By the year 2025, robots and machines driven by artificial intelligence are predicted to perform half of all productive functions in the workplace. What is not clear is whether the robots will have any worker rights.
Companies across many industries already have robots in their workforce. DHL uses autonomous robots by Fetch Robotics to help fulfillment center and warehouse employees, while Toyota, Google and Panasonic are among the companies that use Fetch's mobile manipulator technology in research efforts.
Humans already have shown hatred toward robots, often kicking robot police resources over or knocking down delivery bots in hopes of reclaiming a feeling of security or superiority. Incidents of violence against machines are nothing new. Man has been at odds with machines for many decades. We kick the car when it does not operate, shove the vending machine when it does not dispense, and bang at the sides of the printer when it does not produce a copy. What is new is that it will only be a matter of time before the automated creatures will "feel" this hostility and/or feel the need to retaliate. And if we grant robots rights as quasi-citizens, will they be charged with assault and battery and legally responsible for the harm they may cause under criminal or civil law? Or should a robot's programmer be held jointly responsible?
These acts of hostility and violence have no current legal consequence — machines have no protected legal rights. But as robots develop more advanced artificial intelligence empowering them to think and act like humans, legal standards need to change.
Several studies show that we are spending considerable time worried about what robots will do to humans. According to the World Economic Forum's future of jobs study, "if managed wisely, [machine integration] could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all, but if managed poorly, pose the risk of widening skills gaps, greater inequality and broader polarization." According to a survey by Pew Research Center "Americans express broad concerns over the fairness and effectiveness of computer programs making important decisions in people's lives."