Ethics for the Robot Age

Most people's expectations of robots are driven by fantasy. These marvelous machines, optimists hope, will follow Moore's law, doubling in quality every 18 months, and lead to a Jetsonian utopia. Or, as pessimists fear, humanoid bots will reproduce, increase their intelligence, and wipe out humanity.

Both visions are wrong. The artificial intelligence to animate robots remains several orders of magnitude less than what's needed. We have to master either software engineering or self-organization before our most intelligent designers can dare play in the same league as Mother Nature.

My definition of a robot is any device controlled by software that can work 24/7 and put people out of work. The machines are not intelligent. They cannot comprehend Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics to protect and obey humans before preserving themselves. Yet they are all around us. In case you missed them, today's most popular robots are ATMs and computer printers.

Wired 13.01: VIEW


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