legal action. There is nothing in the legal system about a robot being responsible for anything. Only people get to be responsible.

In an alien world, prior to robotics, regulations would be written for aliens. It is only expectable that they would not use generic ‘sentient creature’ in their writing of regulations before there were any ‘sentient creatures’ other than aliens themselves. It is not possible for the bank’s loan officer to simply cross out the occurrence of the word ‘alien’ on the loan forms and write in ‘robot’, and then grant the loan. The regulations are not so easily altered. There are lots of them. But before they could be, if the alien civilization wanted them to be, there would have to be some definition of ‘sentient creature’ or ‘sentient robot’. It wouldn’t be very good to re-write the loan document before all the rest were changed.

There is a giant pitfall here. Robots are a continuum. How do you decide if Robot A is sentient enough to get a loan, but Robot B is not? Do you devise a test of some sort? You should, as you wouldn’t want to be giving a loan to a self-driving car, even if it pulled into the service bay and asked for one.

So, when you do the test, and countless other aliens review the test and tweak it, and more of them add things to it, and others object to it, and finally somehow, something gets decided on, do you put it into law? Something to the effect of ‘Robots passing the sentience test created by the Sentient Testing Corporation can take out loans and do any other action allowed to an alien being’ which would be an umbrella clause changing all the laws at once, you have two problems.

Robots are now aliens, insofar as their rights go, and nobody can disassemble one. That might be murder. They might qualify for some benefits, and if there is a factory chugging out robots in large numbers, that could be a burden quickly. And how did the robot get free? It was the property of some alien. Is there some law in the alien world about freedom for aliens, that robots could tap into? Lots of robots are going to be walking off their jobs and signing up for the test.

The second problem is that if an alien doesn’t quite pass the test, it can complain about it. Aliens are not subjected to any test for sentience, but robots are? But robots, at least sentient ones, are supposed to be treated like aliens. The basic difficulty is that to be an alien in that era, you just had to come from alien reproduction, budding or cloning or metamorphosizing or whatever they do. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the ability to pass the Sentient Testing Corporation’s test. You are still an alien. But not for robots.

So, the problems an alien civilization would face before it could give a robot a loan are very formidable, and go to the foundation of the society. That means that if a robot wants to become an entrepreneur, it can’t involve loans. Maybe it could get a gift.

If some magnanimous alien gives a robot a gift of a million A-dollars, could it still become an entrepreneur? Maybe if it started a pizza store using only robots, cash only, it might get by with it. It could buy the robots, pay rent all up front to some other pro-robotic landlord, get supplies, and go into business. Insurance would be a problem. Getting a building permit would be a problem, so renting an existing pizza store might be necessary. There would have to be some pretty customer friendly rules generated for the robotic waiters or order takers. If some customer said he was cheated, and threatened to call the cops, who would they arrest? Laws probably don’t allow a robot to be arrested, so it would have to be impounded or whatever is the equivalent on this planet. And of course it would have no trial or rights or anything else, and maybe the original owner would have to come and sort things out.

As for the original owner being responsible, if the first thing the robot did with its million A-dollar gift was to replace all its parts, is the owner still responsible? What if it split itself into two robots using half new and half old parts for each? Is the owner responsible for both pizza stores they both start? Hard to see how the law would cover this, prior to being re-written for sentient creatures.

All the consternation a robot-owned pizza store would cause may give us an opening to find employment in the future alien world after the robotics grand transition. The previous posts were blind to the difference in rights that an alien and a robot would have. So, after the robotics grand transition, perhaps the only jobs available would be ones which invoke the special rights an alien has. If they don’t talk in terms of rights there, substitute the word privileges. So, these previous posts were a bit short-sighted, in that starting a pizza store might be a position which couldn’t be automated, at least until several centuries of wrangling goes on about how to give or not give robots what privileges.

By the way, would a robot-owned pizza store pay taxes?

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