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New Fast Company Column: Machine Ethics

My latest Fast Company column is up. "Machine Ethics" explores the question of what kinds of responsibilities we have with regards to the increasingly autonomous systems we create. It's based on the "Laws of Robotics" talk I gave a few weeks ago.

You don't have to be a science fiction aficionado to appreciate the importance of the latter narrative. All you need to do is look at this past week's headlines: "ADAM," a robot scientist, making discoveries about genetics; "CB2" ("Child robot with Biomimetic Body") learning to recognize facial expressions and developing social skills; and battlefield robots taking on an increasingly critical role in American military operations. Autonomous and semi-autonomous systems are becoming extraordinarily complex, and our relationship with them differs significantly from how we use other technologies. How we think about them needs to catch up with that.

[...] We may not fully realize just how profound the ongoing introduction of autonomous systems into our day to day lives will prove to be. These aren't just more gadgets, or dumb tools, or background technologies. These are, increasingly, systems that -- despite being mechanical, created objects -- operate in the same emotional and social-intelligence space as animals and even people.

I hope that this proves to be a jumping off point for a good discussion...


why not link to your article at Fast Company?

(whoops, fixed now)

Great article. The one thing I might quibble with is that it might be possible to create entirely happy or non-conscious "slaves". We don't know for sure yet. Even if the "slaves" were happy, one might argue that making them happy for being slaves is unethical. But still, it could be possible.

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