Can and should robots have rights? We’ll never know

Caitlyn Nichols

Students gathered outside of the locked Hetzel-Hoellein Room in the Stewart Library on March 10, waiting to listen to a speaker talk about robot rights. But half an hour after the event was scheduled to begin, the room remained locked and dark – no one came.

Gunkel, scheduled to speak on campus, never appeared at the event. Similarly, the WSU staff responsible for organizing it  offered no updates or notices of the event's apparent cancellation, online or in person. (Photo from Amazon.com)
Gunkel, scheduled to speak on campus, never appeared at the event. Similarly, the WSU staff responsible for organizing it offered no updates or notices of the event's apparent cancellation, online or in person. (Photo from Amazon.com)

According to their website, the College of Engineering, Applied Science and Technology at Weber State University was supposed to host David J. Gunkel, author of “Robot Rights,” as he spoke about whether robots can and should have rights, while also addressing how humans interact with technology and artificial intelligence and what it means to be human.

When no such event appeared to be happening, frustrated students started to leave.

Hallie Prator, a sophomore, needed to attend the event for an assignment in her public speaking class, where they were required to listen to a speaker of some sort. Prator said that she had skipped her math class that was scheduled at the same time so that she could attend the event for this assignment.

Prator continued to check for messages or updates to the event but received no such thing. The website announcing the event remained unchanged.

“It’s a waste of my time,” Prator said.

Prator has been trying to attend other speeches to complete this assignment but has run into similar problems with all of them. Prator’s last chance is a speaker on March 12, but after her bad experiences, she is worried that this one will not work out, either.

If Prator cannot complete this assignment, she will receive a bad grade in her class.

Sydney Young, a freshman, was also skipping a math class to attend the event for extra credit she said she needed in her philosophy class. Young was also frustrated with the time wasted.

“I wish we would’ve known,” Young said.

Duston Bush and Jason Cisney, both philosophy students, sat together waiting for the event, as well. They both said that they were there for an extra credit assignment, hoping to improve a grade after they each had missed an assignment. Both students, however, were not too worried about the event not happening and were confident that their professor would understand the situation and provide a new opportunity.

Cisney said that missing the event was merely disappointing because it was a topic that he was interested to learn more about but would now not get the opportunity to hear anything on.