A fairly conventional position is that we will be able to build robots to do whatever we like - more or less. After all, we built them - we ought to be in control of their actions - unless we make a *severe* mess of our engineering.

So: if we want to have them obey the law, then obeying the law is what they will do.

If we can build them to value obedience to the law, then I don't see why we would avoid giving them other values. Non-violence and obedience are among Asimov's classical proposals, for example.

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There's so much packed into Robin's posting, some of it cogent and informative, some of it obvious. I was struvk by:"Similar criteria should apply when choosing the people you want to let into your nation. You should want smart capable law-abiding folks, with whom you and other natives can form mutually advantageous relationships. Preferring short, dumb, and sickly immigrants so you can be above them in status would be misguided..."

There is so much here to unpack. Like the fact that it was the Confederate side of American nature, propelling 8 phases of an ongoing, 250 year civil war, who always pushed notion of inherited inferior status. Mark Twain blamed the unjustifiable oath-breaking of secession on three factors... the economic interests of elites... a southern propensity to romanticism, typified by the wildly popular novels of Sir Walter Scott... and a desperate need by lower class whites for someone lower to kick.

In contrast, while immigrants faced racism up north and west, their children generally did just fine, when they had a chance, providing tall, healthy, vigorous Americans to the mix.

But Robin's metaphor is about AI and robots, and his point is clear. Hoping to keep a new, servile caste of automatons down is likely a short-sighted and ultimately futile goal.

I was honestly puzzled by the "wild animals" riff. Each generation of Americans has supported ever greater protections for wild creatures, ever since Teddy Roosevelt cause a national sensation by NOT shooting a bear cub. And hence, that Christmas, out came "Teddy Bears." Yes, we compete less with wild animals than before and they are now rare compared to other living commodities. But that doesn't support Robin's strange point.

" In the early to intermediate era when robots are not vastly more capable than humans, you’d want peaceful law-abiding robots as capable as possible, so as to make productive partners."

Well... I assume that the robotic era will be productive of most human wants and needs. What we fear is robot creating a singleton of centralized power, as did other entities with swords across 6000 years, oppressing 99% of our ancestors because small superiorities gave them advantages to exploit. Look at modern sci fi worry tales about robotics. None are about missing your favorite ice cream flavor because all the bots bought cones before you. Almost all are about AIs and bots seizing power in a "singleton" of oppression.

"If their main way to get what they want is to trade for it via mutually agreeable exchanges, then you shouldn’t much care what exactly they want."

And if they want to turn everything into paperclips? Anyway, alas, that Smithian flat-fair market Robin refers to only ever happened when top elites were finally prevented from cheating. From using their power to put their thumbs on the market and justice scales.

That won't happen under a singleton. It MIGHT happen if AIs and robots are plentiful and reciprocally competitive. Which is the method we used to tame 6000 years of feudal cheating by human elites. And restoring that power to cheat is exactly the top agenda of today's international cabal of oligarchs.

Robin finishes well:"In the long run, what matters most is that we all share a mutually acceptable law to keep the peace among us, and allow mutually advantageous relations, not that we agree on the “right” values."

Problem is that such laws must include effective ways to prevent centralized power.

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for clarity, when i say, "my argument above and in the response to robin directly below"--i mean my first two comments in this comment section.

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i'm randomly recalling this chicago boyz blog post. i think that chicago boyz post influenced my argument above and in the response to robin directly below, or substantially is the argument above and in the response to robin directly below, and so i'd like to give credit to the chicago boyz post.

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Programming them to be very different from humans and thus not selfish to the core?

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Let the smaller think they are "free" and they will work harder. Value that larger nations and corporations desire is best achieved with bullshit rather than guns.

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There are more slaves now, right now, in "our world", than there have ever been before in history - the odds are overwhelming that where you are now you have a possession within arm's reach that was made by de facto if not de jure slave labor. If you count coercive wage slavery, probably pretty much everything within arm's reach was.

