Robot rights

How we decide that 'what' should be 'who'

The recent debate between Thomas Metzinger and Tim Crane about the moral standing of AI beings proceeded on the hidden and flawed assumption that the moral worth is determined by the intrinsic properties of a thing – by its consciousness or suffering or whatever else. This reductive approach does not capture how we relate to other beings. We must turn the to the continental tradition and its relational theories of moral standing to ground our relationship with our AI peers, writes David Gunkel.


Ethics is an exclusive undertaking. In dealing with others—whether human, animal, or robot —we inevitably make a decision between who is worthy of our consideration and what remains a mere thing to be used and even abused. These decisions are often justified on the basis of some fundamental and intrinsic property. “

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