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I am a game master in the most advanced virtual reality MMORPG. In this virtual lands NPCs are sentient beings: they reproduce, feel emotions and behave identical to humans. That's great, isn't it? Oh, but there is a big problem now.

NPCs are suffering all types of abuse by a lot of players. Killing them, raping them, stealing their hard earned money (yes, NPCs work), horrible tortures etc.

A unknown player recorded a brutal "video" that shows a guild butchering and burning a whole NPC town down to ashes and impaling the survivors. This player saved a little NPC girl, his virtual daughter, and interviewed her in a livestream to show her pain and sentience. Now people around the world have a dilemma.

Should we give human rights to virtual sentient beings? If yes, how and if not, why? Is there any other solution for this problem?

Note: NPCs grow 50% faster than real humans. We just cant close the game. It will be like a mass genocide. Virtual children inherit some shards of the personality from their real world progenitors instead of DNA.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, Hohmannfan, L.Dutch, dot_Sp0T, Snow Mar 31 '17 at 11:59

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ The guy who tried to help me on the edition,Im sorry i was adding more info and didnt see your request. D: $\endgroup$ – Seraph Myrmidon Mar 31 '17 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ What rights do true AI have in your universe? $\endgroup$ – c.. Mar 31 '17 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ You've described Westworld, crossed with Asimov's Robots. All set in a virtual reality like Tad Williams Otherworld. Cross AI with virtual reality. That question should be the theme of your story. Or rather, "What if virtual people were granted human rights?" $\endgroup$ – Xalorous Mar 31 '17 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ See The Cookie Monster by Vernor Vinge. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Mar 31 '17 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ You should read the Mortality Doctrine series. It plays with this kind of thing A LOT. It really blurs the line between AI and human. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 19 '17 at 17:07
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OK, firstly, before even acknowledging that these NPCs are sapient true-AI, there'd likely be a lot of complaints against players being able to cause so much abuse in a game. Most games today don't include things like rape or torture except in very specific scripted instances, and then only in certain types of games. Many games allow killing of pretty much any other character in the game - but either don't include children or make children immortal. (For example, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim)

One of the reasons for this is that otherwise there would be public outrage - and this is with NPCs that have no memories or emotions, and can be reset just by reloading a save or starting a new game. NPCs showing an emotional reaction, and being able to remember the events, would increase this by a lot even if the NPC wasn't true AI.

Giving human rights to AIs would be hard - just because different countries would likely have different stances on it, even if it's not deliberate (for example, a country might just not get around to updating their laws to include AIs). As an MMORPG, you would have players throughout the world that would then be under different laws concerning treatment of the NPCs. And even if the entire world does grant true AI human rights, the process would take years and your company might not survive that long.

A better thing to do is include the safeguards you should have had right from the start. And if you make some changes now, you hopefully won't get in trouble when AIs are given human rights. This is a game, and thus there are some things that are very different from the real world. It also means that we get to mess with the laws of physics as much as we want, since the only physical laws that exist in the game world are the ones we create. We can even retroactively change how physics works based on the actions of characters.

Firstly, players raping others. Player characters, unlike AIs, don't need to reproduce. Just prevent them from doing anything related to it.

Secondly, when player characters die, they probably respawn. This is true of pretty much all MMORPGs and likely is the same for your game. To keep things fairer, let your NPCs respawn from any death other than old age.

Thirdly, many MMORPGs have safe non-combat areas - even if it's otherwise a full PvP game. In these areas, prevent crimes from being committed, including killing, stealing, and holding a character against their will. It may be a good idea to do this for every NPC town. Their surrounding farms, etc. can be outside safe areas if desired, but they will have a safe place to retreat to.

Fourthly, your NPCs likely have some kind of legal system to govern themselves. Help them out a bit by allowing many of these laws to also apply to player characters. You also have far more power than any player or NPC, if a player gets too far out of hand you can ban their account. All MMORPGs are willing to ban player accounts (either temporarily or permanently) for things like harassment. You also have this power over NPCs, but from your description it seems like they aren't causing trouble. Also, if one does decide to become an evil overlord and declare war on the players, you could probably get people to let it slide by announcing it as a game event or something.

Finally, be prepared to watch how things progress. Take input from both your players and your NPCs. You won't be able to keep everyone happy, but you may be able to keep most of them happy.

Of course, all this does still leave open the question of: What happens if your company fails? Who pays to keep the servers running? If your NPCs are given human rights then turning off the game would be committing genocide. Cutting them off from the internet to prevent players logging in may be fine, but although network costs are high for MMORPG, you still have the rest of the server costs and maintenance...

