Who to Treat Best – Your Robot or Your Wife?

By Mark Trodden | March 7, 2007 12:26 pm

The BBC has a fun little story about South Korea’s soon to be released ethical guidelines for dealing with robots, anticipating truly intelligent robots in the not too distant future. The story contains some discussion of whether these guidelines should resemble Asimov’s famous three laws of robotics:

  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 it 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.

But what I found strangest about the story is the following:

The new charter is an attempt to set ground rules for this future.

“Imagine if some people treat androids as if the machines were their wives,” Park Hye-Young of the ministry’s robot team told the AFP news agency.

I’m really not sure how to read this. I guess it could be a point about the obvious possibility of human-robot sex, but I think it more likely that it is meant to say that you can’t just go around treating a robot as badly as you might treat your wife!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Society
  • Fred

    Excellent post, Mark.

  • http://kea-monad.blogspot.com Kea

    Clearly, the robot will be treated better, because by command it will not be rebellious.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Once you have intelligent machines they’ll take over from us. I think that if we are lucky the robots will apply Asimov’s rules but with robots and humans interchanged :)

  • http://www.blumensacha.wordpress.com Sacha

    Of course, in Asimov’s (Robot ?) novels, there is a situation where a woman treats a robot as her husband.

  • Pingback: I, Robot « Skeptigator()


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About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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