Volume 6, Issue 2
December 2011

Ethics and Viewpoints for Humanoids

Asma Qureshi

Asma Qureshi, a (2013) DCS candidate at Colorado Technical University, submitted the following article for publication within the Journal of Personal Cybercomsciousness.

Ms. Asma Qureshi shares her research and findings in computer ethics regarding humanoids and human beings and what is necessary for them to coexist.


"Each one of us contains a set of persons each will be:
oh, how I wish my own next self would take the place of me!"

- Theodore Melnechuk

Advancement of AI (Artificial Intelligence) engineering has altered the traditional approach to using human-like robots (a/k/a humanoids) as tools, especially as this requires the implementation of human characteristics. In the past, AI was intended only to be machine and not capable of causing harm however, advancement in this technology promotes a plethora of ethical concerns.

The synthetic and analytical methodology approach in AI science is a process through which cognitive and neural processing influences human interaction. The process in cognitive and neural function permits humanoids to become psychologically social and cognitive via neuroscientific experiments of human participants [1]. For example, cognitive neuroscience will provide evidence that humanoids have the ability to possess human-level cognition and will permit scientists to study the effect or appearance of brain activity during the perception of intentional human action. The methodology will provide a meta-analysis approach in defining personhood and provide ethical viewpoints for humanoids.


Credit: Macdorman F., K. "Introduction to the special issue on android science." Connection Science 2006.

The chart above depicts a framework for studying human cognition and interaction based on human-like robots that elicit the sort of responses people direct toward one another. The synthetic and analytical methodologies of android science provides an examination of existing research and is the basis for defining humanoid personhood and the need for such legal awareness.

Philip Kennedy, M.D., Ph.D. [2] is a neuroscientist in Georgia assisting patients who cannot communicate on their own by developing and implementing neural signals to permit speech or the ability to move a computer control directly with neural signals. Dr. Kennedy's work serves to further developments in android science and is close to that of Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro [3] (Japan) who is creating humanoids for companionship and to assist nursing home patients in dressing, administering medications, education, and other duties. Ishiguro's humanoids will also provide such feedback on the progress of autistic children, further proving that humanoids are becoming more human and deserving of human rights.

"Just imagine, humanoid TSA agents in airports able to read human's thoughts and possibly prevent terrorist attacks!" The decades-long evolution in humans gaining control over computers with little more than their thoughts was, until recent years, considered science fiction, a scientist's dream. Dr. Kennedy provided the vision by developing and implementing neural signals to permit those who are locked-in and unable to speak or move the ability to control a computer directly with neural signals. Humanoids will have the ability to communicate with human beings by reading human neural signals. Just imagine, humanoid TSA agents in airports able to read human's thoughts and possibly prevent terrorist attacks!

One goal of the synthetic and analytical methodology is to design a robot with human features and the ability to communicate naturally with people. A second goal addresses the challenges of cognition in robotics. The methodology addresses challenges in implementing broad, trans-disciplinary processes by introducing varying experts in non-scientific android science into robot cognition. Synthetics and analytical methodology is an innovative crossroads of robotics and cognition as a whole.

In reviewing the theoretical literature concerning humanoids, Professors Linda Glenn, Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen hold that moral machines can cause harm. What about machines that make decisions before they act and determine their own course of action [4]? Humanoids are quickly becoming more complex and there will come a day when humans will blame machines for causing harm even if a philosophical, moral status has not fully established humanoid law. The potential outcome to not establishing such laws is that a machine making autonomous decisions, absent human interaction, will generate a catastrophic incident.

Philosophers and engineers should not take moral computer ethics lightly by waiting for a threat of robot domination before constructing a scope of morality to prevent autonomous machines from causing potential harm to humans. Moral computer ethics is critical to automated agents rapidly integrating into modern life from regulating the electric grid in the US, to monitoring financial transactions, medical diagnoses and action on the battlefield. Another important issue is that Japan's geriatric population is growing faster than the health care sector can handle. The Japanese government provided a solution by generating humanoid caretakers [5]. These humanoid caretakers promote ethical concerns as they could potentially cause harm to humans.

In the case of humanoid caretakers, the debate becomes more important in defining personhood and legal rights to machines possessing human characteristics. The machine morality will unfold between ethical sensitivity and complex autonomy when speculating what machine morality might mean for reasons of responsibility and reliability. Wallach and Allan prove these questions are not of science fiction, but science fact as technology continues to advance at a pace much faster than the legal system and general public can handle.

