The main outcome from the workshop was a draft statement aimed at initiating a debate within the robotics research and industry community, and more widely. That statement is framed by, first, a set of high-level messages for researchers and the public which encourage responsibility from the robotics community, and hence (we hope) trust in the work of that community. And second, a revised and updated version of Asimov’s three laws of robotics for designers and users of robots; not laws for robots, but guiding principles for roboticists.
The seven high-level messages are:
- We believe robots have the potential to provide immense positive impact to society. We want to encourage responsible robot research.
- Bad practice (in robotics) hurts us all.
- Addressing obvious public concerns (about robots) will help us all make progress.
- It is important to demonstrate that we, as roboticists, are committed to the best possible standards of practice.
- To understand the context and consequences of our research we should work with experts from other disciplines including: social sciences, law, philosophy and the arts.
- We should consider the ethics of transparency: are there limits to what should be openly available?
- When we see erroneous accounts in the press, we commit to take the time to contact the reporting journalists.
Asimov’s laws updated: instead of 'laws for robots' our revision is a set of five draft 'ethical principles for robotics', i.e. moral precepts for researchers, designers, manufacturers, suppliers and maintainers of robots. We propose:
- Robots are multi-use tools. Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans, except in the interests of national security.
- Humans, not robots, are responsible agents. Robots should be designed & operated as far as is practicable to comply with existing laws and fundamental rights & freedoms, including privacy.
- Robots are products. They should be designed using processes which assure their safety and security.
- Robots are manufactured artefacts. They should not be designed in a deceptive way to exploit vulnerable users; instead their machine nature should be transparent.
- The person with legal responsibility for a robot should be attributed.
Comments and criticism welcome! To feedback either,
- post a comment in response to this blog,
- email EPSRC at RoboticsRetreat@epsrc.ac.uk, or
- directly contact myself or any of the workshop members listed in the commentary.
*So, while I am a passionate advocate of ethical robotics and very happy to defend the approach that we've taken here, there are some detailed aspects of these principles that I'm not 100% happy with.