Sunday 01 January 2017

I, Robot: Revisited

Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, introduced in Runaround first published in 1942 and later republished in I, Robot in 1950, describes a set of “moral” directives by which a robot must obey when interacting with humans and each other. Though these laws were entirely fictional constructs, they had nonetheless become the underpinning for the framework in modern science (in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence) in dictating how robots should behave when they functioned autonomously. Yet, it is now known that Asimov’s laws have significant shortcomings and fail frequently to provide fundamental safeguards against unpredictable behaviors in robots that may put human lives in jeopardy. Importantly, these laws ignore that robots are merely tools, at least in its present form, so that humans, not robots, are ultimately the responsible agents who must be held accountable for any wrongdoings committed by them. Indeed, in 2013, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council working group of the British Research Council declared a set of 5 rules dictating how robots should be used in society and 7 principles guiding how robotics research should be ethically conducted. An important conclusion drawn from this declaration is the recognition that robots must not be used for exploitation by evoking emotional responses in humans wherein robots are disguised to have human-like features. This restriction precludes the use of robots solely to entertain humans, when such entertainment involves physical or even mental abuse of either robots or humans (a common narrative theme explored in science fiction). With rapid advances in artificial intelligence, however, it is a near certainty that machine ethics guiding the autonomous behaviors of artificial moral agents will collide with human ethics which currently posit human concerns to be the overriding determinant of robot behaviors.

By Philip Jong • At 01:01 AM • Under Column • Under Tech • Under World
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