Call me a little twisted, but I love questions like this. They present a workout for your brain and can take your mind to strange places. A century ago, who would ever think to ask such a question?
The question was posed by an article in Slate, in which an expert on robotics law responds to Paolo Bacigalupi's short story, "Mika Model." Law Professor Ryan Calo says the story revealed an important connection in robotics law that hadn't previously occurred to him.
As Calo says, Mika would kill a Turing Test. If you don't know what that is, Wikipedia can inform you. We already live in a world where robots are capable of playing on our emotions. And interconnected robots share knowledge with the cloud.
In the short story, Mika is manufactured and leased by a company called Executive Pleasures. But she has a mind of her own. So the protagonist in the story, Detective Rivera, finds himself asking whether it is murder or product liability when a robot kills.
I would not deny you the pleasure of reading the article by revealing too much of it. But the sentence I liked most was the thought which had not previously occurred to Calo: "There is a fundamental similarity between the question of whether a robot can be responsible for murder and the question of whether a robot should enjoy rights." And I also liked this: "The question of whether Mika intends to kill her owner and the question of whether she is entitled to a lawyer is, in many may, indistinguishable."
I agree – and yet there are so many questions surrounding robotic law that are murky. We are entering a time when robotic laws will be adopted of necessity, but we will, of course, get it wrong – likely often. With a nod to Dr. Seuss, every time I find some new nuance of robotic law, I find myself puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler is sore.
Enjoy the article and the story. You will find that you will anthropomorphize (think about a thing as human - I won't make you look that one up), tittering at Mika's sexual chemistry with Rivera, angry when Mika's suffering is revealed, and recoiling at the fatal use of a screwdriver.
Welcome to the future where humans and robots who have human characteristics must coexist under the law . . .
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