South Korea to make robot abuse illegal

March 7th, 2007

I RobotSouth Korea to make robot abuse illegal, as in abuse both by and of robots.

A story in the BBC, Robotic age poses ethical dilemma, describes a government-backed effort to develop an ethical code for robots.

An ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, is being drawn up by South Korea. The Robot Ethics Charter will cover standards for users and manufacturers and will be released later in 2007. It is being put together by a five member team of experts that includes futurists and a science fiction writer.

All of these efforts are based on, or at least pay homage to, Asimov’s three laws of robotics. The new Korean effort is also studying the Roboethics Roadmap developed in conjunction with the European Robotics Research Network.

While my first thought when seeing the BBC article was that it was fluff, looking into it a bit more convinces me that there are some real issues. An article in the Telegraph quotes a South Korean official

Even without the development of “conscious” robots capable of making their own decisions, Park Hye-Young, a ministry official, said it was necessary to consider issues such as data protection and security.

Although the next quote pushed me back into the ‘this is fluff’ territory

But she stressed that the code would also affect human attitudes to robots. “Imagine if some people treat androids as if the machines were their wives,” she said. “Others may get addicted to interacting with them, just as many Internet users get hooked to the cyberworld.”

With more autonomous and semi-autonomous machine around vacuuming our carpets and protecting our borders, some thought needs to be given to what to do when things go wrong.