Did I request thee, Maker, from my Clay
To mould me Man, did I sollicite thee
From darkness to promote me, or here place
In this delicious Garden?
Adam in John Milton’s, Paradise Lost 1667 (X. 743–5)
In John Milton’s Paradise Lost we see a poetic retelling of the biblical story of humanity and temptation. The excerpt above is from Adam, who mourns his fate as one who was brought into the world unwittingly, and then forsaken by his maker. Adam blames his creator for designing a fallible subject, with vulnerabilities that manifest in the ultimate fall from grace. From this classic story of creation, willfulness, and abandonment, I can’t help but think about robots, their creators, and what happens once robots become sentient and autonomous.
Although the precise trajectory of robotic advancement is difficult to pin down, Stephen Hawking claims that within a few decades robots will achieve sentient thought and will be able to question their existence and position in human society. With such a prospect on the (potentially quite close) horizon, legal systems have begun to think about how to classify, treat, and regulate intelligent machines. more...