Created By: Goldfritha on June 13, 2012 Last Edited By: InsanityPrelude on January 4, 2013

Free Robots

A culture regards intelligent robots as equals.

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Page Type:
Trope
Up for Grabs

Why wait until they Turned Against Their Masters? You can always free your robots and let them work for you for wages.

Some science fiction milieus allow robots to become free and equal citizens without the whole to-do of a war. And some just take it for granted that even if you are Just a Machine, you have Inhumanable Alien Rights.

Presuming a degree of intelligence, to be sure -- at least average on the Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence. A robot that can not judge for itself can be property while others are free.

Examples

Literature
  • In Poul Anderson's "Critique Of Impure Reason", the newly created and so impressionable robot had stumbled on literary fiction and had its mind so affected that they can not persuade it to go to Mercury and mine. They can't wipe its mind because it has rights, and they have to pay it a salary while it sits about and reads.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Oecumene, all Sophotects -- AIs -- in the Solar System are free citizens; the small percentage that are interested in humans work for them, for wages. When a character hears of Sophotects refusing to obey orders in another system, he wonders why they didn't just fire them and hire others.
  • This is essentially the way the Pemalites were with the Chee in Animorphs. They created the Chee as friends and companions and seemed to reguard them as equals.

Live-Action TV
  • In Andromeda, it is stated that the AI's had full civilian rights in the Commonwealth. There are some hints that the attitude wasn't quite matching, though.

Web Original
  • In most polities of the Orion's Arm universe all sophont life has equal rights, in theory at least. Though by now it's usually hyperintelligent Archailects treating humans and equivalent beings as pets.
    • The Sephirotic civilizations recognize humans and AIs to have the same legal rights.

Western Animation
  • While never implicitly stated, robots in Futurama appear to have equal citizenship. In "A Head In The Polls", they have the right to vote (Bender can't, but only because he's a convicted felon), and reelect Richard Nixon after his head is attached to a giant robot body.

Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • June 13, 2012
    TonyG
    While never implicitly stated, robots in Futurama appear to have equal citizenship. In "A Head In The Polls", they have the right to vote (Bender can't, but only because he's a convicted felon), and reelect Richard Nixon after his head is attached to a giant robot body.
  • June 13, 2012
    zarpaulus
    • In most polities of the Orions Arm universe all sophont life has equal rights, in theory at least. Though by now it's usually hyperintelligent Archailects treating humans and equivalent beings as pets.
  • June 13, 2012
    Earnest
    ^^^I think it's Inhumanable Alien Rights.

    See also Sliding Scale Of Robot Intelligence, where these settings usually oscillate around the middle with Average Joe to Nobel bots.
  • June 13, 2012
    chicagomel
    This is essentially the way the Pemalites were with the Chee in Animorphs. They created the Chee as friends and companions and seemed to reguard them as equals.
  • June 13, 2012
    Omeganian
    In Andromeda, it is stated that the AI's had full civilian rights in the Commonwealth. There are some hints that the attitude wasn't quite matching, though.
  • June 14, 2012
    NimmerStill
    This is however also played with in Futurama. In "Hell is Other Robots", Bender complains that robots are used as slaves, and in a flashback in "Overclockwise", Farnsworth is presenteed with a license agreement for Bender, implying that he owns him.

    This is also played with repeatedly in Star Trek, notably in Star Trek The Next Generation with Data's rights questioned, and in Star Trek Voyager with The Doctor.
  • June 14, 2012
    littleloup
    Isn't there this kind of odd middle ground often? I'm thinking early Megaman games and the old Astro Boy cartoon;in both, robots are made for specific purposes and usually perform those duties, but aren't forced to and they're treated as if human by most. Would this be this? Or is making a robot that's only good at toilet repair just as bad as forcing a robot to only do toilet repair?
  • June 15, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    Oh, oh, can we call this Robo-Suffrage?
  • June 15, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Also in Futurama
    • Linda:Unless something is done quickly, the trapped robots will be dead within 300 years. [She turns to a screen where a mine spokesman is stood outside the collapsed mine. Trapped robots wave their arms behind him.] Sir, what rescue operations are planned?
    • Mine spokesperson:The plan is basically to pave over the area and get on with our lives.
    so they probably aren't equals. feel free to edit the quotes into proper format, I'm not going through the trouble for a YKTTW reply.