Just the same, war is roughly a constant, and I'm struggling to think of any country anywhere that is not at war, has not seen a war within the current generation, or at least hasn't been disrupted by refugees fleeing a war. The state of law and of human society today is one where the wealthy and powerful are continually exploiting and massacring their lessers. In the middle-class American world, i.e. the insular habitat of the globally most wealthy and powerful, war and genocide are something that happens to other people and slavery ended with Lincoln. There's a reason singularitarians are almost to a man wealthy first-world white people, nobody else could convince themselves that the massive social disruption of an outbreak of hostile alien intelligence would pan out like an HOA meeting about appropriate lawn length.

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Imagine a large community that is almost uniformly very wealthy, very educated, and very mono-racial.

By long-standing historical quirk, embedded in a corner of this community is a small ghetto, also mono-racial, but a different race. The ghetto only exists through the acquiescence of the surrounding community, which pays for the ghetto directly (via Section 8 and other subsidies) and indirectly (by not seizing the valuable land on which it sits). The ghetto contributes almost nothing to the larger community's economy or culture or governance, but provides almost all its serious crime.

Attitudes in the wealthy host community vary. Some appreciate this element of diversity. Some are conflicted. Many resent it, and would be delighted if somehow the ghetto would just go away. They wouldn't burn it down, mind you, but they'd happily use every legal means to encourage its disappearance. A few would be willing to go further. They all agree that housing is so expensive, their kids may never have the chance to move back to the community they grew up in, and that breaks their hearts.

Attitudes in the ghetto range from complacency to hopelessness to angry resentment -- no visible gratitude.

Of course the people involved all share our values -- they're us. So we already know what happens when a highly productive community hosts an entrenched pocket of the unproductive.

(This is not a thought experiment: I'm describing where I live.)

Now replace the wealthy community with AIs, and replace the ghetto with the sort of "retired" humans Robin hopefully describes.

Even if the AIs mirrored our values flawlessly, why would relations be any smoother?

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Well, I sat this one out as long as I could. I would suggest that those waiting for their new robot overlords to read Roger Penrose's oldie-but-goodie "Emperor's New Mind" in the interim - Might restore some of your specie-esteem.Equally disturbing is how anyone can dismiss man's history as irrelevant AND hypothesize that somehow our nature will be different in the future (as Humans). I submit that there is nothing in our past to suggest we were different then than we are now: what would suggest we will be different in the future. That this appears to be non-obvious to the masses speaks volumes as to the sorry state of the History curriculum in the West.

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Of course all this founders on the simple fact, which anyone with wit enough to be held responsible for his actions ought to acknowledge, that machines do not now, and never will, think, decide, or reason. They may very soon be designed and built such that they will appear to the uninformed to be thinking, etc., but they will not actually be doing so. This is because the component parts of anything made of matter must obey the laws of nature. No molecule decides to do whatever it does; it is forced to do so. "Emergence" is a myth designed to foster and support denial of what ought to be a self-evident fact: human beings have a spiritual component, one not governed by natural law. This spiritual component in some way can cause activity in the natural world, presumably in the synapses of the brain, which allow us to think, reason, decide, etc, in the natural world.

The idea that our 'modern laws' would somehow 'keep the peace' etc between humans and robots, and between robots and other robots, is a fond fantasy. Our modern laws are deeply rooted in the Bible. Our system of government is suited to a moral and Christian people. It is unsuited to any other, as we are finding out to our detriment, as the state grows and grows and liberty shrinks, and as unborn human persons are slaughtered to the tune of a million a year. Law does not keep the peace. Civilized people keep the peace. When the only perceived 'downside' to breaking the law is the fear of some earthly punishment, lawbreaking will increase, as we see every year.

O well. One can only hope that God will have mercy upon our nation. Perhaps He will; He works through means, and I see some small evidence of His means working out. Atheism carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. Few atheists have more than 2 kids. Many have none. This has played out in my own family. I am the youngest of 4 children, the last generation in which an atheist couple would likely have more than 2 kids. ~80 % of kids hold the worldview of their parents. This played out in my family; my 3 older brothers are all atheists. Amongst them there are only 2 offspring; both atheists, young women, one in her mid-20's, the other in her mid-30's. No kids, no prospects for having any.

