current affairs

A world run by robots: according to children

Most people have concerns about the future of the human race.  What most people probably haven’t considered is just how horrific the world would be if members of One Direction were immor

Most people have concerns about the future of the human race.  What most people probably haven’t considered is just how horrific the world would be if members of One Direction were immortalised as robots to “entertain” people for all eternity.

Robot celebrities

A survey by OnePoll of 2000 British 5-17 year olds shows that many young people believe that their favourite celebrities should be immortalised in robot form.  

A list of the top-ten celebrities afforded the dubious honour of being allowed to entertain the fickle public until the end of the earth places Harry Styles at number one (presumably with his hair made out of titanium to prevent the cost of hair gel bankrupting future World Governments).

Other celebrities making the cut include David Beckham, who it could be argued was already past his prime, Pharrell Williams, who many people will probably struggle to name by this time next year and Prince William, whose immortality would seriously undermine the concept of hereditary monarchy.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George, diver Tom Daley and a complement of pop stars round off the list.   Disturbingly there are apparently quite a few young people who think Miley Cyrus twerking for the next twenty thousand aeons is a positive development for the human race.

Solving world problems

However, the survey went beyond asking which celebrities children would like to see live forever and asked them what else they’d like to see robots do.  42 per cent said they’d like robots to stop wars – the rest probably grew up watching Transformers and think robot-on-robot combat would be amazing. 

40 per cent would like them to bring food and water to starving people, which leads to the quite worrying thought that 60 per cent said no to helping starving people.  Only 25 per cent said they would use robots to prevent flooding, which suggests 75 per cent of the young people polled have parents working at the Environment Agency.

The same robots will also apparently be phasing out pretty much every low-level profession, with those surveyed saying that waiters, cooks and cleaners would be replaced by robots in the near future.  Exactly how qualified a robot is to prepare food is up for discussion, but apparently they won’t stop there.  Policemen, teachers and doctors are also on the list of professions children believe will soon be replaced by robots. 

Michael Gove must be rubbing his hands with glee at that second one.

The survey also asked also compiled a top ten list of what civil rights the robots, which would apparently have human feelings, would be allowed and what responsibilities they would have.  Robots would have to go to school, which would presumably just be a quick download at the academy each morning, pay tax, which means they won’t be running any large corporations anytime soon, and have the right to vote.  The last one leads to the prospect of an extremist party (or the Lib Dems) creating a horde of robots just to vote them into power.

Robot ethics

These robots would also be able to refuse to help humans.  Those familiar with author Isaac Asimov’s ‘Three Laws of Robotics’ (or the film, ‘I, Robot’) will recognise that this violates the Second Law. This states that robots must obey all human instructions unless it causes harm to a human, which is the First law.  The Third Law states that a robot must protect its own existence, unless this violates either of the first two laws.

Of course, Asimov’s laws are science-fiction, and this entire survey was part of the marketing campaign for the release of a new toy robot at Toys’R’Us. But we live in a world where robotics are becoming increasingly advanced.  A cybernetic Beyoncé may not be the future, but robots may well be.

Conferences have been held on what is known as Roboethics. There are many societies and campaign groups calling for the rights of robots to be respected.  A few years ago a Bill of Rights for robots was even proposed.

Robot technology is not yet at the stage where the rights of artificial-intelligence need provoke much debate.  However since it took thousands of years for most people to learn to respect the rights of animals or people who happen to be a slightly different colour to them it is probably best to make a start on robot-rights now.

If robots do become more advanced and intelligent then efforts will have to be made to establish exactly what rights they would enjoy.  For many people the idea of giving them rights such as the right to vote would be a step too far. Immortalising celebrities would probably be equally unpopular. 

The world may one day be ready to accept robots as equal members of society. But it will never be ready for a robotic Ant and Dec grinning on primetime Saturday night television forever.

What do you think? Should robots be used to immortalise your heroes and the planet? Or is the prospect of a robot revolution too dangerous? Have your say in the comments section below.