For those of you interested in future watching, one journal article that seems to have stirred up the robotics community over the last six months is, “Toward the Human-Robot Co-Existence Society: On Safety Intelligence for Next Generation Robots

Here’s the abstract:

Technocrats from many developed countries, especially Japan and South Korea, are preparing for the human-robot co-existence society that they believe will emerge by 2030. Regulators are assuming that within the next two decades, robots will be capable of adapting to complex, unstructured environments and interacting with humans to assist with the performance of daily life tasks. Unlike heavily regulated industrial robots that toil in isolated settings, Next Generation Robots will have relative autonomy, which raises a number of safety issues that are the focus of this article. Our purpose is to describe a framework for a legal system focused on Next Generation Robots safety issues, including a Safety In- telligence concept that addresses robot Open-Texture Risk. We express doubt that a model based on Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics can ever be a suitable foundation for creating an arti cial moral agency ensuring robot safety. Finally, we make predictions about the most signi cant Next Generation Robots safety issues that will arise as the human-robot co-existence society emerges.

And here’s some comments I found interesting from ethical and cultural perspectives:

In addition to the semi-autonomous robots created by NASA scientists of the United States for exploration of the deep sea and the surface of Mars, in December 2008, the U.S. military reported its plan to devote approximately $4 billion USD within the following two years for the development of “ethical” robots – autonomous robot soldiers which will conform to the laws of warfare.

Researchers are studying the potential for robots to serve as bridges between physical and virtual worlds … Virtual and real worlds will merge. Virtual interactions will have real world consequences … they will simultaneously act as virtual agents and physical actors.

Should they be entrusted with providing nursing care in the absence of human caregivers?

Should they be capable of sexual relations with humans? [ok fundies, finally an issue you can latch on to!]

Ambulatory robots will consume enormous amounts of energy. [but greens, there’s plenty of issues for you to latch onto as well!]

The authors of this paper … [believe] that social and/or moral questions are bound to accompany the emergence of a human-robot co-existence society, and that such a society will emerge sooner than most people believe.

The South Korean government is putting the finishing touches on a Robot Ethics Charter …The standards are being established in response to a plan announced by the Ministry of Information and Communication to put a robot in every South Korean home by 2020.

A group of USJFCOM-U.S. Joint Forces Command published a study titled “Un- manned Effects: Taking the Human out of the Loop” in August 2003, which suggest that by as early as 2025, widespread use of tactical, autonomous robots by U.S. military may become the norm on the battlefield

It now looks as though such suspicions and fears will be much less than what Mori predicted, but people may still express apprehension over blurred boundaries between humans and robots unless acceptable Robot Ethics guidelines are established.

Which kinds of ethics are correct and who decides?

Who indeed? Much food for thought. In the meantime, take a look at the new XV-11 robot vacuum cleaner which you can now pick up for $399. At that price it may not even take 10 years to get a robot in every home.

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