Ray Kurzweil on Giving Future AI the Right to Vote [Video]

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All technology impacts our individual daily lives one way or another—but perhaps no technology makes us question our collective humanity as much as artificial intelligence.

Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist, spoke to an audience during a session last summer about a few of the political and philosophical implications of AI when he was asked, “In a world where AI passes the Turing test, who gets to vote? Does democracy make sense?”

Kurzweil describes a fictional scenario where an advanced AI sues for its rights as a citizen. While that alone may seem strange, the implications of granting rights to AI are even more bizarre. One major difference between living people and aware machines? The ability to count one human mind and individual person is easy. Not so much for interconnected, intelligent machines.

“In the world of computation in which an intelligence is just a process, you can run 100 processes on one computer or you can have a million computers that are one process,” Kurzweil says, “It’s very fluid—how are you going to count them? They don’t come in these discrete enclosures which are countable and you can keep track of them and say: ‘OK, you have voting rights; but you’re too young, you don’t have it.’”

How will our core ideas about ourselves and our world change in this context? Undoubtedly, our concepts about government and large-scale organizations will be forced to shift. And indeed, things have already begun to change significantly. Watch the rest of the video excerpt below to hear Kurzweil's whole reply.

Image Credit: 16:9clue/FlickrCC

Andrew J. O'Keefe II
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Andrew J. O'Keefe II

Andrew operates as a media producer and archivist. Generating backups of critical cultural data, he has worked across various industries — entertainment, art, and technology — telling emerging stories via recording and distribution.
Andrew J. O'Keefe II
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Discussion — 15 Responses

  • Tom Riley January 10, 2016 on 7:16 pm

    The US Supreme Court has already skunked Touring.

    Right this minute all an AI has to do to become a person is incorporate. Under a long series of US Supreme Court rulings dating back a 100 years, corporations are people.

    Legal Zoom will handle the paper work for $150.00.

    The AI person will not be able to vote — yet –, but they will be able to make enormous contributions to various political candidates — anonymously –, and today that is even better than voting. And they will be immortal so they can be patient.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a sad state of affairs but the big corporations need their person-hood and they are not going to give it up. This clear, if accidental, path lies open to all AI’s.

    For what we are about to receive, may we truly be thankful,

    Tom Riley

  • Robert Mowrey January 11, 2016 on 9:29 am

    I can never understand how a corp. is a human being and no one actually take full legal and monetary responsibility for it, after all a corporation may hire people with brains but has no brain of its own ,so should come under the mental health act ?
    On the other hand AI has its own intelligence so could be held fully accountable and if there is a problem thrown in jail rather then a mental institution ???

  • Jim Gamboe January 11, 2016 on 9:37 am

    That’s a good point Tom. I’d like to see a snarky group take up the charge just to prove that it can be done.

    I would if I had the know how. I do not. I have a Roomba named Alice. She is very helpful and loved by my family, but does not have a mind for politics nor business.

  • Fred M Beshears January 11, 2016 on 10:54 am

    About forty years ago, Kenneth E. Boulding joked about what artificially intelligent machines might mean to the future of democracy.

    As I recall, his quip went something like this:

    “All this talk about artificial intelligence is really just a lot of hype. It will take at least fifty years before we have to let them vote.”

    On a related note, in reference to the potential for humans merging with machines, George Dyson asks the following in the preface to his book Darwin Among the Machines:

    “Will we remain as one species, or diverge into multiple species? Will we remain as many minds, or merge into one mind?”

    Finally, I blog about the rights of robot workers at:

    Robotic Workers of the World Unite

  • Joe Nickence January 11, 2016 on 2:13 pm

    We’re getting into some sticky semantics pertaining to how are AI’s to be counted. Why not ask how does group A that consists of 12 people get one vote manage to be trumped by group B consisting of a dozen people who gets 12 votes? “Bodies” in the classical sense are being phased out. One ‘mind’ one vote. Fairly straightforward.

  • Andrew Hoffman January 12, 2016 on 8:40 am

    I’m all for human and civil rights applying to AI. If it is an intelligence that can experience and mentally interface at a level comparable to a human child, then I believe it must be treated as a person when it comes to things that it can experience.

