Containment // Control

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Animals have had quite a lot to deal with over the years, whether it be treatment, representation or conservation, they’re often subject to decisions made by us about their welfare and even to the point of having laws written by humans for their own good. This idea I’m going to focus on in terms of The Animal will touch into a cybernetic comparison that we seem to be able to fit so well into the BCM studies classes. At the start of my final year of university for a class “Emerging issues in Media and Communications” I was asked what my interest is in and what I’d consider my dream. This would be to bring about humans and the machine to live harmoniously in sync whereby the control and containment isn’t the governing theme for hierarchy.

I believe when talking about animals in captivity and animals perhaps subject to actions or behaviours for human enjoyment whether it’s for their well-being or not comes down to a control element that is spread across multiple disciplines.

“ Animals kept in zoos are denied everything that makes their lives meaningful. Every aspect of their lives is controlled and manipulated. “ (PETA. 2017)

An article written by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) looks into the expired mindset of Zoo capitivity. The context of some animals are subject to the misuse of “conservation”, a lot of the animals that are behind bars aren’t endangered and are simply around to bring numbers through the gate, or the idea that the young babies are attractive to the public. I want to run with this idea of outdated and apply it to an extension of thinking about robotics in the same way we think about these animals being controlled and forced to act as entertainment.

Autonomous machines are subject to a pre-loved idea of science fiction inspired ways of thinking for themselves, personality and actions. The more “human” like these robot machines become the more we seem to want to make them do things for us, or creating a sense of ownership for tasks. If the more we advance, and the more we allow these devices to think and feel and be held responsible for it’s actions, then should we perhaps stop the containment of them like property and perhaps look at ways we can give them their own rights and laws? I support one step further in saying these robotics deserve to choose for themselves. We have entered AI (artificial intelligence) era, where bots on Twitter are just the beginning with how things can evolve rapidly (and with this Tay example) and dangerously when the “intelligence” are given based on human influence. Twitter users wrote in detailing gruesome statements requesting the bot ‘Tay’ to repeat, in which she dutifully obliged.

Cynics might argue that Tay’s bad behavior is actually proof of Microsoft’s success. They aimed to create a bot indistinguishable from human Twitter users, and Tay’s racist tweets are pretty much par for the course on social media these days. (J, West 2016)

I’m not saying this needs to be implemented instantly, robotics and computer AI systems still have a long way to come before they match human intelligence (if they ever do), I believe though the more we aspire to make these “electronic personsup to date with law and responsibility. There are talks happening now that are trying to create a new category away from objects, humans, animals thus: “sufficiently sophisticated robots should be regarded as natural persons, legal persons (like corporations), animals or objects. Rather than lumping them into an existing category, it proposes that a new category of “electronic person” is more appropriate” (K, Bowyer 2017). What the debate covers is that the direction on liabilities from robots only covers “foreseeable damages from manufacturing defects”, what this doesn’t cover and corporations are pushing is that the more these sophisticated machines learn about and adapt to their new environments in unpredictable (AI) ways, the manufacturer cannot see this coming. This is exactly my point where as a collective human control we failed in animal containment practises. 

Robots may eventually match human cognitive abilities and they’re becoming increasingly human-like, including the ability to “feel pain”


If we want to treat draw harmony with AI, devices and machines that we’re constantly trying to make more human like, we need to move away from ownership, control and restrictions set by humans for something else. Perhaps a short term resolution would be to treat these devices that have shown evidence of a level of sophistication to meet requirements then they be given their own set of rights, earn money, pay taxes and sue or be sued separately to its creators or open source community involvement. At the moment they’re still yet to prove themselves for this stage, but a device that’s on the brink of ‘feeling’ and ‘thinking’ I believe should have rights, as much as any human or animal, otherwise the fear of autonomy and robotics taking over could be a result of our own influence and coded rules.

M, Anderson 2017, After 75 years, Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics need updating, The Conversation, viewed 27 March 2017, <;

K, Bowyer 2017, Robot rights: at what point should an intelligent machine be considered a ‘person’?, SmartCompany, viewed 27 March 2017, <;

J, West 2016, Microsoft’s disastrous Tay experiment shows the hidden dangers of AI, Quartz, viewed 27 March 2017, <;



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