Paper 1: Ethics in Robotics

Due March30th at the beginning of class.

Summary and Thesis:

The field  of Robotics brings up new ethical and legal questions not faced by other disciplines. When teleoperated  robotic surgery goes wrong, where is blame assigned? Is it the surgeons fault? Was it lag between the surgeon's console in Boston and the robot in Antarctica? Was it the robotic hardware? was it the software? Putting robots into a position to affect people's lives (and harm them in particular) adds to the ethical responsibilities of both those who design the robots and those who use them. If a military robot is used to train a gun on a group of enemy soldiers who have surrendered, and then a software or hardware glitch causes the robot to fire, does the soldier who used the robot to aim the gun in the first place bear any blame?


Write a (four pages not counting references) paper on the ethics of using and designing robots in potentially dangerous situations. Use what we talk about in class and your own literature search to answer one of the following questions:

  1. Robotics has always been pushed for jobs that were one of the "3 Ds - dirty, dull, dangerous". Today we have robots that can dance and play soccer. We have teleoperation capable of letting an operator run a robot half a world away. How will this effect labor markets in the United States and elsewhere? Will we see prisoners operating snowplows via remote control? Will labor laws have to be changed? How will the use of robots affect social structures and labor markets here and abroad? Defend your answer with facts, history, precedent and references.
  2. Given the near term option to replace body parts which are lost due to injury or illness, how can we easily define robot and person separately? Will the serious accident victim with robotic arms, legs and rebuilt torso- the real version of the 1970s "six million doller man" be more desired for certain jobs than a "flesh person"? Will this create two classes of people? Again defend your answer with facts, history, precedent and references.
  3. Will fully autonomous armed robots appear on the battlefield in the next 5 years as many have predicted? Will this be good or bad for humanity in conflict? Consider the technical, political and social forces and challenges. If so will they still be in the field in 10 years? (After all if you asked the same question about the atomic bomb in 1943 we would have to answer yes to the first question but no to the second. Defend your answer with facts, history, precedent and references.

Write this as a scholarly paper, that is if there is anything that everyone in the class isn't expected to know, if you make the claim, you must provide a reference to back up the claim. All references must be listed on a fifth page of the paper. Use whatever reference style you want so long as you are consistent. If you copy and paste anything from anywhere into your paper it must be in quotes and referenced immediately afterwards. If you are reporting a paragraph that makes several claims that can be backed up by a single reference, feel free to wait to reference it till the end of the paragraph. It goes without saying but standard formal English syntax and grammar are required.