Ethics, Morality, and Robots

Robot technology is entering the office or that segment of work that makes up more than 50% of the work we do. Call it the information or knowledge work, a service delivery of just basic support work.  The rapid introduction of workflow led to process automation and finally machine learning and artificial intelligence. Interestingly, not in the order. We have been working with some framework of artificial intelligence going back to the dawn of the computer. For some of us that arrived just when programming languages were developed to resemble spoken languages, we could see that ultimate replacement of basic and repetitive work that required little or no intelligence to mimic with a computer. Then large computers came on the scene we were ready to move to higher levels of processing and ultimately decision making.

So what does this mean. The business gains an ultimate tool in its competition with others. It now has a fully dynamic resource that needs no sleep, will not fall down on the job. More importantly, when volumes go up, you can dial up the speed of the robot or clone another one or two. When a business goes down, you can save money by never having to fire the robot. Over time robots not only become the permanent workforce but possible the ageless and the ‘forever worker’. It means that when new products are introduced, the working robot can compare old work to new work, create the steps and the adjoining quality assurance guidelines.

Now more than ever we need a moral and ethical core embedded in each robot. This is firmware that cannot be altered and removed. Every process step, every ‘thought’ filters through this core set of commands – digital ten commandments.

Having learned from the Bible, the first crime committed was by Cain and Abel. Thus ‘do no harm’ can be a foundational rule.Harm can be further defined beyond physical –  for example financial, do not pollute, respect all living things.

Imagine that quality control and testing is done on these robots in the form of scenarios presented with an ethical or moral dilemma.  Until the Robot passes all of the scenarios it cannot be released into society.

Stay tuned for more…

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