application of rapidly advancing fields of software and
hardware engineering and biotechnology to recreate life
or intelligence raises ethical and social issues. There
is an ethical responsibility on the part of the creator
to ensure that the robot or virtual pet causes no harm.
There is also the impact of new technology on society. On
the one hand, replacing people with robots may reduce labour
costs and contribute to unemployment in society, but new
jobs in the information technology industry are created.
Robots appeared in fiction as early as 1917, and by the
1920s writers were already depicting the robot as a mechanical
worker or servant that could be either an aid or a menace
to humanity. The word robot was first used in the 1921 play
R U R (Rossum's Universal Robots), by Czech writer,
that in Mary Shelley's novel Dr Frankenstein was so terrified
of his creation that he ran away, leaving the 'monster'
to fend for himself, with nobody to care for him and teach
him. The creation carried out a terrible plan of revenge
on its maker. The message in this is a question of ethics.
If we start making creatures that are alive and intelligent,
then we have to start thinking about how we will treat them,
or suffer the consequences.
Three Laws of Robotics
In I, Robot Isaac Asimov discussed the behaviour
and thoughts of robots and devised Three Laws of Robotics.
not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow
a human to come to harm
obey orders given to him by human beings except where
such orders would conflict with the First Law
protect its own existence, as long as such protection
does not conflict with the First or Second Law. (Asimov,
Discuss why these laws may be important for an owner of
Since the introduction of automation in industry (the first
major automation was achieved on weaving looms, and its
opponents were called luddites) there has been an understandable
fear of the introduction of technology. Automated looms
were designed to do the same job as the weavers. Thousands
of workers lost their jobs when these machines were introduced.
More recently the introduction (from 1980) of automated
tellers has displaced thousands of jobs in the banking industry.
heavy industries were quick to adopt robotic technologies
in the interests of perceived efficiencies, safety and economy.
Robots can work round the clock, are easier to repair, don't
get sick and don't require staff amenities. Replacing people
with robots was seen as a way of reducing labour costs,
workers' compensation and union influence. The replacement
of people by automated systems contributes to unemployment
in society, especially for the most disadvantaged group
unskilled workers which can result in long-term
have also created new jobs directly and can create wealth,
leading to the development of new industries and jobs.
Identify the rights and responsibilities of Sony to the
public in relation to the Aibo.
additional information on ethics:
Association of Artificial Intelligence web site.