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Robots have rights too!

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LISA NAPOLI: A new study by the British government concludes that robots could one day play a major role in the global economy and it suggests that R2-D2s and the like could even become fully-fledged citizens with rights and responsibilities. From London Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: This is not a prediction, the authors of the study are at pains to point out. This is what they call “horizon scanning.”

Researchers have looked at a vast array of technical and environmental scenarios that could unfold over the next 50 years. The study on the role of robots is pretty far out.

Julian Thompson of the research company Ipsos Mori says we may have to treat robots like fellow citizens.

JULIAN THOMPSON: If we can start to create machines that have complex understanding of themselves and the world around them, where do we draw the line with citizenship? If they’re part of our world and we expect them to do things for us, we really have to have a serious debate about of the role of machines in our lives and what rights and responsibilities we extend to them.

Robots might gain the right to welfare, housing and regular health check-ups says the study. And they might be able to sue if these were denied.

The researchers insist their purpose is to explore all the possibilities to help ensure that government is prepared.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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