Machine morality provides artificial intelligence the ability to make moral decisions as a natural and necessary extension to the social mechanisms of humanoids, such as performing medical procedures to end the life of a human being. The design of machine morality is a system that is a sensitive moral consideration, determining what role the ethical theory will play in defining control architecture for humanoids. This architecture for morally intelligent agents falls within two broad approaches. The first is the top-down imposition containing ethical theories. The second is bottom–up approach consisting of the components in building systems. The main goal is to set standards that may or may not be specified theoretically [6]. The bottom–up and top-down approaches have limitations for machines to possess the human complexity of moral judgment.

Theoretical challenges in developing artificial moral agents will be controversial among ethicists regarding moral theory and computational limits and implementation of such theories. The Turing Test proves the risk posed by autonomous machines, either accidentally or deliberately, harming people and other sentient beings is imminent [7]. This raises concerns but will be beyond the scope of this article and how the legal system will handle immoral acts from humanoids.

"What is the dilemma in implementing Nano-ethics for humanoids and other robotics containing human characteristics?"Nanotechnology is key in considering the complex ethical, legal and societal issues humanoids will face in defining personhood. What is the dilemma in implementing Nano-ethics for humanoids and other robotics containing human characteristics? Nanotechnology is a platform that will examine the positive and negative aspects and implications of humanoids and is significantly funded (through US federal grants) to researchers conducting experiments in genetics with a desire of implementing humanoids [8]. Sub-divided ethics should provide awareness to researchers, legally and ethically stating that humanoids and other robotics that have genetic components should be granted personhood and legal rights.

Nanotech has generated a new era where Toyota is now looking toward the projected health crisis in the second half of this century and Japan's aging population. A Toyota Partner Robot was put on the market in 2010 after an extensive field trial conducted at the Toyota Memorial. Humanoid nurses drew support when Japan's Machine Industry Memorial Foundation estimated it could save the Japanese 2.1 trillion yen ($21 billion USD) in reduced health care costs [9]. The advancement of technology in assisting healthcare has created urgency for defining personhood and legal rights of humanoids. What will happen if there are no laws to protect them, or us?

An intense, ethical consequence of humanoids within the enterprise information system will promote a change threatening the existing distribution of power, money, rights and obligations. For example, the radio can be used to threaten cherished social values. The urgency of these ethical concerns is due to the technological progressions in creating humanoids that will utilize the Internet and electronic commerce data. Improved patent designs and accessible electronic data allows for humans to easily destroy humanoids. The benefit humanoids can bring to the enterprise information system is that they can (and currently do) assist in inbound customer service calls and are cost effective to the corporate world. Enterprise information is also changing faster than the legal system and it is critical that rights are in place to prevent harm to both humans and humanoids.

Professor Linda Glenn conducted a lecture in defining personhood at the 3rd Annual Colloquium on the Law of Transhuman Persons on December 10, 2007 at the Space Coast, Florida Office of Terasem Movement, Inc. The lecture discussed the processes or notions of personhood, implementing a Yin and Yang philosophical cross-culture in providing ethical parameters with emerging technologies. The purpose in providing this cross-culture is to take a middle-ground approach in defining personhood. The western perspective in defining personhood is to ask the question: What notions of personhood have been restricted in the past?

At the turn of the 20th Century, the US constitution defined women, children, and slaves as property or chattel and took many decades to change, granting personhood and legal rights to women, children and slaves [10]. This notion promoted other challenges regarding personhood. Early 1900s constitutional law also regarded animals as mere property and, after evidence proved that animals feel pain and pleasure, the law was changed granting animals certain protection from abuse and neglect.

The most debated and controversial notion of personhood is fetal and/or embryonic personhood. The U.S. Congress passed a law stating, if you kill a pregnant woman it is in fact, killing two persons [11]. This was evidenced in the Laci Paterson [12] murder case, which stated that at nine months, the fetus has the ability to feel pain and pleasure inside the womb. A future scenario in the advancement of technology is where humanoids will be a 'clone' of a person with the ability to become impregnated and require laws to protect both parties from harm [13] . The majority of the population is unwilling for embryos to be granted personhood because they feel this would conflict with the right to an abortion. The debate about personhood for embryos and fetus' will not be resolved until there is some form of ectogenesis and whether that entity has rights separate and apart from the woman's.

The legal, legislative and statutory records do not reflect a definition of what a person is - this is the greatest challenge for humanoid personhood and legal rights. Dr. Glenn defines a human being as having the ability to reason with any entity possessive of greater or lesser faculties [14]. Viability will provide legal evidence in defining personhood and humanoids meeting the viability will be considered persons based upon scientific evidence and Transhuman law.

