(Roughly) Daily

Consoling… or Alarming… or…

source: H+

Q: Do you envision robots ever disobeying military orders on the battlefield to “do the right thing?” If so, under what circumstances?

A: Asimov originated the use of ethical restraint in robots many years ago and presented all the quandaries that it can generate. In our prototype ethical governor (and in the design itself) we do provide the robot with the right to refuse an order it deems unethical. It must provide some explanation as to why it has refused such an order. With some reluctance, we have engineered a human override capability into the system, but one which forces the operator to explicitly assume responsibility for any ethical infractions that might result as a consequence of such an override.

… Ronald C. Arkin, director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at Georgia Tech, who is working on programming ethical behavior into military robots, interviewed in H+.  (Those unfamiliar with “Asimov’s Three Laws,” to which Dr. Arkin alludes, can click here.)

As we reach for our rayguns, we might recall that humans could be a menace even before the advent of robotics:  it was on this date in 1892 that the family of Lizzie Borden (distant relatives of famous dairyman Gail Borden, of “Elsie” fame) was found murdered (by axe) in Fall River, Massachusetts.  Though the spinster Lizzie was acquitted of the killings, no other suspect was ever identified, and she entered the public memory as a patricide.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
– jumprope rhyme, Anonymous


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Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 4, 2009 at 12:01 am

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