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Films and TV shows like Blade Runner, Humans, and Westworld, where highly advanced robots have no rights, trouble our conscience. They show us that our behaviors are not just harmful to robots—they also demean and diminish us as a species. We like to think we’re better than the characters on the screen, and that when the time comes, we’ll do the right thing, and treat our intelligent machines with a little more dignity and respect.

With each advance in robotics and AI, we’re inching closer to the day when sophisticated machines will match human capacities in every way that’s meaningful—intelligence, awareness, and emotions. Once that happens, we’ll have to decide whether these entities are persons, and if—and when—they should be granted human-equivalent rights, freedoms, and protections.

We talked to ethicists, sociologists, legal experts, neuroscientists, and AI theorists with different views about this complex and challenging idea. It appears that when the time comes, we’re unlikely to come to full agreement. Here are some of these arguments.

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