By Colleen Smith, staff reporter

In spite of the fact that androids and cyborgs are only science-fiction, there is a group called World Transhumanist Association fighting to get human rights extended to them. Normally, I wouldn't give sci-fi fanboys the time of day but since they had a conference at Yale University; a highly respected institution, the editor sent me to learn more about them. I spoke to William Smythe, a member of the group. Our interview got off on the wrong foot when he greeted me with the Vulcan hand signal from Star Trek, saying "live long, and prosper" and I responded by turning it sideways saying "Nanu Nanu." He became upset. I guess Mork and Mindy wasn't his kind of science fiction.

Eventually, I was able to get him to open up. He told me, "My interest in rights for Transhumans (their term for cyborgs not to be confused with transvestites) began when I saw Star Wars. My heart really went out to R2-D2 and C3PO when that bartender at Mos Eisley said that he didn't serve their kind here, and the Droids would have to wait outside. That was so mean! As soon as I heard about the WTA, I had to join. In the future and not far off, there will be cyborgs and androids. I might even transfer my consciousness into one to cheat the Grim Reaper and live forever! It would be horrible if transhumans were treated unfairly, like the mutants in X-Men. Under the metal parts, they will have feelings, too."

Smythe has a Roomba robotic vacuum which he calls "Scruffy", just like it was a real dog. He even puts dirt down for it from time to time and imagines that he is feeding his "pet". All through my time with Smythe, his mother kept yelling down the stairs to the basement where he lived asking if he and his "little friend" would like any snacks, or a soda. He would always respond, "No, mom. We're fine!" He gave me some literature to read. I was surprised to learn that there are serious people such as tenured college professors writing about some of the subjects his organization concerns themselves with, but mostly as treatments for disease. Things like pacemakers and artificial hearts, not living robots. As I wrapped up the interview he said, "You know my mom is all exited. I don't have girls over very often. Since she already thinks we are on a date, so would you go out with me?" I told him that that wouldn't be proper, as it violates journalistic integrity to date the people you interview. I think the little twerp bought it.

Honestly! Human rights for robots? Now that's just silly.


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