How should we treat thinking machines and human-like robots? David Gelernter, is a professor of computer science at Yale University, says that Jewish thought offers us a way to proceed:
One way to discuss the problem is in the terms developed by Martin Buber, who created an ethics and theology based on relations among I, you, and it. For Buber, I and you can enter sympathetically into each others’ lives; our mental worlds flow together. But I and it are permanently separate. When I converse with an it, I do not actually converse at all; I conduct a monologue in which one party is me and the other is also me. This “other” is my own private, personal conception of someone or something else.
Buber used these terms to describe relations among human beings and between human beings and God. But we can press them into service in a different, simpler context. We can say that an I always has moral duties to a you. But ordinarily, an I has no moral duties to an it.
Does a machine, once it has become intelligent, make the transition from it to you? Or do I sometimes have moral duties to an it as if it were a you? Could I have moral duties to a mere thing that is unconscious, has never been conscious, and never will be?