Robot Ethics

Science  16 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5853, pp. 1037
DOI: 10.1126/science.1151606

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C-3PO and R2-D2 may be two of the world's most famous fictional robots, but a quasi-robot named MQ-5B/C is perhaps more interesting just now. On 1 September 2007, operators used this unmanned airborne drone to locate and drop a bomb on two individuals who appeared to be planting explosives near Qayyarah, Iraq. As we make robots more intelligent and autonomous, and eventually endow them with the independent capability to kill people, surely we need to consider how to govern their behavior and how much freedom to accord them--so-called roboethics. Science fiction dealt with this prospect decades ago; governments are wrestling with it today. Why now? It's not only because robots are killing people. It's also because they have become household consumer-electronics items and because some now look and act like humans (Honda's Asimo can even dance). We have an instinctive reaction that a threshold has been crossed.

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