Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Robots in Wired

The July 22 issue of Wired has an article on robot ethics - "Robo-Ethicists Want to Revamp Asimov's 3 Laws." As robots become more common in everyday settings and more people interact with them, there will certainly be more problems; it's just a fact of scale. But as robots get more sophisticated, as well as more common, novel problems are likely to arise, too.

One of the intriguing issues raised in this article concerns liability. Right now, if a product fails to perform as it should (automobile tires that fall apart at high speeds, for example), the manufacturer is liable for the damage. But at some point robots will be able to take actions that their designers and manufacturers have not foreseen and could not have predicted. Will the robot itself be liable for damages? Will the manufacturer? Or will there be some kind of shared liability? What would be the best approach?

Thanks to Colin Allen (a member of the PAIT Planning Committee) for bringing this article to my attention.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

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