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Robot Rights: Can and Should Robots be Persons?

November 28 @ 10:30 AM 12:00 PM

David Gunkel, Ph.D., Professor in Media Studies at Northern Illinois University, will speak on the topic, Robot Rights: Can and Should Robots Be Persons?  Whether we recognize it or not, we are in the midst of a robot invasion.  The machines are now everywhere and doing virtually everything.  We chat with them online, we play with them in digital games, we collaborate with them at work, and we rely on their capabilities to manage many aspects of our increasingly complex lives.  Consequently, the “robot invasion” is not something that will transpire as we have imagined it in our science fiction, with a marauding army of evil-minded androids rising up against the human population.  It is an already occurring event with artifacts of various configurations and capabilities coming to take up positions in our world through a slow but steady incursion.  It looks less like The Terminator and Bladerunner and more like the Fall of Rome. What matters most in the face of this incursion is not resistance—insofar as resistance already appears to be futile—but how we decide to make sense of and respond to the social opportunities and challenges that these increasingly capable devices make available.

David J. Gunkel is an award-winning educator and researcher, specializing in the philosophy of technology with a focus on the ethics of emerging technology.  He is the author of over 90 scholarly articles and has published 13 books, including Of Remixology: Ethics and Aesthetics After Remix (MIT Press 2016), Robot Rights (MIT Press 2018), and An Introduction to Communication and Artificial Intelligence (Polity 2020). He currently holds the position of Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University.  He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from DePaul University.