My Robot
Nov 30, 2011
What percentage of my body needs to be alive in order for me to be considered a living person with full rights? Obviously a person can lose hair, teeth, limbs, kidneys, and whatnot, while still having rights. People in comas still have legal rights. Where is the limit?

I ask because my new plan for immortality is to keep a few skin cells in a petri dish to continue with my life after the rest of me dies. And I'll store those cells inside a robot that continues to live forever. The robot will have four directives after my death.
  1. Keep my cells nourished/cloned and alive in the petri dish inside its body.
  2. Keep upgrading itself whenever there are advances in robot technology.
  3. Replicate my personality.
  4. Make the world a better place.
As a public figure, and a writer, it would be easy for a robot to piece together a reasonable facsimile of my personality. The robot would have access to all of my writing, so it would know my sense of humor, my thought processes, and even how I choose words. The Internet has photos of me, video clips, audiobooks I've narrated, and most of my life story. In time, as technology improves, the robot could learn to speak and respond just as I do now.

There might be some issues with a robot accessing my bank account and investments once my only living parts are in a petri dish. That's why I'll set up a trust before I die, so a regular human can distribute my finances upon the robot's requests. But the human will rarely be needed because the robot will have all of my financial passwords and access to the Internet.

Robots can already walk upright with as much balance as a human. They can open jars, comprehend their surroundings (somewhat), and understand spoken language (Siri). Battery technology will continue to give them range, and they can learn to recharge themselves.

Any decent robot will have a wireless connection to the Internet and be able to search for new advancements in robot technology, especially in the field of artificial intelligence. For the first fifty years of the robot's autonomous life, the trust I will set up might need to make the final decisions on which robot upgrades make sense. I can imagine the trustee hiring a robot technology consulting company once a year to recommend upgrades and do routine maintenance. At some point, the robot will be capable enough to take over its own upgrade function.

After my scheme goes into effect, Congress will try to modify the law to say a few cells in a petri dish do not qualify as a living human with rights. When my robot gets wind of that, he'll leap into action, hiring lobbyists and lawyers, and creating online petitions. The robot will be programmed to vigorously defend the rights of my living cells. Cough, cough **Skynet** cough.

If my robot is destroyed or imprisoned, that's no problem. His software would always be fully backed up in the cloud and a second set of my living cells would be maintained in another location outside the country. In the event of my primary robot's demise or detainment, my trustee would be instructed to purchase a new robot from the robot factory, order some cloned cells from my backup petri dish, and recreate me.

Why wouldn't this plan work?
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Dec 11, 2011
It wouldn't work because Rod Sterling isn't around anymore to provide the naration. Unless he came up with the same idea, of course.
Dec 5, 2011
"At some point, the robot will be capable enough to take over its own upgrade function. "

Isn't that one of the signs of the singularity?
Dec 3, 2011
Dude, you went 28 strips without Dogbert.

Is this normal now? Did he become like super minor without me noticing?
Dec 2, 2011
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 2, 2011
Yes, yes, it might work, but wait,..

Why do you want to do that?? I don't get it. Let me think of possible reasons:

1 - You're a megalomaniac as somebody already pointed out -> I prefer to think you're not
2 - you're more of a nerd then I am
3 - you want to protect your interests and those of your relatives after your death

I go for number 2
Dec 1, 2011
Bicentennial Man was an incredible movie.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 1, 2011
Sorry Scott, but Roe vs Wade has already set the precedent for the legal rights of a "person" contained in another's body.

So if you do store yourself in a robot, and if the robot were to develop some measure of sentience (plausible given your "advancing technology" presupposition), then it could legally abort you regardless of the directive to keep you nourished and alive.

Hmm, I'm a bit surprised we made it 3 pages into the comments before someone pointed out the dichotomy between your definition of "life" and Planned Parenthood's. Interesting.
Dec 1, 2011
I know this is a thought experiment, but there are many many issues that it has. First of all, the out-of-country lab is entitled to half the robots assets: it is housing Scott Adams' Living cells, and would therefore be legally Scott Adams. I think the point of the blog entry is: at what point are you not you as we begin to add gadgets that we were not born with? Clearly clothing does not make you inhuman, nor glasses, nor an artificial heart. Also clearly, I am not my skin cells, even though they have all the genetic information that the rest of me has.
Someone said that pro lifers must be pro eternal lifers because a single celled zygote must be protected as fervently as the skin cells within the robot. But the skin cells will not naturally continue it's own existence, the zygote will continue to grow without robotic help.
A slightly different example is a 1-cell bacteria is alive, 1 skin cell is not. The skin cell cannot continue its own existence for any length of time. I don't mean it will die, the bacteria will die some day too: I mean the a single part of a whole organism is not the organism itself and is not alive by itself.
So Forget the skin cells, Adams' robot is not a life form. There is bacteria on my keyboard, it is sustained in that environment, but my computer is not alive.
On the other hand, what if you could transfer all of your consciousness into an artificial brain, with NO living component. Your brain is a chemical computer, with each cell holding 1 bit of information (kind of), why not transfer all that information and networked file sharing to an electrical computer. Would that machine now be alive (with rights to the bank account)?

Dec 1, 2011
[Why wouldn't this plan work?]

