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Machine Morality – Living Alongside Robots

The practical & moral issues of living side-by-side with thinking machines

They’re already in the factories, the mines and on the ocean floor repairing deep water oil rigs. They are machines that tirelessly assemble, pack, repair or transport. Robots never come in late, their standards don’t dip when they’re hungover, tired or emotional and they can work round the clock in hot, cold, dusty or dangerous environments.

Talking about robots taking our jobs isn’t the timeliest of discussions since in many cases, it’s already happened. But even though they build our cars, sort our mail and harvest our crops, the robots we know all work behind bars. These fast-moving, highly articulated and often massive machines exist in segregation, within areas marked by yellow and black chevrons, flashing lights and cages that protect weak, fleshy humans from their crushing, mashing power. When we say we are now entering a new era of robotics, what we mean is that we’re preparing to remove those barriers. In its current iteration, our robotic future will be one where the machines coexist with us in public and private spaces, interacting not just with their owners who can control them but also the general public, their pets and, probably, even other privately owned robots.

The thing is – no one’s entirely sure how that’s going to work out. We’ve started to address the big issues about an automated work force, such as looming job losses. And we’ve dared to . . .