In the current issue of journal IEEE Intelligent Systems, two engineers propose alternative laws to rewrite our future with robots.
The future they foresee isat once safer, and more realistic.
“When you think about it, our cultural view of robots has always been anti-people, pro-robot,” explained David Woods, professor of integrated systems engineeringat Ohio State University. “The philosophy has been, ‘sure, people make mistakes, but robots will be better -- a perfect version of ourselves.’ We wanted to write three new laws to get people thinkingabout the human-robot relationship in more realistic, grounded ways.”
Asimov’s laws are iconic not only among engineers and science fiction enthusiasts, but the general public as well. The lawsoften serve as a starting point for discussions about the relationship between humans and robots.
But while evidence suggests that Asimov thought long and hard about his laws when he wrote them, Woodsbelieves that the author did not intend for engineers to create robots that followed those laws to the letter.
“Go back to the original context of the stories,” Woods said, referring to Asimov’sI, Robot among others. “He’s using the three laws as a literary device. The plot is driven by the gaps in the laws -- the situations in which the laws break down. For those laws to be meaningful,robots have to possess a degree of social intelligence and moral intelligence, and Asimov examines what would happen when that intelligence isn’t there.”
“His stories are so compelling because theyfocus on the gap between our aspirations about robots and our actual capabilities. And that’s the irony, isn’t it? When we envision our future with robots, we focus on our hopes and desires and...