Information Technology and Ethics/Ethics of Robotics

History of Ethics Regarding RoboticsEdit


Automation and robotic technology are becoming more mainstream every day. As the

integration of these cyber based technologies continues to evolve, current ethical practices are

divided into three specific application based groups. Each group has its own unique set of

challenges. As further integration takes place, ethical risk assessment will continually need to be

assessed as to stay current with behaviors engineers are ultimately responsible for.

Founding Ethics: 3 Laws of Robotics:Edit

In 1942, a science fiction author by the name Isaac Asimov wrote a short story called

“runaround” in which he describes the three laws of robotics. They are as follows:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come

to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would

conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with

the First or Second Laws.

While being the work of science fiction writing, these rules couldn't be more prevalent when it

comes to thinking about the ethics of robotics as it rapidly evolves. The 3 laws of robotics, in

short, state that in no way shape or form may a robot harm a human being. This concept is very

relevant within robotics. As robotics evolves it's important to look back and see why robotics

were being implemented in the first place, to make human life easier. Through this endeavor

through the last century, humankind has been working together to perhaps creating artificial life

on par with the complexity of a human being. The remaining portions of this article will cover

some milestones within the past century that support humanity as a whole, working towards

replicating human life unnaturally.

Demonstration of Intelligence - Deep Blue Supercomputer:Edit

In 1996 IBM revealed its super computer named Deep Blue, which was used to challenge

the current world champion chess player. The first set of matches held in 1996 end with the

world champion winning the set, with Deep Blue winning one game and drawing two. After

modifications to Deep Blue, a rematch was held where Deep Blue came out the victor winning

three games and drawing one.

Chess is known to be a very intellectual game throughout the history of man, since the

game was invented. To think people could give a machine the capability to take on the world

champion chess player and win is astonishing, and it really highlights two important topics. 1)

That humans can program a robot to be on the same logical/technical intelligence while also

taking out human error that could be cause by as an example, emotions. 2) Humans can create

devices/robots that are able to make decisions based on what is presented to them. In the case of

Deep Blue, as a move was made by the human player, Deep Blue would have to analyze the

current board layout, cross reference all current moves and calculating the odds of certain moves

giving Deep Blue a victory. That is a very logical approach for a person to take while trying to

win a chess game, and Deep Blue was able to mimic/demonstrate the same mental capacity.

Demonstration of Emotion – Kismet:Edit

In 1998, MIT had developed a robot named Kismet. Kismet was created to see how

learning occurs through visualization, hearing, and speech. Kismet was able to give a response

back to researchers after seeing certain interactions beforehand. If a researcher smiled while

making a certain noise, Kismet would be able to replicate that emotion back to the researcher

through voice and facial expressions. As stated before, robots have had the capability to

challenge human beings to logical intelligence. Possibly developing an emotional intelligence in

that robot also would also get us closer to a type of robot that was warned to us about by Isaac

Asimov. Looking back at the development of robotics, we can see that for the most part, the

research was done to further study humans and see how far we can push artificial intelligence. At

no point in time was robotics mainly focused on bringing pain to humans, it has always been

with benefit as its main goal. An ethical issue brought up by this past experience is, if we have

the technology to give robots the same logical thinking intelligence, do we also want to have

them mimic human emotions as well. Is it wrong to give them that sort of intelligence while also

keeping the 3 laws of robotics in mind, that is to say, humans will always have a priority and

superiority over their created robot counterpart.

Demonstration of Self Replication: University of Cornell Robots:Edit

In 2005, researchers at Cornell University developed cube-like robots that were able to

artificially reproduce. The concept behind this artificial reproduction is, given enough (correct)

material the robot could make an exact replica of itself. In the case of Cornell’s robot, the

material was specially designed blocks. These blocks could just be the stepping stone of

something much greater. It would be one of the final steps to possibly creating an artificial life

simulating a human being. Bringing this together with the other demonstrations is what to look at

when thinking about ethics in robotics. Ideally, bringing these topics together could create an

artificial human. So, is it ethical to still treat robotics with the laws given to us by Asimov? Is

creating life that complex artificially any different that creating life naturally? These are subjects

to think over when looking forward in robotics while taking in consideration where we have

already been in the past.

Bringing it Together:Edit

Theoretically if humans were able to 100% replicate all three of these topics into one

robot, then we would have successful created artificial life. Then at that point, is it still artificial?

Should we still look at robots as tools made by humans? These are ethical values we should keep

in mind looking back at what has already been accomplished while we look toward the future of


Issues revolving around ethics in the future:Edit

Robotics Ethics Dilemma in future.Edit

The most important concern is safety. Robots have been developed and used only for

industrial experts and military use, but now they are used by ordinary people. Robot vacuum

cleaners and lawn mowers are already widely used at home, and robot toys are popular with


As these robots become more intelligent, who is attacking first or harming is becoming unclear.

Should designers be held accountable? Should the user be responsible? Do robots have to take

responsibility? Robots have physical robots that can be touched and digital robots that can not be

touched. Digital robots are as complex as computer programming. For example, you make

financial decisions.

If this intelligent expert software robot has made a huge loss in decision making, who will be

responsible for it?

