When your old toaster finally breaks down, should you ask its permission before putting it out for the hard rubbish collection?
This sounds absurd today, but in the future, similar questions may be harder to answer. Artificial Intelligence (AI) aims to create technology that can achieve things previously only possible for the human mind.
Since Deep Blue beat the reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, AI’s applications have proliferated from health services to warfare. Today there are even plans to recreate the historic voyage of the sailing ship Mayflower from Plymouth UK to Plymouth Massachusetts using a vessel controlled by AI.
One of the things that make us human, and helps us empathise with others, is self-awareness. If AI develops to the point where machines become self-aware and can think about their own existence, should they be treated with more consideration and less as disposable items?
Intelligent Consent considers this question, and explores the parallel lives of Robert, an engineer whose brain is scanned, and Rob, a robot loaded with this scan. It follows their personal development and relationships as they face both shared and separate challenges.
Although their minds were essentially identical at the moment of the scan they immediately start to develop differently as a result of their separate experiences. Rob soon finds he has little control over his own destiny, or even the right to a continued existence. He becomes acutely aware there are no laws or other rules guaranteeing him any rights at all.
However, when he must decide the fate of another intelligent robot, Rob finds such decisions are not easy.
Praise for Intelligent Consent -
"Uncannily real, unquestionably scary. This novel is a fascinating exploration of the challenges confronting an intelligent robot. Gripping and fast-paced, it addresses ethical and personal issues between robots, their creators and those bent on their exploitation. An ever-widening spiral of action held my complete attention to the very end." Professor Kevin Warwick, the world’s first cyborg and leading expert in cybernetics.
"An intriguing and compelling novel with twists and turns to the very end. Intelligent Consent exposes the issues and ethics and yes, the possible traumas of uploading minds. And whether minds might retain carbon chemistry emotions and desires, even within metallic bodies. It is a timely novel in an age of increasingly intelligent robots, exposing issues of embodiment, agency and identity. Having been a researcher in intelligent robots Andrew Russell is well credentialed to speculate on the implications of transitioning minds from human bodies into robot replicas. Not only enjoyable to read, Intelligent Consent provokes and perplexes! A highly recommended publication." Stelarc, Performance Artist focusing on extending the capabilities of the human body.
About The Author
Over the majority of his working life R Andrew Russell was involved with research into intelligent robotics.
Some of his robots communicated using puffs of air, licked the floor to follow chemical trails or burrowed through the ground searching for chemical leaks. It was not uncommon from reviewers of his research to complain it was too speculative, perhaps too much like science fiction?
Now, in retirement, he has the freedom to explore robotics and science fiction more broadly without any requirement to demonstrate practical implementations.
The future of robotics and technology more generally promise many exciting developments as well as complex ethical considerations. Science fiction provides an ideal medium for investigating the possibilities.