2016-05-27

Existential woe; should robots be designed to be immortal or mortal?

While working on the pairing of nodes within the OctoMY™ ecosystem, I have hit upon an interesting, almost scary design choice; should the robots in OctoMY™ be mortal, or should their soul die with the hardware?

In reality, there are 3 valid choices;

  • All robots are immortal, when the hardware dies, simply copy the software to another to resume its existence.
  • All robots are mortal, when the hardware dies, simply copying the software to another robot will automatically generate a "new soul", the old one will be lost forever.
  • Leave the choice up to the owner of the robot, so when the robot is "born" and the first configuration is completed, the robot will either be immortal or mortal depending on the user's preference.
This peculiar problem stems from the way nodes identify themselves when communicating. To inspire any form of trust when communicating with each other, the nodes must identify themselves with a signature string that is directly related to the public key used to securely transfer secrets among themselves.

If it is NOT related to the key then it would be easy to "spoof" the signature of another node and all sorts of security problems would arise.

Further, simply using the pub-key itself as a signature would be valid, but this would allow the pub-key to be copied should the old hardware die, hence the immortality.

Currently the robot signature is generated from some unique hardware parameters that differ between each node. Combining this unique "hardware fingerprint" into the signature of the node would mean that copying software from one node to another would yield a new and completely different signature, and so the "old signature would die with the old hardware", suggesting that the robot would be mortal.

I have been torn between the 3 alternatives above. On the one hand, I really think that both robots and human beings of the future will be immortal. But on the other hand, owning a robot today that "will die one day and there is nothing you can do to change that" gives it a human dimension.

I think the 3rd choice, of letting the user decide may be best, that way the user can sign the birth certificate of their robot themselves. After all, who am I to decide the mortality of your robots?

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