Watch out – the robots are coming…

Columns & Opinion, Robots

will.jpgWill Head writes…

Who’s responsible if an autonomous robot shoots and kills someone? This, and other hopefully less scary questions, will apparently be answered at a public debate at the Dana Centre, part of London’s Science Museum, tonight.

Now, allowing robots to make decisions isn’t a bad thing in itself – as the report points out it’s quite handy if your vacuum cleaning droid is knows when it’s time to down mops and make its way back to its charging station all on its ownsome.

The more worrying part is when it starts talking about ‘military use’ of robots. Since most of the technology in my life goes wrong at some point or another, I find it a little bit worry that there are people out there arming these machines when it seems too much to make a toaster that can consistently turn out toast without burning it.

Although, no doubt, thoughts such as this only contribute to the ill-informed opinions regarding the future of robots and their role in society. Something the experts are hoping to put right.

A discussion paper on future robot rights entitled “Utopian Dream or Rise of the Machines” released at the end of last year was also dismissed by the experts. Professor Owen Holland of the University of Essex deemed its predication that robots could one day demand their own rights to healthcare and other things we take for granted as “poorly informed, poorly supported by science and […] sensationalist.”

Personally, I’m less bothered about the problems of an aging robot population and how to support it. I’d much rather that than the prospect of having to face a load of slightly miffed robots that have guns instead of arms.

The Rights for Robots debate kicks off in under an hour at the Dana Centre, though I’m not currently sure if it also includes a screening of Terminator – which is surely a must given the circumstances.

Will Head
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