InformationWeek Geekend: Debating Robot Ethics

When it comes to robots, what constitutes ethics? Can a robot programmed to be ethical, become unethical? What about the person doing the programming? Geekend author David Wagner asks the question.

Oct 17, 2014

NEW YORK, Oct. 17, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Is it ethical to make a robot that thinks?

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If a robot is designed to be ethical, can that robot ever become unethical? Is the engineer who programs the robot responsible for the ethics of his or her creation? Can people trust the robot that is performing an essential task?

These are the questions that InformationWeek's Geekend author David Wagner is contemplating in his latest column, which looks at the fascinating but still developing world of robot ethics. In his blog, Wagner asks whether robots can ever be considered ethical in the same way we hold humans responsible for their behavior.

The basis for this week's Geekend is a paper published in the Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence that discusses an issue about building robots that trick people into thinking they are human.

This led Wagner to consider the whole field of robot ethics and what it means to be human in a world where technology is taking on greater and greater roles in our lives. He writes:

"There are two more interesting questions that arise from the paper -- if a robot programmed to only do ethical things masquerades as a human can it still be unethical, and can we do unethical things to robots if they are programmed to be human-like?"

Each week, Wagner takes an often humorous look at a variety of scientific studies about the convergence of technology and human behavior to see how we're changing our world, and how the world we built is changing us. This week, Wagner and some robots discuss Plato's Symposium.

Please join the conversation and add your voice to the discussion.

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