South Korea Evaluating Guidelines for Robot Rights

The issue of robots rights, previously discussed here and here, remains alive. The BBC reports that an ethical code in dealing with robots is being developed in 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.

The South Korean government has identified robotics as a key economic driver and is pumping millions of dollars into research.

“The government plans to set ethical guidelines concerning the roles and functions of robots as robots are expected to develop strong intelligence in the near future,” the ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said.

This was an issue previously only considered in science fiction, but could become a real world issue if those who predict the development of intelligent robots are correct. Several countries are taking this seriously:

The new guidelines could reflect the three laws of robotics put forward by author Isaac Asimov in his short story Runaround in 1942, she said.

Key considerations would include ensuring human control over robots, protecting data acquired by robots and preventing illegal use.

Other bodies are also thinking about the robotic future. Last year a UK government study predicted that in the next 50 years robots could demand the same rights as human beings.

The European Robotics Research Network is also drawing up a set of guidelines on the use of robots.

This ethical roadmap has been assembled by researchers who believe that robotics will soon come under the same scrutiny as disciplines such as nuclear physics and Bioengineering.

A draft of the proposals said: “In the 21st Century humanity will coexist with the first alien intelligence we have ever come into contact with – robots.

“It will be an event rich in ethical, social and economic problems.”

Their proposals are expected to be issued in Rome in April.

The Obama Scandal That Wasn’t

The news media has many biases, and most have nothing to do with political ideology. Reporters love to report a scandal. If they’re the first to report a good scandal they may even become a celebrity themselves and win a few awards. There have been many attempts to find a scandal at this early point in the 2008 elections, with among the weakest being the latest story in the New York Times on Barack Obama. It is hard to find what the scandal is reading this (emphasis mine):

The most recent financial disclosure form for Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat, also shows that he bought more than $50,000 in stock in a satellite communications business whose principal backers include four friends and donors who had raised more than $150,000 for his political committees.

A spokesman for Mr. Obama, who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination in 2008, said yesterday that the senator did not know that he had invested in either company until fall 2005, when he learned of it and decided to sell the stocks. He sold them at a net loss of $13,000.

The spokesman, Bill Burton, said Mr. Obama’s broker bought the stocks without consulting the senator, under the terms of a blind trust that was being set up for the senator at that time but was not finalized until several months after the investments were made.

“He went about this process to avoid an actual or apparent conflict of interest, and he had no knowledge of the stocks he owned,” Mr. Burton said. “And when he realized that he didn’t have the level of blindness that he expected, he moved to terminate the trust.”

Bribes don’t commonly work by taking a $13,000 loss. It appears that Obama knew nothing of the investments when made and got out, despite the loss when he did find that there was a potential question of conflict of interest. It’s hard to see any sign of a scandal in this.

While it might not mean much to see liberal blogs defend Obama, this story doesn’t seem to have any traction any where. The conservative Riehl World View writes, “frankly, I think the Times story is a bust. Reads to me like a hit piece with no powder behind it.”  John McCain says that “Sen. Obama is a very honest and fine person from everything I’ve known about him.” Hotline on Call writes that if you believe impropriety on Obama’s part, “The circumstantial evidence does not begin to prove it.”

Huckabee on Energy Independence and Teaching Music

Mike Huckabee is not someone I could consider voting for. With that out of the way, there’s no need to dwell on our many areas of disagreement and I’ll just quote some answers in this Newsweek interview which I found interesting:

Evangelicals are starting to split over the issue of global warming. Some argue it’s a moral imperative, while others worry focusing on climate change dilutes the more traditional social-issues agenda. Do you want to make stopping global warming a central cause?
I don’t try to get into the middle of the science of global warming.

But do you believe there’s a human role in climate change?
There may be. But whether there is or there isn’t, it doesn’t release us from the responsibility to be good stewards of the environment. It’s the old boy scout rule: you leave your campsite in as good or better shape than how you found it. It’s a spiritual issue. [The earth] belongs to God. I have no right to destroy it. I think we work toward alternative energy sources. [We need to make it] like the Manhattan Project or going to the moon. We need to accelerate our energy independence.

Do you believe that gays are going to hell?
No. I don’t know that Baptists would make a statement that anyone goes to hell based on sexual orientation. Heaven is about one’s personal faith and therefore it has to do with one’s relationship to Jesus, not someone’s relationship to someone else.

I understand you carry a concealed weapon. Is it on you right now?
No. You’re safe.


The Two Party Nanny State

Reason looks at the nanny state with several examples of unnecessary government meddling in our lives, supposedly for our own good. They avoid the tendency of many libertarians to overlook the authoritarian tendencies of the Republicans and find fault in both parties. After giving many examples from Democrats, often with bipartisan support, they look at Republicans:

Before we get carried away scolding Democrats for all their scolding, let’s recall that Republicans are leading the crusade to stop you from using the Internet to play poker or bet on football games. It’s a Republican administration that has revived the effort to prevent adults from looking at dirty pictures in the privacy of their homes. And while the war on drugs is a bipartisan project, Republicans are noticeably more enthusiastic about imposing draconian prison sentences on drug offenders.

