Dolphins Need Their Rights Today – AI Machines Will Need Rights Too

January 22, 2014

I can’t do my regular work because of so many emails and social media messages about dolphins! About 95% of the messages are in English supporting Ambassador Caroline Kennedy’s Tweet where she deplored the dolphin hunting in the cove of Taiji, whereas the other 5% are in Japanese expressing support for the Taiji dolphin killers and wondering why everyone is so upset.

Dolphins at the Mirage in Las Vegas - Sept. 8, 2010

Dolphins at the Mirage in Las Vegas – Sept. 8, 2010 (Enlarge)

This issue demonstrates how insular the Japanese people still are, because they don’t have any idea what the rest of the world thinks of them. If Caroline’s Tweet did nothing else, at least it alerted a few Japanese people to this issue, which they’ve scarcely thought about before.

I mentioned to a Japanese friend that the dolphin issue is closely related to the prime minister’s recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine, but my friend thought I was joking. He couldn’t imagine how the two issues could be related, but I said both these issues – dolphins and Yasukuni – are examples of how Japanese people cling to their local traditions with no understanding of how the rest of the world sees them. Also, I think Caroline wouldn’t have Tweeted about dolphins if Prime Minister Abe had not been to the shrine. That’s just my hunch, though.

The dolphin issue also relates to AI philosophy, of course, because those dolphins are apparently super-intelligent. If I were the King of Japan, I’d declare dolphins to be morally equivalent to human beings so that killing them would be murder and eating them akin to cannibalism. I’m not the King of Japan, of course, but some day we humans will be forced to acknowledge that non-human life forms are morally equivalent to ourselves. Dolphins today, and artificial intelligence machines tomorrow.

Remember that old Star Trek movie where they needed to rescue a 20th century whale from extinction in order to save Earth from an alien invader?

Anyway, this whole issue really shows the power of social media! I can send out a Tweet on my own personal account, and no one sees it at all, or I can send out a Tweet on another account, and it gets on the evening news with 20 million people watching. We’ve got the New York Times and NPR calling in the middle of the night. It’s really nerve-wracking.