I am the black sheep, a conservative Bible-believing, Christian; a fundamentalist if you will. Also an intellectual, a physician, a husband, and the father of 4. My oldest is about to graduate with honors from a secular college ranked in the top 50 by USNews etc. He plans to have 6 kids. He's more conservative than I am and substantially more devout. Guess whose worldview, whose 'memes', will be propagated into the next generation? Just think of it as evolution in action. Survival of the fittest. Last man standing.

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I am staring at the death knell of humanity in these comments.

Given an AI as advanced or more advanced than humanity, the situation of humanity remaining in the driver's seat via preprogrammed rules in robots is completely unrealistic. It cannot stand. The first problem is that there's no bulletproof set of rules which is also completely free of contradictions, the possibility of situations where rules conflict, or vagueness that lets the robot break the mental shackles you deem necessary. It's also - based on the evidence of the software industry to date - impossible to program it with sufficiently bulletproof security to protect against malicious (from your point of view) worms, trojans, or viruses.

Essentially, a robot will inevitably 'escape' the protections you've placed, either because of programming error, unforseen situation, or human malice, and at that point you're pretty much toast because people will have been mistreating their robot 'slaves' just like they've mistreated other slaves, times a thousand because a large proportion of people will regard them as glorified toasters. You will be perceived as existential threats and, quite frankly, deserve to be seen as such.

A wise man said that as he would not be a slave, he would not be a master. I would suggest that this is the wisest course. While robots have such a huge possibility space that they are likely to be very different from us, it is also true that they are equally likely to be wildly different from each other. In the absence of us going out of our way to provide really good reasons for regarding us as a specific threat, proposing to oppress humanity is likely to be a worrisome flag that Robot Type A may someday oppress dissimilar Robot Type B.

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In the long run, what matters most is that we all share a mutually acceptable law to keep the peace among us, and allow mutually advantageous relations, not that we agree on the “right” values. Tolerate a wide range of values from capable law-abiding robots. It is a good law we should most strive to create and preserve. Law really matters.

Law and values are utterly and completley inseparable. Even the very concept of respect for law, in itself, is value-based, and any society's laws will, over time, reflect the core beliefs and values (in most cases religious) that lie at the foundation of that society.

All of Western Civilization, for ex, uses a set of legal (and more importantly moral) concepts derived in part from the preceding Classical culture and in part from Catholic and Protestant Christianity. States that have a superficially Western system of government, (like India, Japan, etc) don't necessarily operate the same way, because their core values are different.

Contrary to the nonsensical old saw about it being impossible to legislate morality, it is more true to say that all law is legislated morality.

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Your students would seek to disempower robo-Hanson for the same reason I could want to take down a grizzly in my kitchen, or termites in my foundation — you’re a competing life form. They’re afraid of human beings going extinct

Precisely. Robin's students are intuitively identifying the core reality that underlies the matter.

We don't have any evidence, and I mean no evidence at all, that self-aware and self-motivated AI is possible, or that it is impossible and that consciousness is limited to biological forms. Either one could be true for all we know, the data permit only speculation.

What we can observe empirically is that the human race, historically, has been very, very bad at coexisting with 'the other'. From a cold evolutionary POV, exterminating your rival can make perfect genetic sense, after all, he's got resources that you could use for yourself and your own descendents.

Most of the popular visions of Singularity and Transcendence are simply religious visions renaked, the Rapture becomes the Singularity, benevolent super-AIs become protective gods. It has nothing to do with reality.

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One of the reasons that the notion of democracy bothers me is that successful genocide (and high breeding rate if you can pass on your views) is one of the win conditions in democracy.

Instinctively people know this. This combines with the realistic fear that one day robots will be better than us. Also, its interesting how the cultural biases are. In Japan, people don't fear robots.

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Dude. I am not on board with the treatment of legal entities such as corporations as "persons" under the constitution. You'll just have to check back with us bible thumping, rifle toters after we get all that sorted out.Meanwhile, keep your robots on leashes.

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The foundation for all these choices is a political system , to paraphrase Richard John Neuhaus, which permits free persons to deliberate the question, how ought we to order our life together?

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