Broadly speaking, Democrats want to protect you from the physical threats posed by habits such as smoking, overeating, and crossing the street while listening to an iPod. Republicans are more interested in protecting you from the moral threats posed by temptations such as drugs, gambling, and pornography. Between them, they’ve got you covered, body and soul.

I am happy to see that they recognize that both parties are guilty on this, but they still have a Republican bias in their reporting. Many of the examples of nanny state legislation by Democrats is supported by some but opposed by other Democrats. The example of banning listening to an iPod while crossing the street was backed by a member of a state legislature and was laughed at by many liberal bloggers (including my post here).  In contrast, while there are some dissenters in the GOP, their nanny state legislation is more widely supported as the position of the party. The Democratic examples are also far less draconian. Requiring that calorie counts be posted in restaurants is a far less onerous rule than Republicans who use the national government to prevent medicinal use of marijuana even in states which desire to legalize it.

Edwards To Skip Debate on Fox

There has been a campaign among liberal bloggers to protest having Fox News broadcast a Democratic debate in Nevada. While Fox has argued that this would allow Democrats to be seen by an audience who does not usually see them, past experience has shown that Fox uses such situations to attack Democrats. Kos has started the campaigns to see if they will particpate in this debate. John Edwards was the first to respond:

We will not be participating in the Fox debate. We’re going to make lots of appearances in Nevada, including debates. By the end of March, we will have attended three presidential forums in Nevada – and there are already at least three proposed Nevada debates. We’re definitely going to debate in Nevada, but we don’t see why this needs to be one of them.

More on Fox News

Update: Democrats Drop Fox Debate Following Ailes Jokes

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up Part 3–Impeaching Cheney

The last two posts dealt with speculation that Cheney would resign or that Bush would be impeached. Andrew Sullivan says Congress should consider another variation on these topics–impeaching Cheney:

Something is rotten in the heart of Washington; and it lies in the vice-president’s office. The salience of this case is obvious. What it is really about – what it has always been about – is whether this administration deliberately misled the American people about WMD intelligence before the war. The risks Cheney took to attack Wilson, the insane over-reaction that otherwise very smart men in this administration engaged in to rebut a relatively trivial issue: all this strongly implies the fact they were terrified that the full details of their pre-war WMD knowledge would come out. Fitzgerald could smell this. He was right to pursue it, and to prove that a brilliant, intelligent, sane man like Libby would risk jail to protect his bosses. What was he really trying to hide? We now need a Congressional investigation to find out more, to subpoena Cheney and, if he won’t cooperate, consider impeaching him.

While impeachment is unlikely, the hearings will certainly be interesting. Not only do we have probable Congressional hearings on the Plame scandal, there is also the civil suit coming up.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up Part 2–GOP Senator Mentions Impeachment

Chuck Hagel, already not very popular with many Republicans, has now brought up impeachment in an interview in Esquire:

“The president says, ‘I don’t care.’ He’s not accountable anymore,” Hagel says, measuring his words by the syllable and his syllables almost by the letter. “He’s not accountable anymore, which isn’t totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don’t know. It depends how this goes.”

The conversation beaches itself for a moment on that word — impeachment — spoken by a conservative Republican from a safe Senate seat in a reddish state. It’s barely even whispered among the serious set in Washington, and it rings like a gong in the middle of the sentence, even though it flowed quite naturally out of the conversation he was having about how everybody had abandoned their responsibility to the country, and now there was a war going bad because of it.

“Congress abdicated its oversight responsibility,” he says. “The press abdicated its responsibility, and the American people abdicated their responsibilities. Terror was on the minds of everyone, and nobody questioned anything, quite frankly.”

Considering how small a majority they have, and that conviction in the Senate would be extremely difficult, impeachment remains highly unlikely. Of course Congress should investigate, and if a big enough smoking gun is found Republicans might decide it is better to totally disassociate themselves from Bush.

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Don’t Get Your Hopes Up Part 1–London Paper Questions if Cheney Will Step Down

This is London speculates whether Dick Cheney’s blood clot will cause him to step down:

Dick Cheney has been diagnosed with a blood clot in his left leg, leading to speculation he will be forced to resign as U.S. Vice-President.

The 66-year-old has a history of major health problems, including four heart attacks, and has undergone quadruple-bypass surgery.

He is a driving force in both the war in Iraq and the ‘war on terror’ and his resignation would be a huge loss to George Bush.

The vice-president is the leader of Washington’s neo-conservatives and is believed to be a dominant influence on Mr Bush’s military and foreign policies.

He is also believed to be the president’s closest political friend.

There has been widespread speculation that if Mr Cheney is unable to complete his term in office through ill health he will be replaced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another personal friend of Mr Bush.

Although there is a risk of the clot going to the lungs, most cases of deep venous thrombosis respond well to anticoagulants. Most likely this will keep Cheney from running around making his usual inane speeches for a little while, but this is not as serious a problem as his heart disease.

I also question their judgement in saying a Cheney resignation would be “a huge loss to George Bush.” Bush should get rid of the guy who suggested he pick Cheney to be his running mate in 2000.