An issue that will face AI cyborgs (such as BINA48 [15]) is the obligation we owe (if any), to artificial research subjects. One obligation we would have pertains to privacy and confidentiality for avatars with augmented cognition and to protect them from being hacked by unwelcome intruders. Another issue would be for researchers conducting experiments on humanoids and beings with other human characteristics - AI should have an International Review Board with published results [16]. The law states that children and animals may be entitled to certain rights but not responsibilities. The challenge is in proportional autonomy, important issues to consider once humanoids are granted personhood and legal rights. The criteria for personhood should apply to the following: all living things possessive of: consciousness, sentience, self-awareness and rationality [17]. The purpose of this criterion is that it would provide an ethical and legal foundation in the absence of law(s) to protect humanoids and humans from harming each other.

"Most human beings fail to meet all of the fifteen criteria in the Fletcher definition of personhood."The legal system will have to determine if synthetic humans should be regarded as a person or property. Dr. Joseph Fletcher created fifteen propositions [18] to determine personhood, they are: minimum intelligence; self-awareness; self-control; a sense of time; a sense of futurity; a sense of the past; the capability of relating to others; concern for others; communication; control of existence; curiosity; change and changeability; idiosyncrasy; neocortical functioning and balance of rationality and feeling (Fletcher, n.d.). Most human beings fail to meet all of the fifteen criteria in the Fletcher definition of personhood. The fact that the majority of people do not meet Joseph Fletcher's propositions for personhood raises concern. At what level(s) should beings be considered a person? An embryo being granted personhood will not pass in a court of law for it would violate the mother's right to have an abortion [19]. The potential problem is that most people recognize there are legal concerns for animals and AI in granting personhood and legal rights. This raises the question: What responsibilities, corresponding capability and rights should be granted in humanoid rights? The responsibility for humanoids is that they be held accountable for their actions in certain roles they play in interacting with humans and/or humans causing harm to humanoids. A possible scenario is a humanoid receptionist being touched in an inappropriate manner by a human being and needing to enforce a Transhuman law based on sexual harassment.

A lecture by Dr. Martine Rothblatt during the 3rd Annual Colloquium on the Law of Transhuman Persons ties in with this analysis plan for providing evidence that humanoids and other AI should be granted personhood, generating an Analytic Framework for such law. This Analytic Framework for Transhuman Person Law defines 'transhuman' as a trans-biologically receptive and noetically synthetic human that implies the intrinsic and extrinsic use of electronics for thought. Dr. Rothblatt believes "human" is dependent on thought and not DNA. The common theme for transhumanism is something beyond a typical, biological human and there are no laws to grant them personhood or legal rights. Homo sapiens are transhumans due to their ability to be receptive and transbiological. Terasem Movement's mission is to bring awareness to the general public and legal systems about the need for humanoid and transhuman laws granting legal rights and personhood status prior to the occurrence of a catastrophic event [20].


Credit: Rothblatt, M. " Forms of Transhuman Persons and the Importance of Prior Resolution of Relevant Law" (2006). http://www.terasemjournals.org/PCJournal/PC0101/rothblatt_02d.html

The U S Code [21] defines a person as a human or organization with legal rights and duties. An Analytic Framework for Transhuman Person Law would provide a pathway for the general public and the legal systems to address potentially catastrophic issues and violations of legal rights. This framework would ask questions about personhood and rights and is a huge leap in the quest for humanoids being granted citizenship, human rights, and organization of mind rather than based on genome or a phenotype [22].

Kojiro [23], developed by the University of Tokyo's JSK Robotics Laboratory, is a humanoid robot that mimics a human musculosketal system. The goal is to build humanoids that are light, agile and capable of moving around, interactive with the physical world in the same way human bodies move. Kojiro's has a flexible spine that has the ability to bend in different directions that let the humanoid arch and twist his torso, simulating the human muscles and tendons constricting and relaxing, using motor driven cables attached to specific locations of the body. Kojiro has about 100 tendon-muscle-structures working together to give the humanoid a 60-degree range of freedom in movement, more than that achieved through motorized rotary joints.


Credit: Mizuuchi, I., Nakanishi, Y., Sodeyama, Y., Namiki, Y., Nishino, T., Muramatsu, Urata, J., Hongo, K., Yoshikai, T., and Inaba, M. (2010). An Advanced Musculoskeletal Humanoid Kojiro.

