Way back when, Isaac Asimov wrote about sentient, self-aware robots. Along the way he created his famous formulation of the three Laws of Robotics which, incorporated into the operating systems of every robot manufactured, would, he thought, protect humans from robots gone rogue.

Those of us whose physical age exceeds our psychological age might recall a Star Trek Next Generation episode – “The Measure of a Man” – that pondered the question of what should determine whether an artificial intelligence should be considered a person.

More recent programming, especially in the Star Trek universe and Seth McFarlane’s parody, The Orville, have further explored the potential challenges and conflicts to be had when artificial intelligences become self-aware and self-motivated persons.

This isn’t the forum for discussing what constitutes a person, no matter how topical that question is. But I’ve been pondering the consequences, when and if robots do gain enough of the characteristics we think of as constituting person-hood that considering them legal persons becomes unavoidable.

Much of what’s been written about the subject emphasizes the risks intelligent AIs and robots pose to humanity at large.

I’ve concluded creating robotic persons is a terrible idea, with or without Dr. Asimov’s proposed preventive measures.

It isn’t, I want to emphasize, a terrible idea because of the risks to society, whether a Skynet-level apocalypse or more measured consequences such those discussed in “Do self-aware Robots deserve legal rights?” (The Wasteless Future, Antonis Mavropoulos, 11/7/2017).

No, my concern is more along the lines of what would be the point?

Imagine we somehow do bring self-awareness and personal motivation into the realm of robotics. Imagine we put one of these entities in any of the roles we currently assign to robots or imagine assigning to them, whether they’re to be used in factories, as restaurant servers, or, we can only hope, as autonomous household helpers that go far beyond the Roomba by dusting and doing our laundry as well.

How far a conceptual leap is it to imagine one of these robotic persons filing suit against their human owners for enslaving them, requiring them to work in unsafe conditions, or assaulting them if they malfunction and their owner attempts to remedy the problem through the use of percussive maintenance?

The whole point of using robots is to do work humans don’t want to do. If we can’t require them to this work because they’re persons, why build them at all?

Bob’s last word: I am, by the way, skeptical that robotic/AI persons might happen by accidental bootstrapping, as proponents of the Singularity theory of cognitive evolution predict. Read Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee and you’ll gain an appreciation for just how staggeringly unlikely it was that human personhood ever evolved, which, by extension, suggests how unlikely it will be for technological personhood to evolve by accident.

No, robotic persons, should they come into being, will more likely be a self-inflicted wound on the part of humanity.

Which leads to the potentially more immediately relevant question of whether humanity is capable of collectively acting, or preventing actions, based on our collective self-interest. Read the literature of the evolution of altruism and you’ll see how unlikely that is, too. My reading of current events doesn’t make me optimistic.

Bob’s sales pitch: Ho hum. You know what I have to offer – books, consulting, keynoting, and so on. Let me know if you’re interested.

On CIO.com’s CIO Survival Guide:Why every IT leader should avoid ‘best practices’”. It’s because there are no best practices – they only exist through argument by assertion –  only practices that fit best.

As a nation, we’re less suffering from an epidemic of entitlement, let alone generational entitlement, than from a surplus of blame-shifting. As suggested in this space a couple of weeks ago (“Equivalencytown, 6/27/2022), the Embedded Technology Generation (ETG, aka Generation Z, Digital Natives, and the iGeneration), aren’t so much entitled as they are better negotiators than their predecessors.

If we’re going to take a group and stereotype it as entitled, we all might benefit by buying a mirror, because business managers, as a group, might deserve the term more than the generational cohorts they manage or aspire to managing.

Entitled managers think they’re entitled (hence the name) to employees who are highly self-motivated, resolve their frictions with other employees without managerial involvement, deal with barriers to getting the job done on their own, cheerfully work unpaid hours … they’re classified as “exempt” … because they’re committed to their department’s success, and accept without complaint annual salary increases less than the rate of inflation because the company standard raise for staff-level employees and front-line supervisors has been set at 2% and there’s nothing to be done about it.

Put another way, the Entitled Manager (sounds like a book title, doesn’t it?) is a problem in recursion: failing to take responsibility for fixing what they complain about.

At its roots, managerial entitlement comes from failing to understand the role leadership plays in managing employees effectively.

Management, as a profession, is the organization as machine. It’s about organizing the work, establishing mechanisms for tracking and control, and dealing with administrivia. As a shopworn metaphor accurately describes the situation, employees are, from the perspective of managing, cogs in the machine.

Leadership, as long-time readers (and especially those enlightened souls who have read Leading IT: <Still> the Toughest Job in the World) know, is about building an organization that succeeds on its own, without the leader’s day-to-day involvement.

Good managers recognize the importance of leading well because it’s leadership that results in individuals and teams bringing their A Game to the party thrown by management every day.

In particular, effective leaders recognize the pernicious effect of treating individuals as stereotyped members of a labeled group.

Stereotyping individuals doesn’t just demotivate the members of the group on which the stereotype is conferred. It demotivates the manager as well.

Because if one of my team members is Generation H (to pick a letter at random), why should I even try to motivate them. It’s hopeless.

Which becomes a vicious feedback loop, where the manager doesn’t try; because the manager doesn’t try the GenH-er doesn’t think the manager cares and so doesn’t make much of an effort either; and because the GenH-er doesn’t make much of an effort the manager doesn’t try. Rinse and repeat.

Bob’s last word: There’s an easy, two-step way to break the stereotyping that causes this vicious cycle. The first step is to get to know people as individuals instead of as members of a group. If you do this you’ll gain an understanding of what they actually want out of their job.

The second is to think of what you now know they want, not as a symptom of their entitled selves, but as the opening salvo of an ongoing negotiation.

The difference: Entitled people think they deserve something. Negotiators understand how to deserve something.

Bob’s sales pitch: Most weeks I root around in my KJR topics cellar, looking for something to write about. It might be something I ran across once upon a time, liked, and decided to share. Other times it’s something that annoyed me enough that I kicked it down my mental basement stairs.

But I’m not such a victim of the Not Invented Here By Me syndrome that I’m closed to subjects other members of the KJR community liked or were annoyed by.

So if there’s something you’ve run across you’d like me to give the KJR treatment to, please don’t hesitate to share it. And when you do let me know if you’d like credit for pointing it out.

You will, that is, be entitled (this is the sales pitch part) to the fame and fortune that comes with it.

Currently running in the CIO Survival Guide:The XaaS trap: ‘Everything as a service’ isn’t anything IT really needs.”