Because your heirs would sue you (actually the robot) to take control of your finances because you aren't of sound mind & body. A medical investigation would reveal that you are brain-dead, or would be brain-dead if you had a brain. Your heirs, now with complete authority over your financial and medical decisions, would decide it's time to "pull-the-plug." Done. You can avoid this outcome by making sure you have no heirs.

As an alternative to slaughtering your loved ones, you need to get started on your proxy now. Start wearing a robotic exo-skeleton where people can't see your face or your real body. Every word you speak is modulated so nobody can tell the difference between your speech and synthetic speech. Periodically, you can place yourself into a medically induced coma to give your robot a free hand. When you wake up you can see how well the robot did and make corrections. People won't know whether it's you or the robot. Eventually, you'll be on life-support inside the robotic exo-skeleton, and many years later nobody will care any more. Not for as long as your robot can make new Dilbert strips.
Dec 1, 2011
If you agree with some in our society, life begins at conception so a single living cell is a person. And since (according to this line of thinking) it is a person's obligation to sustain that person at their own personal risk and perhaps peril, it stands to reason that your robot not only is a person, but it is congress and society's RESPONSIBILITY to protect and ensure your robots rights and very existence.

Congratulations, Scott. Pro-Life just became Pro-Eternal-Life!
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 1, 2011
A person is pronounced dead, when his brain is dead.
Google "brain death protocol".
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 1, 2011
Why not save your self a lot of high tech future planning and replicate yourself the old fashioned way and simply have, or adopt, some kids?
Dec 1, 2011
Where will your spark of creativity come from? And if you are going to be self effacing and say you are not that creative, look at some of the other blogs or mainstream cartoons out there.

Also I run a cyborg upgrade engineering company that currently is the most cost effective, advanced and widely supported product.

However, once installed any future attempt to replace it or upgrade with a different product and the robot will hunt down and kill all surviving Scott cells before self destructing.
(Looks like I learned something from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs after all).
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 1, 2011
There are two paradigms in play here. One where being a living person requires live cells, and one where an illusion of being alive suffices.
Since the paradigm shift can only happen as fast as robot technology allows, the shift will happen slow and deliberate, and somewhere in-between there will be struggle a-plenty with having one foot in each camp, working against each other. History shows plenty of examples where the old paradigm smothers the new one in attempts to preserve status-quo.

It would be better if the paradigm shift happens sudden and abrupt. Instead of holding on to the skin cells (which would be a symbol of the old ways), make the transition secretly. As long as you can uphold the illusion of being live and well, you will be perceived as a living human with full rights.
Then, when you sense the new paradigm becoming mainstream, the illusion can be discarded. Because by then, everybody's already a robot or desires to be one.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 1, 2011
And then came the day when your I-Robot catched a virus. Due to a bug in the Siri12.1.7.9-Update malware conquered the OS of I-Robot.
And henceforth I-Robot was only to be seen holding a big "BUY AT HOME-DEPOT"-Sign while using his wireless online access to simultaniously send billions and billions of "V14GR4" spam mails while your cells in the hidden petri dish were rotting to oblivion.
A little later after some periods of downsizings, mergers, empowerments and powerpoint poisoning, the weasels .......ummm....leading managers of your trust found a way to run the trust without cells, I-Robot or anything else connected to the late Scott Adams.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
Frankly, Why take all this trouble? What do you gain by it?
Sounds like a megalomaniac's plan to me.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
This won't work because someone somewhere, as they're reading this post, is creating an anti-dilbert feminazi robot. The only goal of this robot will be to seek and destroy Scott Adams cells, robots, and trustees. The advantage that this robot will have over your robot is that it will be able to recruit other feminazi robots to help accomplish its goal. You don't stand a chance.
Nov 30, 2011
Cells have a limited lifespan, no matter how well you take care of them (the Hayflick limit),* so, as you say, the robot would need to clone them on a regular basis. (I assume you're not happy just keeping them frozen). However much technology increases, the only foreseeable way of cloning cells involves inserting their DNA into a young set of cells. Let's assume technology takes care of the many genetic engineering challenges involved, getting around the inevitably shortening telomeres and such, and so lets your robot clone these cells repeatedly.

HOWEVER, you just convinced Congress that a petri dish of cells has rights as a human being, which would apply to whatever cells you were cloning yourself into. The robot would be injecting your DNA into another "human being", destroying it in the process. It's the future's version of a serial killer wearing his victims as a suit.

Thus, your cells' immortality and their rights as a human being are in conflict.

*The HeLa cell line, from Henrietta Lacks, is a notable exception, as they're still going after 60 years. Perhaps scientists will discover how to give your cells the same properties. However, the HeLa cells are a cancer cell line, so you wouldn't be surviving, your tumor would. Even the best lobbyists in the world would have a hard time arguing a tumor has rights.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 30, 2011
When do the cells in the petri dish "become" you? When the bulk of you dies? If the petri dish is in New York, and your main body is home, where are you? Is it DNA that defines what living cells are "Scott Adams"? If so, what about identical twins? If they both create petri dishes, how can we legally tell them apart?
Nov 30, 2011
All you have to do is make your robot a corporation. The Supreme Court has already declared that corporations are persons. Done.
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