There have been numerous warnings made by members of our scientific community, mirroring decades of science fiction lore, regarding potential threats that the emergence of artificial intelligence might bring. But in the ancient game of protecting "us", we tend to overlook the possibility that protection might also be required by "them": if this emergent AI could be considered a conscious entity, would it require an extension of basic human rights applied to it, to protect it from exploitation or persecution? A scientist from Oxford believes this may indeed be the case.

Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy from the U.K.’s University of Oxford addressed the issue of granting rights to AI at the Hays Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. His concern is prompted by advances in neuroscience, advances that he believes will help accelerate the development of artificial intelligence. And he also argues that the deeper understanding of the nature of consciousness that this research is bringing about means that we should respect all forms of consciousness, regardless of whether it is naturally born, or artificially constructed.

"It’s getting to a point where we might be able to say this thing has a sense of itself, and maybe there is a threshold moment where suddenly this consciousness emerges. And if we understand these things are having a level of consciousness, we might well have to introduce rights. It’s an exciting time." 

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