Robot’s rightEdit

The second serious problem is the second principles of the Asimov robot. We have to obey

human orders unconditionally, but human language and natural language programming is that

robots are difficult to distinguish who has been commanded. Therefore, although the three

principles of Asimov emphasize only the safety of the human, the problem is more serious if the

robot has a sense of perception.

If the robot feels pain, does it grant something special rights? If robots possess emotions, should

robots be given the right to marry humans?

Should I give personal intellectual property or ownership? This is still a long time story. But we

can know that it is not that far from the talk of the animal rights abuse prevention. Robots that

can have sex with humans have emerged and are now a major issue in society.


Besides for the major concern of the overall safety of human beings, the other most criticized

factor of robots is their ability of automation. Automation is the technique of making an

apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically. People fear this change as the process of

automation could result in the loss of job security. By 2021, robots will have eliminated 6% of

all jobs in the US. On a positive note, the incorporation of robots will also create jobs as there

will be a need to design, manufacture, program, manage, and maintain these robots and systems.

Another huge beneficiary is that it eliminates tedious, mundane, repetitive and potentially

dangerous work. This will allow for people to focus on the more important tasks at hand while

not being held back by time-consuming work.

Ethics of Robotic Technology Current PracticesEdit


Automation and robotic technology are becoming more mainstream every day. As the integration

of these cyber based technologies continues to evolve, current ethical practices are divided into

three specific application based groups. Each group has its own unique set of challenges. As

further integration takes place, ethical risk assessment will continually need to be assessed as to

stay current with behaviors engineers are ultimately responsible for.


The most important aspect of safety is protocol regarding stopping the robot. “Robots can do

unpredictable things; the bigger/heavier the robot the more space you should allow it when

operating. Always verify that the robot is powered off before interacting with it. Never stick your

fingers into wheels, tracks, manipulator pinch points, etc. while the robot is powered on.

Remotely tele operated robots may be the most dangerous because the remote operator may not

know you decided to perform on-the- spot maintenance! Always familiarize yourself with the

EMERGENCY STOP procedures first -- and last -- before interacting with or operating robots.

Some implementations are more predictable than others” (NIST Robot guide). Personal

protective wear must also be worn when working with robotics. Protective wear consists of

helmet, ear and eye protection, long pants and long sleeved shirt as well as boots.

Testing and Implementation:Edit

As with any cyber technology, robotic engineering must pass through a strenuous process of

safety and quality control like automobiles. These standards include testing the mobility,

communications, manipulation, and human-system Interaction mechanisms to insure they are

safe and responsive. Procedures must be clearly outlined for testing with strict disclosure

standards for data sets to licensing and governing bodies. Transparency is key.

Ground Systems:Edit

Ground system specific ethical concerns currently include the use of robotic droids used to

deliver and detonate explosives on human targets as seen in the downtown Dallas shootout on

July 7 th , 2016. Other issues include the introduction of artificial intelligence into robotics. For

instance, whether an emotional bond with a robot is desirable, particularly when the robot is

designed to interact with children or the elderly. This concept of managing artificial intelligence

within robotic frame is currently the most important issue facing both robotics and artificial

intelligence and will remain so moving forward. Everything from the coding of AI behavior, to

the safety parameters for shutting down a robot equipped with AI deserve intense scrutiny under

the provision that they do not harm humans and obey orders.

Aerial Systems:

Issues specific to Aerial systems include surveillance and application for the use of taking human

life. Drone strikes under the Obama administration killed up to 117 civilians worldwide. 526

drone strikes were ordered under the Obama administration. Surveillance specific issues include

illegal audio and video recording of private citizens.

Aquatic Systems:Edit

Aquatic robotic ethical concerns are related to surveillance and warfare. Current issue includes

the seizure of an American submarine drone in December of 2016 by China. The drone was

eventually returned, but future incursions are guaranteed. It is also possible to weaponize a drone

similar to its aerial counterpart and deliver lethal strikes.

Basis of Future Ethics in RoboticsEdit


Due to robots being part of the larger broader field of technology, it makes sense that

they grow, expand, and advance simultaneously. In addition to Asimov’s founding laws of

robotics, new laws or ideals are being added in order to expand future installments such as the

three principles of combat robots which include:

1. Combat robots cannot kill our side, but they can kill enemies.

2. The battle robot must follow the command of the friend. You do not have to follow it when

the order is out of line.

3. A battle robot must defend itself as long as it does not violate Article 1 and 2.

Future Development in Robotics:Edit

Robotics in future is concentrated on three categories. Android, Cyborg, Humanoid.

Android is an artificial human made just like a person. Not only appearance but also action and

intelligence are almost the same as human beings. It is covered with artificial skin.

Cyborg is creation that organism is incorporated into machinery, whether it is a human being or

an animal.

Humanoid is a robot that has a shape similar to a human body, such as a head, a trunk, an arm,

and a leg. Therefore, it is also called humanoid robot because it is the robot which can imitate the

behavior of human being best. ASIMO developed by Honda Japan and HUBO developed by

Korea's KAIST are typical humanoid robots. But its skin is harder than Android.


  • Illinois Institute of Technology, Spring 2017 Class Course ITM 485
  • Stephen Grzenia - Robots in Recent History
  • Daniel Kolodziej - Automation
  • Joshua Kazanova - Standards
  • Sangmin Park - Future Ethical Concerns


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