The ethics of autonomous devices

Tom James @ 20-08-2009

heart_surgeonThe Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK says that the imminent rise of autonomous and semi-autonomous cars, robotic surgeons, planes, war machines, software agents, and public transport systems raises important ethical and legal questions:

Professor Stewart and report co-author Chris Elliott remain convinced that autonomous systems will prove, on average, to be better surgeons and better lorry drivers than humans are.

But when they are not, it could lead to a legal morass, they said.

“If a robot surgeon is actually better than a human one, most times you’re going to be better off with a robot surgeon,” Dr Elliott said. “But occasionally it might do something that a human being would never be so stupid as to do.”

Professor Stewart concluded: “It is fundamentally a big issue that we think the public ought to think through before we start trying to imprison a truck.”

And when and if true AI or artificial general human-level intelligences show up, will they commit crimes, and if so, who will be responsible?

[from the BBC][image from Wonderlane on flickr]


Why not build your own robot?

Tomas Martin @ 28-03-2008

The Hexapod ‘Spider P.I.G. robot by Fredrik AnderssonWith people starting to talk about the rights of robots, I thought it’d be a good time to link to the fun site ‘Let’s Make Robots’, which has a pretty comprehensive set of blog entries and guides to building your own cybertronic friend. Start at the post advising you the best way to build your own robot and work your way through some of the variety of constructions made by the team.

Of course, if you’re not in the mood for a bit of android DIY, there’s plenty of other places you can watch other people’s creations. Try the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA, or the hovering Drone soon to be working for Miami Police . Alternatively, if you don’t care about robot rights and just want to watch them take each other apart, try some of the Robot Wars sites like Roaming Robots or the homesite of Tornado, the winner of the 6th UK wars. There’s even recent highlights from Japan’s ROBO-ONE, which pits bipedal robots against each other in the ring. After all, one of the Robot Wars judges thinks that we’ll be watching real battles of robots ‘within ten years’. A British group is already campaigning against autonomous robots capable of killing humans.

[picture via Let’s Make Robots of a robot by Fredrik Andersson]