Within the next fifty years, robots could be developed to the point where they reproduce, improve themselves, or develop AI, according to research commissioned by the British government.

Although the research sounds like something the writers of Dr Who came up with in their spare time, it was a serious study undertaken by the UK Office of Science and Innovation’s Horizon Scanning Centre.

The researchers wrote over 250 papers, called “scans” that look at the next 50 years of development. One of these, called "Utopian dream or rise of the machines?" suggests that if robots do develop to a certain extent, they should be granted rights like voting, paying taxes, and serving in the military, and that society would have to care for them as citizens.

Other scans cover the economic rise of India, developments in nanotechnology, and the threat of HIV and AIDS.

“We’re not in the business of predicting the future, but we do need to explore the broadest range of different possibilities to help ensure government is prepared in the long-term and considers issues across the spectrum in its planning,” said Sir David King, the government’s chief scientific advisor.