Can You Give A Robot A Conscience?

At the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, roboticists like professor David Barrett have been working on developing robots with something akin to a human consciences. They use the term “eusocial” from biology, with the goal of creating robots that factor in the needs of others before taking action rather than merely completing individual missions. For example, termites are eusocial.

“When robots begin to have a sense of what the mission is, when they become collaborative, when they begin to anticipate what people need —and more importantly, when they are willing to sacrifice themselves, they become eusocial robots,” he said. Think of a fire-fighting robotic dog that sacrifices itself to rescue people or being them oxygen in burning buildings. Or of a robot riveter that stops short of punching through a human workers’ misplaced hand because the robot has been programmed to value human safety over assembly line efficiency.

Barrett, who came to Olin after working at Disney and iRobot, said rapidly changing technology adds some urgency to the challenge of making robots that only benefit humans. “It’s not too soon to start the process (of imbuing robots with conscientious traits),” he said. “Letting super smart, super fast robots out of the bag ... after the fact is probably a dangerous thing to do.”

Ethical dilemmas for robots are as old as the idea of robots in fiction. Ethical behavior (in this case, self-sacrifice) is found at the end of the 1921 play Rossum's Universal Robots, by Czech playwright Karel Čapek. This play introduced the term "robot".

Isaac Asimov's famous fundamental Rules of Robotics are intended to impose ethical conduct on autonomous machines.

The same issues about ethical behavior are found in films like the 1982 movie Blade Runner. When the replicant Roy Batty is given the choice to let his enemy, the human detective Rick Deckard, die, Batty instead chooses to save him.


(Roy Batty debates saving Rick Deckard in Blade Runner)

Science fiction writers have been preparing the way for the rest of us; autonomous systems are no longer just the stuff of science fiction. For example, robotic systems like the Predator drones on the battlefield are being given increased levels of autonomy. Should they be allowed to make decisions on when to fire their weapons systems?

The H-II transfer vehicle, a fully-automated space freighter, was launched Japan's space agency JAXA. Should human beings on the space station rely on automated mechanisms for vital needs like food, water and other supplies?

Ultimately, we will all need to reconcile the convenience of robotic systems with the acceptance of responsibility for their actions. We should have taken all of the time that science fiction writers have given us to think about the moral and ethical problems of autonomous robots and computers; we don't have a lot more time to make up our minds.

In a similar vein, try this article on Computer 'Aesop' Writes Fables With A Moral and Should Autonomous Cars Have Feelings About Crashes?.

Via BizJournal.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/8/2015)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

Fuli Bad Dog Robot Is 'Auspicious Raccoon Dog' Bot
Bad dog, Fuli. Bad dog.

Las Vegas Humans Ready To Strike Over Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot... had to be compensated.' - John Twelve Hawks, 2014.

Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.

VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.' Robert Heinlein, 1956.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Ontario Starts Guaranteed Minimum Income
'Earned by just being born.'

Is There Life In Outer Space? Will We Recognize It?
'The antennae of the Life Detector atop the OP swept back and forth...'

Space Traumapod For Surgery In Spacecraft
' It was a ... coffin, form-fitted to Nessus himself...'

Tesla Augmented Reality Hypercard
'The hypercard is an avatar of sorts.'

A Space Ship On My Back
''Darn clever, these suits,' he murmured.'

Biomind AI Doctor Mops Floor With Human Doctors
'My aim was just not to lose by too much.' - Human Physician participant.

Fuli Bad Dog Robot Is 'Auspicious Raccoon Dog' Bot
Bad dog, Fuli. Bad dog.

Las Vegas Humans Ready To Strike Over Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot... had to be compensated.'

You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.'

Elon Musk Seeks To Create 1941 Heinlein Speedster
'The car surged and lifted, clearing its top by a negligible margin.'

Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.

Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell
Art imitates life imitates art.

Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.'

First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.

VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.'

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop
SF writers have thought about this since the 19th century.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.