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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Can Robots Make Moral Decisions? Should They?

Joelle Renstrom

The Daily Beast
Originally published November 12, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Whether it’s possible to program a robot with safeguards such as Asimov’s laws is debatable. A word such as “harm” is vague (what about emotional harm? Is replacing a human employee harm?), and abstract concepts present coding problems. The robots in Asimov’s fiction expose complications and loopholes in the three laws, and even when the laws work, robots still have to assess situations.

Assessing situations can be complicated. A robot has to identify the players, conditions, and possible outcomes for various scenarios. It’s doubtful than an algorithm can do that—at least, not without some undesirable results. A roboticist at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory programmed a robot to save human proxies called “H-bots” from danger. When one H-bot headed for danger, the robot successfully pushed it out of the way. But when two H-bots became imperiled, the robot choked 42 percent of the time, unable to decide which to save and letting them both “die.” The experiment highlights the importance of morality: without it, how can a robot decide whom to save or what’s best for humanity, especially if it can’t calculate survival odds?

The article is here.
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