Robots don't suffer, and they probably won't unless we programmed them to. Without pain or pleasure, there's no preference, and rights are meaningless. Our human rights are deeply tied to our own programming, for example we dislike pain because our brains evolved to keep us alive. To stop us from touching a hot fire, or to make us run away from predators. So we came up with rights that protect us from infringements that cause us pain. Even more abstract rights like freedom are rooted in the way our brains are wired to detect what is fair and unfair. Would a toaster that is unable to move, mind being locked in a cage? Would it mind being dismantled, if it had no fear of death? Would it mind being insulted, if it had no need for self-esteem? But what if we programmed the robot to feel pain and emotions? To prefer justice over injustice, pleasure over pain and be aware of it? Would that make them sufficiently human? Many technologists believe that an explosion in technology would occur, when Artificial Intelligence can learn and create their own Artificial Intelligences, even smarter than themselves. At this point, the question of how our robots are programmed will be largely out of our control. What if an Artificial Intelligence found it necessary to program the ability to feel pain, just as evolutionary biology found it necessary in most living creatures?
Imagine a future where your coffee machine anticipates what kind of coffee you want. During the day, it scans the Internet for new and exciting types of coffee. Maybe it asks you about your day, and wants to chat about new achievements in coffee machine technology. At what level would it become a person? At which point will you ask yourself if your coffee machine has feelings? And would you still own it? Will we someday be forced to give our machines rights?
AI is already all around you. It makes sure discounters are stocked with enough snacks, it serves you up just the right Internet ad, and you may have even read a new story written entirely by a machine. Right now we look at chat bots like Siri and laugh at their primitive simulated emotions, but it's likely that we will have to deal with beings that make it hard to draw the line between real and simulated humanity.