Robot Ethics: The Three Laws

updated 11/19/2015  (in the future, change this to segue into group discussions about good ethical codes for intelligent driverless cars and intelligent chatbots (e.g. combination of Siri and Watson).
“I, Robot” – Ethical Quandaries of Robotics

I, Robot
Book of short stories by Isaac Asimov
(c) 1950
Movie “based” on book
released in 2004
Book much better!
(my opinion, your mileage may vary)
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Here are some

cover images over the years

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Stories are based on…
The “three laws of robotics”
What are they?
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The 3 Laws:
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 Law.
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Theme of stories is…
The 3 laws conflict
They form an ethical code with “problems”
Can anyone think of how they might conflict?
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Consider chatbots
Siri, what are some others?
Are they bound by the 3 laws?
Should they be?
Consider the very first chatbot:
      ELIZA
What would happen if Siri was strictly required to obey the 3 laws?
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.Let’s look at some story plots
…because each story is based on a conflict
Warning: I am ignoring reading pleasure – go read it yourself!
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“Robbie”
Robbie is a nannybot
When the parents send Robbie away…
Little Gloria is heartbroken
What should Robbie do?
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“Runaround”
Setting: Mining colony on Mercury
Speedy is the robot
He is ordered to fetch liquid selenium from a lake
Does not return…what happened?
He’s circling the lake, acting “drunk”
The problem:
Selenium is dangerous to him
3rd law is strong because he’s expensive
2nd law is weak because order was so casual
So he’s stuck at a distance where they balance
Can a law be “strengthened” or “weakened”?
Is this conflict really a possibility?
What should Speedy do?
What should the colonists do?
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Consider intelligent driverless cars
Law 2 has a problem – don’t want just anyone to order around your car
Law 3: those things are expensive, maybe self preservation should be more of a priority?

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Consider intelligent chatbots
Is Law 3 even an issue at all?
About Law 1: it can never be sure it won’t say something wrong and harmful

Consider the following story:

“Liar!”

Robot RB-34 (“Herbie”)

Story has first known occurrence of term “robotics”

Poor Herbie has a manufacturing defect

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He’s telepathic…

(…ok, let’s allow some artistic license here)

What to do when telling the truth hurts a human?

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So Herbie is always lying!

What could happen?

What should Herbie do?

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In the story –

Herbie is told of the problem

He freezes up permanently

…seeing no way out

Time for a new robot

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About here is a good time to break into groups and try to make a good ethical code for intelligent driverless cars or chatbots…

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“Reason”
 Setting:
Space station beaming energy to Earth
QT1 (“Cutie”) is a new, advanced AI robot
QT1 concludes that Earth, stars…do not exist
“I myself, exist, because I think”
QT1 decides humans are inferior
Problem:
QT1 is responsible for aiming the beam
One mistake could fry a city
The humans on the ship are in a frenzy
What happens?
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“Catch That Rabbit”
Robot DV-5 (“Dave”)
It controls several remote bots by RF
But the remote bots just “dance”
When humans observe, they work again
(The problem was called a “Heisenbug”)
Why?
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Resolution:
Dave gets confused by too much complexity
Human observers reduce the complexity
Solution: deactivate one remote robot
Now there is less complexity
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“Escape”
A new hypersmart AI designs a hyperspatial space drive
The crew takes off
But…no showers, beds, or any food besides beans and milk
What’s the problem?
The AI is off kilter because during the hyperspace jump the crew ceases to exist briefly
Problem: AI thinks that conflicts with 1st law
What’s the solution?
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“Evidence”
Byerly survives a wreck
Later, runs for office
Opponent Quinn accuses him of being a robot
…made to look like Byerly
How can Byerly prove he’s not a robot?
Office holders must be human!
(Is that a good rule?)
He eats an apple
Proof?
He has a right not to be x-rayed, etc.
What can he do to prove humanness and win the election?
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A heckler runs onto stage during a speech
Demands Byerly hit him
(What would that prove?)
Byerly does!
How could Byerly do that *if* he was a robot?
Would a robot be a good leader?
Note: the story never says if he is or is not a robot
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“The Evitable Conflict”
Byerly is now World Co-ordinator
Robots/AIs control many decisions
But some decisions are harming some humans!
Why?
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Robots are interpreting the 1st law as “humanity” shall not come to harm
This would seem to require occasionally harming individuals
What should the AIs actually do?
The robots are in control
Should they be removed?
Still never resolved:
Whether Byerly is a robot or a human
 
 
 
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