They are used by the industry, in service and health care and have also found their way into our playrooms, thanks to Tinkerbots: robots already play an important role in people’s life. In the future, they will even get new tasks like providing security and become even more important to us. In order to live together with robots harmonically, we have to make sure that they behave properly. Science fiction author Isaac Asimov already coined laws for robots in 1942.
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Asimov’s laws are probably great as some kind of basic rules. But there has been a huge development in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) since they were written down. Additionally, they were taken from the world of science fiction. Prototypes of robots are more complex today than people in 1942 could have imagined. Therefore, a new framework must be established in order to make robots behave ethical. Currently, scientists disagree on how AIs should be rated and what they should be taught.
The British Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) thinks of robots as tools which are developed and used by humans. Therefore, the humans have the responsibility for the moral behavior of robots according to the EPSRC. So, the respective rules must be addressed to the developer, seller and user of the machines. Swedish philosopher and expert on existential risk Nick Bostrom has a very different view. In his book “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies”, he describes how superintelligent robots replace humans as the dominant lifeform on earth. In this case, a new behavior code for robots would be appropriate.
Where the development of robots and artificial intelligence may lead us to, cannot be foreseen today. But one thing is for sure: It won’t be easy to create a code of ethics or laws that can guarantee a harmonious cohabitation of humans and robots. Eventually there are even different views and beliefs on what is ethical among humans from different parts of the world.