As artificial intelligence robots and autonomous machines are increasingly playing a larger role in our everyday lives, the more the need for rules, regulations and laws come into play to guide what robot designers should incorporate in their machines.
In a 1942 short story, science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote his "Three Laws of Robotics" to prevent robots from rising against humans:
- Don't harm humans
- Obey orders
- Protect yourself
Now, the British Standards Institution, a technical standards company that provides guidelines for factories and companies around the world, has officially expanded on these laws by publishing their first formal ethical guideline for robot design. These standards were drafted by a committee of philosophers, scientists and ethicists.
The document, titled BS 8611, states that "robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans."
Dan Palmer, BSI's head of market development states:
“Using robots and automation techniques to make processes more efficient, flexible and adaptable is an essential part of manufacturing growth. For this to be acceptable, it is essential that ethical issues and hazards such as dehumanisation [sic] of humans or over-dependence on robots, are identified and addressed."
It also highlights the need for manufacturers to aim for transparency to prevent deception from these A.I. machines. It also stresses the need for human responsibility and accountability for the actions of robots.
Another question raised with the document is whether human emotional bond with robots is desirable, such as with machines made to interact with children or to take care of the elderly.
The document also drafts larger societal concerns like the dangers of "over-dependence on robots" and "dehumanisation [sic] of humans." These issues could lead to human unemployment and societal displacement so designers are urged to only design intelligent machines that will take on non-social or dangerous jobs.
This breakthrough official guideline will most likely be the first of many to come. As machines and robots become more advanced and autonomous, this new frontier of intelligent robots in the workplace will require more serious thought regarding the ethical and societal consequences of such change.
As Palmer continues, “This new guidance on how to deal with various robot applications will help designers and users of robots and autonomous systems to establish this new area of work.”
The official BSI robot guideline is now available but it costs $208. To purchase this breakthrough document, click here.