In the last five years, the Hawaii Judiciary has developed as part of its comprehensive planning program, a futures research component. Initially futures research was largely concerned with identifying emerging issues; that is issues that are low in awareness to decision makers and high in potential impact.1 At present the Courts futures program is engaged in a variety of activities. Researchers study the impact of possible legislation on the Judiciary, forecast future caseloads, publish a newsletter of emerging issues, trends, and research findings2, and provide research information to decision makers as to the future of technology, economy, population, management and crime. However in the past few years of concentrating on short and medium term futures, we have remained fascinated by one long term emerging issue‑‑the Rights of Robots. The predictable response to the question: should robots have rights has been one of disbelief. Those in government often question the credibility of an agency that funds such research. Many futurists, too, especially those concerned with environmental or humanistic futures, react unfavorably. They assume that we are unaware of the second and third order effects of robotics‑‑the potential economic dislocations, the strengthening of the world capitalist system, and the development of belief systems that view the human brain as only a special type of computer. Why then in the face of constant ridicule should we pursue such a topic. We believe that the development of robots and their emerging rights is a compelling issue which will signficantly and dramatically impact not only the judicial and criminal justice system, but also the philosophical and political ideas that govern our societal institutions. In the coming decades, and perhaps even years, sophisticated thinking devices will be developed and installed in self‑propelled casings which will be called robots. Presently robots are typically viewed as machines; as inanimate objects and therefore devoid of rights. Since robots have restricted mobility, must be artifically programmed for "thought,"lack senses as well as the emotions associated with them, and most importantly cannot experience suffering or fear, they, it is argued, lack the essential attributes to be considered alive. However, the robot of tomorrow will undoubtedly have many of these characteristics and may perhaps become an intimate companion to its human counterpart. We believe that robots will one day have rights. This will undoubtedly be a historically significant event. Such an extension of rights obviously presupposes a future that will be fundamentally different from the present. The expansion of rights to robots may promote a new appreciation of the interrelated rights and responsibilities of humans, machines and nature. With such an holistic extension of rights to all things in nature from animals and trees to oceans comes a renewed sense of responsibility, obligation and respect for all things. Certainly these concepts are foreign to the worldview of most of us today. The burden of this paper is then to convince the reader that there is strong possibility that within the next 25 to 50 years robots will have "rights." CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES
The definition of rights has been historically problematic. In part, it is an unresolved problem because there are numerous disparate definitions of what constitutes "rights." These fundamentally different views are largely politically, institutional and culturally based. Those in or with power tend to define rights differently then those out of or without power. In addition, cultures with alternative cosmologies define notions of natural, human, and individual rights quite differently. Historically, humanity has developed ethnocentric and egocentric view of rights. Many notions of "rights" reflect the 16th century views of Newton's clockwork universe and Descarte's...
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