In the next phase design (below), a robot's self-image of man becomes reality thanks to Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro who designed a humanoid in his own image. Dr. Ishiguro constructed Geminoid HI-1 using silicone rubber, pneumatic actuators, powerful electronics, and hair from his own scalp. The purpose of Ishiguro's design is to mimic Ishiguro, and clearly displayed within the image below, mimic a human being. Based on the abilities evidenced by Geminoid HI-1, should humanoids or geminoids be granted personhood and legal rights? Based on Fletcher's fifteen personhood criteria, the US Constitution and Transhuman Law, the answer is yes. What are the consequences for remaining passive, stating that it is too premature to grant legal rights and personhood? Remaining passive devalues Dr. Ishiguro's Gemonoid H1-1's personhood for it feels pain and pleasure as Dr. Ishiguro feels it.


Credit: http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/humanoids/the-man-who-made-a-copy-of-himself

Geminoid, Kojiro and BINA48 are the tools for revolutionary research concerning the defining of personhood and the legal and ethical viewpoints of humanoids. What constitutes personhood and how do humanoids lead up to the establishment of human or humanoid rights? Should humanoids have equal rights based upon their performance of human-like tasks with human-like characteristics? The answer to this question can be drawn from Dr. Ishiguro's Gemnoid H1-1 instructing his classroom and the fact that the students were unaware that Dr. Ishiguro himself was not instructing them. What might the consequences be for not implementing such laws and waiting until catastrophic events occur? Preventive measures should be put into place, such as a Transhuman Law, based upon scientific evidence. It's only a matter of time before machines will be walking amongst humans. Let's welcome ASIMO (2); he IS the reality of machines walking amongst humans. Much of the related scientific community predicts within ten to fifteen years, Geminoids will be perfected in the image of human beings.


Credit: American Honda Motor. Co. Inc. (2011). ASMIO Photo gallery.

Geminoid F (in the photo below) is a female who performed in a play called 'Sayonara,' in Tokyo, Japan in November 2010 [24]. Geminoid F is on stage with a human actress and the human audience is unaware she is not a human being. The play is a collaboration between Ishiguro and the Japanese Director, Oriza Hirata, who wrote and directed the play. The actress stated that the Geminoid F lacked human presence. Despite a lack of a human 'presence', the play produced vast ticket sales.


Credit: Guizzo, E. (2010). Meet Geminoid F, Gets Job as Robot Actress

Dr. Ishiguro has enhanced his work; can you tell which is the human actress in the image below? Dr. Ishiguro designed Geminoid F to look like a Japanese model and kept her identity confidential (per the model's request). Geminoid F mimics the facial expressions of the woman and was created, using twelve actuators, to exhibit a range of natural expressions. Geminoid HI-1 required fifty actuators [25]. The decrease of actuators necessary for human-like facial expressions evidences the technological advancement and the increasing need for an Analytic Framework for Transhuman Person Law.


Credit: Guizzo, E. (2010). Meet Geminoid F, a Smiling Female Android.

Where does the feeling of a human 'presence' come from? How can a human presence be captured, revived or transmitted? Welcome to the new world! Geminoid is the epitome of technological advancements in humanoids. An Analytic Framework is vital toward granting personhood and legal rights as Geminoid is pioneering the revolutionary mirror image of human beings.

The creation of Geminoid breaks the academic barriers as past androids required pre-programmed details, from their physical nature to social relationships, which could not be conducted scientifically based on philosophical beliefs. Geminoid provides an objective and quantitative study in proving a need for personhood and subsequent legal rights. What is the major obstacle in conducting research on human-robot interaction? AI technology has not yet reached its full potential of adult humans and can only respond in a simple manner. Geminoid's avoid this problem by implementing a remote controlling facility by conducting various research in implementing high-level human interaction and human presence. Geminoids provide the revolutionary opportunity to implement an Analytic Framework.

The first research approach regarding Geninoids is engineering in the development of effective tele-operation interface for generation of natural, human-like motion [26]. The second is a cognitive aspect research to investigate a human 'presence'. The goal of these two approaches is to design humanoids that are close to humankind on the basis of human 'presence'. Where do experts stand in granting personhood and legal rights? The majority of experts agree on the need to implement a Transhuman Person Law addressing concerns in granting personhood and legal rights to androids as they are the gateway for studying human-robot interaction and are vital in comparing developed robot technologies and human beings. Androids are used in verifying cognitive and psychological hypotheses [27]. The verified hypotheses are then applied to improving androids. The advances in android science increasingly connect the technology between robotics and cognitive sciences.

Why are human beings attracted to humanoids and androids? Human beings have the tendency to anthropomorphize non-human beings and have a fascination in communicating and interacting with humanoids and androids; human beings see themselves in the humanoids [28].

