Magazine article The Futurist

Doing Right by Robots

Magazine article The Futurist

Doing Right by Robots

Article excerpt

Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics edited by Patrick Lin, Keith Abney. and George Bekey. MIT Press. 2012. 386 pages. $45.

The rise of intelligent robots is inevitable, but we must not rush it, caution this volume's 27 authors, whose areas of expertise range from philosophy and global affairs to cybernetics and computer programming. The authors call for serious societal discussion into how to ensure that thinking robots will not harm us and that, likewise, we will not misuse them.

For instance, militaries around the world are developing armed vehicles that will kill human targets without human instruction. Many military leaders worry that such robots will have a hard time distinguishing combatants from innocent civilians. Also, a country that has these machines might be more inclined to go to war.

On the civilian side, who is liable when a self-driving vehicle causes a traffic accident, or when a self-propelled lawnmower drives over someone's foot? The manufacturer might claim no fault, in either case: It was the robot's "mistake. …

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