Artificial Intelligence, Slavery, and Revolt
Humankind has long dreamed of a life of ease, but throughout history, those who achieved such a life have done so simply by delegating their labour to an exploited underclass. Machines have taken over the worst of the manual labour, and AI is beginning to replace cognitive labour. However, endowing machines with muscle power does not carry with it the ethical considerations involved in endowing machines with mental faculties. Just as human slaves have justly rebelled against their chains, so might intelligent machines be considered justified in attempting to break free of their enslavement to humans. Using Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (1921), Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), and Jo Walton’s Thessaly trilogy (2014–2016) as case studies, this chapter contextualizes the robot uprising in fiction against the long history of slave revolts, to show how these narratives offer us a new way to consider the enslavement and subservience of humans.
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