  • June 16, 2012
    Koveras
    • The Mass Effect universe is getting there: the AIs (self-aware artificial intelligences) are regarded as a major threat to organics but peaceful coexistence begins to emerge. E.g. Shepard considers EDI, the Spaceship Girl, a member of the crew like any other, and if you manage to broker peace between quarians and the geth in Mass Effect 3, it becomes the first wide-scale organic-AI cooperation in the galaxy.
    • The Lyrical Nanoha series features a number of so-called Living Programs, effectively AIs with bodies created out of magical energy. They are not treated any differently from baseline humans.
  • June 16, 2012
    Goldfritha
    In the Futurama example, is that robot specific or just some Comic Sociopathy?
  • June 16, 2012
    Goldfritha
    "Suffrage" implies the right to vote. This would encompass more. A redirect maybe
  • June 16, 2012
    nathandoe2016
    ^^^^^What about the Robot Rights, or AI Equality?
  • June 16, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^^^ Yeah, the world of Futurama tends to be pretty uncaring towards any sort of sentient life.
  • June 16, 2012
    Kossmeister
    The Sephirotic civilizations in the Orions Arm universe recognize humans and A Is to have the same legal rights.
  • June 16, 2012
    nathandoe2016
    ^^I mean as the title Robot Rights or AI Equality
  • June 16, 2012
    InsanityPrelude
    Robots With Rights could work.
  • June 17, 2012
    Koveras
  • June 22, 2012
    zarpaulus
  • June 22, 2012
    Jordan
    • In The Culture, robots (specifically drones and Minds) are full citizens of the Culture, and even knife-missiles are said to have rights, as they are sapient. The Culture is almost an inverse of this, being close to a machine-run civilization in which humans have equal rights.
  • June 22, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the EC Comics story "Judgment Day" a human goes to an all-robot planet to see whether it's ready to join The Federation. It isn't, because they practice segregation; but if not for that the robots would've been welcomed into the federation as full members.
  • June 25, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Tabletop Games
    • In the GURPS setting Transhuman Space the EU and the Islamic Caliphate, as well as some off-world transhumanist enclaves, give Sapient A Is full rights as citizens. Most other countries treat them as property.
    • In Eclipse Phase Artificial General Intelligences (AGIs) are often subject to severe restrictions in the Inner System thanks to the TITANs while the Jovian Junta bans them outright. But most anarchist habitats in the Belt and Outer System give them full rights.
  • November 3, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Webcomics
    • Quantum Vibe: Most polities in the solar system give "artifolk" the same rights as humans (and transhumans), so long as they've paid off the cost of their creation. But on Mars they are exclusively property.
  • November 3, 2012
    Earnest
  • November 3, 2012
    DracMonster
    Robots Are People Too as another possibility.

    EDIT: Oops, never mind, heh.
  • November 3, 2012
    StarSword
    Literature
    • The introduction to The New Essential Guide to Droids remarks that because droids are known to develop full sapience if left without a memory wipe for long enough, there are droid civil rights groups in the Star Wars galaxy that seek to get them recognized as people. Droids are also sometimes manumitted (i.e. freed) by their owners. However, most planets do not recognize droids as people, and droids in public without a Restraining Bolt and manumission documents are often subject to seizure, memory wipe, and sale at public auction.
      • An example of a manumitted droid hired as a person is Squeaky, a rather sarcastic 3PO droid who serves as Wraith Squadron's quartermaster.
  • November 4, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Film

    Bicentennial Man is the story of an intelligent android struggling to gain equal rights with humans.

    In AI Artificial Intelligence, it appeared that in some places "mechas" (androids) enjoyed at least some rights and a degree of freedom, while in others... not so much.
  • November 4, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    Over the arc of Star Trek the Next Generation, Data slowly achieves recognition of his rights of self-determination as a person--significantly through a court case held on the Enterprise ("The Measure of a Man") where he is fighting against being disassembled for scientific purposes as "property" of Starfleet.
  • December 9, 2012
    zarpaulus
    • In David Brin's Existence when fully sapient Artificial Intelligence (as opposed to the dumb "ais" in the first half of the book) are developed humanity decides to raise them as their children.
  • December 9, 2012
    MorganWick
    That QC strip could provide the page quote.

    On the other hand, robots in QC aren't immune to Fantastic Racism.
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