IGI Global experts share their knowledge on the controversies surrounding the rapidly advancing field of artificial intelligence

Robots Don't Kill People--People Kill People

By Elizabeth Leber on Dec 21, 2017
robot car
In recent times, humans have spurred the onslaught of evolving complex systems and machinery, allowing highly technological devices to become part of everyday life – a perfect illustration is self-driving vehicles. Even though they are not totally a reality yet, significant progress is being made. In the meantime, there has been a boom in the purchase of electric vehicles, which can be considered as the precursors of self-driving cars, in Europe and the United States, but also in regions like the Middle East.

The popularity of electric vehicles can be explained by the economic and environmental benefits that they provide. As climate change continues to be at the forefront of discussions, governments and citizens alike are looking for environmental-friendly options, especially when it comes to cars, and these vehicles that have zero emissions are good candidates. As a result, “globally, electric vehicle sales increased by more than 60 percent from 2016 to 2017.”

One might naturally argue that the growth of the electric car industry is linked to the enthusiasm for artificial intelligence, namely self-driving cars. Regardless, for better or worse, artificial intelligence is increasingly becoming part of our lives in one form or another.

According to Suryoday Basak, a research associate at PESIT Bangalore South Campus and contributing author of the Handbook of Research on Applied Cybernetics and Systems Science, “The driving force behind this [reality] is a newfound interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. With powerful electronic hardware and more sophisticated algorithms than ever before, could this vision be manifested in the real world?”

As AI rapidly seeps into our everyday lives, it is important to start considering what is fueling this newfound interest. Dr. Frank Wolf of Nova Southeastern University and contributing author of the Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Fourth Edition declares, “Blindly accepting science in terms of black boxes is dangerous!” Wolf explains that with each innovation, there are motivations behind them, for example, “[...] money (like trading securities), control of issues (like elections and climate change), and just plain Schadenfreude (the joy of causing damages). Ethical considerations are not the first priority when wealth and power are possible, unfortunately! For example, would a self-driving car make the decision to save itself and its driver, rather than another group of vehicles, in a split second?”

Self-driving/flying cars, are not programmed to make heroic decisions, like sacrificing one person in an accident to possibly save 50 other people. Basak states, "As AI is mostly about making optimal decisions, it is a matter of interest as to how AI would react when faced with a tough situation such as one wherein impending damage is certain. The ethical dilemma here is a timeless one: Isaac Asimov's (fictional) laws of AI."

Issca’s Asimov’s (fictional) laws of AI state:

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 orders given 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.

Although, this law started on a fictitious premise, robotic cars and emerging humanoids are making this law a reality and causing many experts, researchers, and citizens to wonder about the underlying ethics behind AI.

For example, in recent news, the AI humanoid, Sofia, has emerged. Sofia, who is the first robot citizen in Saudi Arabia and is featured in the following video, is perceived in countless ways.

Basak says, “Reports say that this robot joked about wanting to destroy the world! This general negative connotation of AI has been created by leaders in science [fiction], who might not have a thorough understanding of underlying technologies. While the data science community is really excited about developments in the field, it doesn’t seem to be the same with consumers.”

This new invention not only questions the ethics behind the creation of new AI technologies and the ethical decisions made by these creations, but the ethical implications it imposes on society. Many are outraged at the fact that Sofia has more rights than most women in Saudi Arabia, thus questioning the ethics behind the decisions of the Saudi Arabian government. It also asks the question that Wolf has mentioned earlier: What is the motivation behind granting Sofia citizenship?

While most individuals probably feel comfortable asking assistive technologies, such as Siri, to order pizza, that doesn't mean they are ready to jump on the AI bandwagon since everyone has varying comfort levels with this advanced technology. However, those who see AI as an assistive intelligence to better their lives are more inclined to embrace the latest AI trends, including Alexa, Cortana, iRobot Roomba, etc.

The future of AI may seem daunting to some people since it is developing rapidly; yet, when a new technology emerges instead of it instilling fear, it needs to instill questions. Questions behind the creator’s motivations, behind the utilization of the technology, and behind the ethical implications of the creation.

Basak reminds us that "morals lay with humans and not the machines themselves."
To remain informed on rapidly-advancing technology, IGI Global publishes forward-thinking, peer-reviewed content in the InfoSci-Technology Adoption, Ethics, and Human Computer Interaction eJournal Collection. IGI Global’s journal collections are 14 discipline-focused journal collections, each containing 20 e-journals, and includes current year and back file content for one fixed price.

Also, be sure to invest in the facts and help steer the robotic revolution in a safe, ethical way by reading the authoritative references on this advancing topic below:

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.
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