In closing, humans are extremely attracted to humanoids and androids for their ability to have social interactions for reasons of health and social welfare (i.e. physiologists, social workers, etc.). The purpose of this research is to promote the advancement and awareness of AI in designing mirror images of humans, or AI with human characteristics. The intent of such progressive research is to outline ethical viewpoints for humanoids sufficiently prior to possible, catastrophic events and to afford a reciprocal protection of harm from or to humanoids.


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[1] MacDorrman, K. F. (2006). Introduction to the special issue on android science. Connection Science Vol. 18, No.4, December 2006, 313-317. ISSN 0954-0091 print/ISSN 1360-0494 online 2006 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09540090600906258
http://www/tandf.co.uk/journals November 29, 2011 12:59PM EST

[2] Kennedy, P. R. (n.d.). The future of Brain-Computer Interfacing.
http://www.neuralsignals.com/ May 23, 2010

[3] Ishiguro, H. "Android science: conscious and subconscious recognition." Connection Science, 2006: 18(4), 319.

[4] Wallach, W., & Allen, C. Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

[5] Bartz, D. "Toyota Sees Robotic Nurses in Your Lonely Final Years." Wired 2010.
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/01/ February 11, 2011

[6] Wallach, supra.

[7] Turing, A. "Computing Machinery and Intelligence." Mind, 1950, Vol. 59: 433-460.
http://cogprints.org/499/1/turing.html June 2, 2011 10:46AM EST

[8] Glenn, L. M., & Boyce, J. "Nanotechnology: Considering the Complex Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues with the Parameters of Human Performance." NanoEthics 2008.
http://jetpress.org/volume13/glenn.pdf February 8, 2011

[9] Bartz, supra.

[10] Sage, S. (2010, January 27). "Android Controls Robot, Human Enslavement Imminent." Jan. 2010 IntoMobile. 24 Apr. 2010
http://www.intomobile.com/2010/01/27/android-controls-robot-human-enslavement imminent/

[11] Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004. 18 USC 1841. Public Law 108-12-Apr. 1, 2004.
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-108publ212/pdf/PLAW-108publ212.pdf November 29, 2011 2:40PM EST

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Laci_Peterson November 29, 2011 2:47PM EST

[13] Glenn, L. M. "Biotechnology at the Margins of Personhood: An Evolving Legal Paradigm." Jet Press 2002. http://jetpress.org/volume13/glenn.pdf November 30, 2011 8:10 AM EST.

[14] Glenn, id.

[15] BINA48 – "The Intelligent Computer" (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture, 48 exaflops per second processing speed and 480 exabytes of memory; exa = 10 to the 18th power). http://www.kurzweilai.net/biocyberethics
November 29, 2011 3:10PM EST

[16] Glenn, L.M. "The Tao of Personhood: The Yin and Yang of the Property-Person Continuum." The Journal of Personal Cyberconsciousness, 1st Quarter 2008:2.
April 25, 2010

[17] Glenn, 2002: supra.

[18] Situation ethics – "[A] Christian ethical theory that was principally developed in the 1960s by the then Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher."
November 29, 2011 3:35PM EST

[19] Glenn, 2002: supra.

[20] Rothblatt, M. "Forms of Transhuman Persons and the Importance of Prior Resolution of Relevant Law" (2006). http://www.terasemjournals.org/PCJournal/PC0101/rothblatt_02d.html November 29, 2011 3:40PM EST

[21] 26 USC 7343 http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/usc/PDF November 29, 2011 4:00PM EST

[22] Rothblatt, supra.

[23] Guizzo, E. "Kojiro Humanoid Robot Mimics Your Musculoskeletal System". IEEE Spectrum. Mar 2010 http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/kojiro February 11, 2011

[24] Guizzo, E. (2010). "Geminoid F Gets Job as Robot Actress." IEEE Spectrum. Nov 2010 http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/geminoid-f-takes-the-stage November 29, 2011 4:29PM EST

[25] Guizzo, 2010: supra.

[26] Ishiguro, H. (2006.). "Geminoid – Tele-operated Android of an Existent Person". 2006. http://www.geminoid.jp/projects/kibans/Data/Geminoid2.pdf
February 11, 2011

[27] Ishiguro, H. "Android science: conscious and subconscious recognition." Connection Science. 2006: 18(4), 319.
April 29, 2010

[28] Ishiguro, id.

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Asma Qureshi received her MBA from Colorado Technical University and is currently working on her doctorate in Computer Science with concentration in EIS and AI. Originally from Anniston, AL, Asma is in the process of writing a book and is also a freelance writer in Atlanta, GA.