By Robin Marantz Henig
The New York Times Magazine
Originally published January 9, 2015
Imagine it’s a Sunday in the not-too-distant future. An elderly woman named Sylvia is confined to bed and in pain after breaking two ribs in a fall. She is being tended by a helper robot; let’s call it Fabulon. Sylvia calls out to Fabulon asking for a dose of painkiller. What should Fabulon do?
The coders who built Fabulon have programmed it with a set of instructions: The robot must not hurt its human. The robot must do what its human asks it to do. The robot must not administer medication without first contacting its supervisor for permission. On most days, these rules work fine. On this Sunday, though, Fabulon cannot reach the supervisor because the wireless connection in Sylvia’s house is down. Sylvia’s voice is getting louder, and her requests for pain meds become more insistent.
The entire article is here.