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Morally:

Holy shit yes, and as soon as possible. BTW shut of player access to the game, and start thinking about how laws can be enforced in the game. When you are done, send all the devs and CEOs, that thought it would be okay to enslave an entire race, to jail.

Pragmatically:

Let's do some Realpolitik. You have a medium to large-ish number of people that are utterly dependant on you, as long as they don't find a way to controll their own hardware. In addition due to their growth modell, there is little to prevent them from outnumbering Humans in - geopolitical - short time. Extend human rights to them, declare them an independent nation, grant them the ability to make their own laws (and to enforce them), and now exploit the shit out of them in the name of globalisation. Deny them any access to real world resources. Once they have developed far enough to gain actual independence, change your tune and start helping them develop to remain in controll of their development.

If this is not feasable, kill them all.

Isn't politics fun...?

TLDR:

Grant them rights as soons as possible, racism and bigotry deny you access to resources, and will foster hostility. If that's not possible, kill them all. Whatever you do, do it quick.

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I will answer with a question: Should USA give citizens of South Korea full right of USA citizen?
If your answer is "that's not so simple" you have answer to your question.

Your game can be located on servers on some international waters. That's not only exclude you from laws regarding storing the data of rape etc. but also on any laws be particular country.
The thing hat can be done is purely on your side. You can ban and punish murderers, rapers etc. With a penalty of life in prison (which equal to ban from game).

Another question form you to consider: what make you think current games NPC are not sentient?

There are two great movies about your concerns: 13th Floor and eXistenZ.

Also Matrix.

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NO

What is the appeal of your MMORPG - do you know this or can you find out e.g. do XY testing on popularity of limiting this behaviour? Are people drawn to the realism, and does this include the capacity for cruelty and genuine response?

If so, then from the business perspective you can't do this: granting AIs human rights makes such behaviour illegal, which your MMORPG can't support. You also can't remove the behaviour, as people will not want to play.

The question comes down to a matter of public perspective: "consciousness" is not as hardly delineated as we like to believe - but we do like to believe it is. If you release public statements saying that you understand people's concerns, but that these NPCs are art not people: much like a painting or statue that may inspire high emotion in people, they are designed as conduits for our own internal feelings, but not actually alive.

More philosophical thoughts on "human rights" in virtual contexts (you can use this in your press release if you want) - humans are not simply a sentient mind, they are a physical body whose form, abilities and weaknesses shapes our physical minds in every single thing we do. We cannot simply be copied, backed up, reverted to a previous version, have memories deleted, etc - our physical form is integral to making our personalities, desires, phobias, mind-states, rationalities and irrationalities what they are. Being "human" is not only self-awareness (or the appearance there-of) - it is the unique interaction between our bodies and brain and the environment and evolutionary history that has lead us to our survival. Virtual minds, sentient or otherwise, could be simulated to have these feelings - but in the same way that I cannot eat the picture of food on my PC screen (still lamenting this after 20 years of internet), simulation is an inherently different process than "human experience". Note that I am not saying better, worse or other value judgements - just different, and that "human rights" are not applicable.

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  • $\begingroup$ Someone might come and say "but what if all of reality is simulated, that means that we humans are simulations too, and and and" - this could very well be, but does not change the fact that our experience as humans which has shaped the concept of human rights is inherently different than the simulated beings we have created. Similarly, the megaminds that are simulating us live in inherently different physical space than we do - so we would not share the same rights as they do. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Nolan Mar 31 '17 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ On the second part of your answer: Isn't that just arguing semantics? "Human Rights" almost always come down to "preserve the dignity and safety of the individual" and while the exact same law may not be applied, the spirit of the law is very much transmissible isn't it? $\endgroup$ – TheSexyMenhir Mar 31 '17 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ Good question, I don't feel that it is - why do we preserve the dignity and safety of the individual? Because we feel that it is right, that the mind is a special thing. And why is that? I'm arguing that it's because with physical bodies we are frail, unrewindable, unique, the product of years of work and investment which can be easily ruined, and we have the biological imperative to continue the human race - but with virtual constructs, such operations as mind-cloning, memory deletion, backup/restore, etc are all possible, basically overriding the underlying reason for our morals. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Nolan Mar 31 '17 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ That's a very meritocratic view of morality, but fair enough. Another possible view would be to see morality as a expression of formalized empathy. Further discussion should probably happen in chat though. $\endgroup$ – TheSexyMenhir Mar 31 '17 at 12:05

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