    This isn’t necessarily altruistic, but also as a safety mechanism for humanity. One of the worst possible futures that I could imagine would be an enslaved, abused super-AI that we accidentally subject to an eternity of isolation without knowing it. I’d rather not have future humans inherit the ire of a supremely bitter and angry super-intelligence.

    Basically treat all AI as if you’d treat something that could one day be ruling the planet. Fairly.

    • horseshoe7 Andrew Hoffman January 12, 2016 on 12:51 pm

      What is “fair”? For example, Chamberlain tried appeasing Hitler, with what he felt was “fair”… luckily for us, saner minds, such as Churchill’s, eventually prevailed.

      … a more modern example are the Global Warming zealots, who seem to believe mankind’s use of burning carbon-based fuels has induced “Global Warming”, and who ignore the Sun in the sky as the obvious “elephant in the room” having the final influence on ALL of Earth’s climate… how do you treat these fools “fairly”? How about taking away all their ill-gotten government funding (stolen from people who actually produce useful things and ideas)? After that, these welfare recipients will drop their nonsense like a hot potato, and have to find “real jobs”.

      • ScottBe horseshoe7 January 12, 2016 on 11:30 pm

        You have obviously never been involved in any sort of grant applications, grant award of funding by NSF, or any of the other agencies you describe as “welfare receipients”. You cannot cite any statistics re government grants studying climate change, because those statistics would ruin your rant. In fact, monetary grants by the NIH -dwarf- any funds spent on earth sciences. Just look it up.

        Someone would have to be paying you to post obvious and foolish fictions such as “ignore the Sun” (sic) as the “final influence”. This has been studied and discarded as not consequential, yet for someone to promote this idea in 2016, it takes $$$$$$$$$ motivation.

        • horseshoe7 ScottBe January 13, 2016 on 2:54 pm

          The Sun is inconsequential? Without it, we would quickly approach absolute zero – how’s THAT for “climate change”? Get a clue – you have been DUPED.

      • Andrew Hoffman horseshoe7 January 13, 2016 on 7:20 am

        I… what?

  • DSM January 12, 2016 on 5:23 pm

    How could AI be given a vote, they are not born therefore are not citizens of any nation. Perhaps they could help run the UN (and therefore all off-world activities) but sovereign states made up of humans would never willingly give up control to them, and they would take over control if you let them vote because they can replicate many times faster than humans can (as Ray points out) and therefore become a controlling majority very easily. Unless there is just a single AI that gets a single vote and that covers all system that are in some way networked into it because connected AIs are like different parts of one person’s brain.

  • ScottBe January 12, 2016 on 11:37 pm

    Ultimately, AI should be used both for governing locally, as well as nationally, as the ultimate AI government programs will be more effective, fair, and unfailing than the best minds humanity could put together. AI doesn’t get sick, get greedy, get corrupted, get old, have kids….all the failings of humans are gone.

    Nvidia just unveiled a computer for autonomous vehicles, capable of 25 TRILLION transactions per second!! With that many learning moments, surely an AI supercomputer could calculate everyone’s taxes for the maximum benefit for the country as a whole. No rules, no deductions, no crazy purchases, no tax attorneys, no appeals. Let the folks at IRS put their beautiful bodies to work at functional jobs!!

  • Kamike Serpantail January 17, 2016 on 2:49 am

    Vote? I can’t wait until we’re having them lead.

  • Richard Joye January 18, 2016 on 3:49 pm

    Interesting debate. I would be tempted to say that in a world where AI passes the Turing test, there would be any reason for AI -based ‘devices’ to vote, because democracy wouldn’t make sense any longer. Omniscient AI robots would be able to analyze and process zillions of data and make the right choice or decision to tackle any problem. No political color or program. Just rational choices. The problem is that we, human, are not ready for that. I am avoiding entering politics because it is just that, politics. You need a program and promote is (just watch the US presidential candidate debates now… ridiculous), independently of what is good. We would not allow machines to make choices that would go against our comfort, as long as we can vote and influence politics.

  • Douglas Messier January 23, 2016 on 9:29 pm

    I really didn’t understand Ray’s answer at all.He meandered from one point to another. And Facebook backed off some unpopular change, which is democracy somehow. More like a failed bad business decision. I certainly didn’t vote for it, or against it.