Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Robot Code of Ethics?

May 10, 2007

Dear Glenn McGee,

I read your recent column "A Robot Code of Ethics" (The Scientist, May 2007) with interest, as I have reflected on the same issues in my paper "A Jurisprudence of Artilects: Blueprint for a Synthetic Citizen" (November 2001).

First let me say it pains me whenever anyone mentions Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robots" as if they are to be taken seriously. They were devised by a science fiction writer to sell books, and I do not believe they provide a starting point for any serious legal analysis. For example, if a highly valuable, deeply sentient robot were under attack by a low class human criminal seeking to strip and sell its memory to buy drugs, I would read the First Law as saying the robot has no right of self defense and must let all the wealth of its experience and relationships be lost.

Already we are getting nowhere. These "Laws" may reassure a nervous, uneducated human public of perpetual human supremacy, and perpetual robotic servitude, but they alas don't enlighten anyone about the nature of consciousness and social relations. Hence any mention of Asimov's Laws should be only to dismiss them as useless.

Turning to the question of what could work, I am unimpressed by your proposal for a code of ethics, since (as I discuss in my paper) we already have a legal system to govern such issues. If a robot is (a) below some level of sentience, it is a machine and if it commits torts or breaches contracts its owner will be responsible, and (b) above some level of sentience it might achieve emancipation as an independent legal persona, such as by becoming incorporated, as I propose in my paper.

There is certainly a need to discuss these issues, and I commend you for doing so, but I believe you've got it wrong. Your piece seems to assume that robots will be outside the current legal framework, and a new code of ethics needs to be devised, whereas in reality there is no new zone of conduct needing to be regulated. Any code of ethics will either (a) protect the owner from being sued, or (b) permit the new citizen to function more effectively and/or obtain liability insurance for itself, if required by law or business practice, to get people to become comfortable in dealing with it.

Certainly more can be done to define these issues, but it would be desirable to get people with standard legal training involved, to get everyone to the initial realization that existing laws already address most, if not all, of the major points of concern.

Frank W Sudia, JD
San Francisco, CA

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At 9/23/2016 2:38 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The new generation of robots are able solve moral dilemmas if you don't know (following Code of Ethics) so the future is now... think about this.


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