By Kathleen Richardson

What is ethics of robotics?

Ethics of robotics is best understood as a subfield of the philosophy of technology. Ethics provides evaluative criteria for human behaviour, experience and action.

As robotic scientists create artefacts and put these artefacts into the environment, they introduce potential for impacting human interpersonal interactions with each other and changing human experiences of the environment. In situations where implementation might displace humans, or might bring humans into close contact with machines, ethics are the set of rules, procedures or guidelines that must ensure human safety.

Ethical responsibility

One aspect of ethics is ethical responsibility. With regard to the robot, a highly distributed technology with increasing autonomy, it becomes difficult to determine where ethical responsibility is placed. It is predicted that robots and autonomous machines, driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) are, and expected to become more able to carry out independent actions (or multiple interactions) without direct human supervision, leading to some concern about the kinds of cultures this might create. In REELER, we develop the idea of distributed responsibility through our research into the roles of various actors engaged in the development, implementation, and everyday use of robots.

Will more robots, autonomous systems and AI create unemployment? Will they create new jobs? Will more robots in society lead to more human isolation? Or will more robot free people from mundane and unpleasant tasks so they can focus on what is enjoyable in life? These are the kind of questions we will explore in the REELER project, identifying the main actors in these debates and incorporating the perspectives of affected stakeholders.