When the astronaut Dave powers down the rebellious HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and more recently in the 2013 film, Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix, we determine through pop culture, what machine “death” looks–and feels–like.
The fact of murder comes from the fact of life and ideas and philosophies that we have as individual humans–and collective societies–about what traits constitute life.
In the case of a machine, I take the position that a machine cannot overcome the limitations of its creator.
Life is defined, not only by self-sustaining processes (we were asked while writing this post if it would be murder to power down a machine created by another machine) but also by wisdom that is attained through life experience.
The crux of wisdom lies at the intersection of common sense, insight, and understanding.
HAL 9000 may have had one, or even two, of those things—such as insight and understanding—but “he” (see how we anthropomorphized an inanimate object there) lacked the third trait in spades: common sense.
“He” made an “all or nothing” decision about Dave’s presence, Dave’s mission, and Dave’s motives and then took extreme action.
The same way that the machines did in The Matrix and Terminator.
The ability to negotiate with others in good faith, and to honor those agreements, is a human trait based on knowledge, experience, common sense, and insight, not just a happy byproduct of a conscious mind.
And until machines have the ability to negotiate with, not only their environments in the rudest sense of the term but also with their creators, we should feel free to power them up—or down—at our will.
After all, our Creator does the same thing.