MUMBAI – In one of the most controversial cases in legal history, a man is being charged with murder for destroying a computer.
The Indian government contends that the high intelligence and unique personality of the $100 million electronic brain made it human in the strictest sense of the word. And that being so, its destruction must be deemed homicide.
The issue is drawing heated debate by legal experts worldwide.
ICICI Bank employee Amrita Rakshit, 31, has confessed to smashing his company’s computer, Goto, in a fit of rage. He expected termination from his job, a heavy fine and possibly some jail time for vandalism.
What he didn’t expect was to find himself facing a first-degree murder charge.
“My client freely admits that his frustration over not being able to work the computer properly led him to an irrational act,” said Rakshit’s attorney, Kumar Premji. “It’s a frustration I’m sure many people can identify with. Nevertheless he knows he was wrong and he’s ready to answer for his crime. But we’re talking about a machine. To call it homicide is outrageous.”
The prosecution, however, contends that Goto was not “just a machine”—that it was, in essence, a man-made person.
“Goto was built with a high degree of autonomy, even consciousness,” testified its creator, Ashok Kamath. “It could…feel.”
When pressed on this point, Kamath cited the computer’s bookmarking of petfinder.com and its Netflix queue, which included Blade Runner, A.I., and Bicentennial Man.