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.

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