I will begin by saying that I really enjoy science-fiction, in part because of the broad possibilities it explores, but also because of some of the more metaphysical aspects. If we encounter an alien race, what will our relation with it be? How would we consider a sentient machine?
Science-fiction forgets about the "it's impossible" and wonders "is it probable?". So, let's wonder for a while about the likelihood of things that seem impossible now, but which bring out some of the fundamental issues of humanity.
I've seen movies and read stories about robots that become self-aware and aspire to be human. Most of these stories have a happy ending, but that is really not relevant here. The problem at hand is when can the status of a disposable object change to that of a being with the right to live and to choose. Does it sound familiar?
The problem is no longer about machines in the distant future, it is something we have been and will still be confronted with for many more years. What is the value of one being compared to another?
Remember all the wars, the slavery and the discrimination. The reasons aren't even as hard to accept as in the case of a robot. They are about customs, religion, skin colour and resources. What about abortion? When does a human being begin to have rights and when is it ok to kill it?
And it doesn't end here. I can't even begin to talk about the dilemma about the rights and status of animals and plants. Some people refuse to eat animals, saying that even animals should have the right to live.
Is it survival of the fittest? Is it ok to give rights to some and none to others, be them humans, animals, plants or machines?
This isn't meant to accuse anyone. The answer still eludes me. We can't care for everyone in the same way, but something within us tells us we should.
What is the right dose of hypocrisy we must use? What is the measure of a man?
From Star Trek, a poem written by Data for his cat Spot.