Thursday, March 30, 2023

One Small Step for AI, One Giant Step for Robotics

Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram is a technically-qualified freelance writer, editor and hands-on mom based in Chennai

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The European Parliament, too, put forward a draft report urging the creation and adoption of EU-wide rules to manage the issues arising from the widespread use of robots and AI. The draft helps us understand the need to standardise and regulate the constantly mushrooming variety of robots, ranging from industrial robots, care robots, medical robots, entertainment robots and drones to farming robots.

The report explores the issues of liability, accountability and safety, and raises issues that make us pinch ourselves and understand that yes, we are really co-existing with robots. For example, who will pay when a robot or a self-driving car meets with an accident, when robots will need to be designated as electronic persons, how to ensure they are good ones and so on. The report asserts the need to create a European agency for robotics and AI to support the regulation and legislation efforts, the need to define and classify robots and smart robots, create a robot registration system, improve interoperability and so on.

However, it is the portion about robots being called electronic persons that has raised a lot of eyebrows and caused a lot of buzz among experts. Once personhood is associated with something, issues like ownership, insurance and rights come into play, making the relationship much more complex.

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Comfortingly, one of the experts had commented that since we build robots, these are like machine slaves, and we can choose not to build robots that would mind being owned. In the words of Joanna Bryson, a working member of IEEE Ethically Aligned Design project, “We are not obliged to build robots that we end up feeling obliged to.”

When equipped with self-learning capabilities, what if they learn to rebel? Remember how K-2SO swapped sides in Star Wars movie Rogue One? Is there such a thing as trusted autonomy? Well, another day, another discussion!


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