Robots, AI, and Ethics

For this task, I have decided to do some research into ‘The Robot’. This area really interests me because it deals with the idea of automation and quality of living both in the workforce as well as in our daily lives. Not only does this topic talk about how we can make our lives easier but it also delves into the ethics of automation and whether it is ethical or not to both strive to be completely automated in a world where it is increasingly becoming harder and harder to find jobs. There is also the idea of the completely self-sufficient robot with artificial intelligence (AI) and the ethics surrounding both the development and upkeep of such a robot. I really want to look further into the last of these ideas as I believe that we are not too far off from having a pretty insane AI.


Just recently Google revealed it’s newest iteration of AI called the ‘Google Duplex’ and it is the first of its kind as it is able to make real phone calls and book appointments for you just as a human would. This product amazed the crowd at the keynote but continued a long-standing debate surrounding the ethical use of products such as Duplex. The website TechCrunch cites Dr. Thomas King of the Oxford Internet Institute’s Digital Ethics Lab saying that “Google’s experiments do appear to have been designed to deceive,” and “You don’t necessarily need to deceive someone to give them a better user experience by sounding natural.” James Gips goes into the idea of deception in his paper “Towards The Ethical Robot” when he touches on the idea of Deontological ethical theories. An Example of this is proposed by Bernard Gert in which he proposes 10 moral rules. One of these rules is don’t deceive. This rule is directly opposed by the Google Duplex as it pretends to be a real person through its machine learning where it even says ‘um’ and ‘hmmm’ in response to questions to make it seem more human. There is also no way for the person on the other side of the call to know whether they are talking to a real person or not as there is no disclaimer before the call starts.

Gips’ continues to talk about the many theories about the morals and ethics surrounding robots and Artificial Intelligence. He outlines the 3 most well-known rules for ethical robots formulated by Isaac Asimov in 1942. 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 the 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. These are what the majority of sci-fi shows and movies base their rules on when it comes to creating a world where artificial Intelligence exists. AI has long been a mainstay in sci-fi film as it not only creates a scary and unknown being, it makes the audience think and ponder the actual existence of AI. Some of cinema’s greatest film contain ideas of AI as either the forefront of the film or a recurring theme. Some of these films include 2001: A Space Odyssey, RoboCop, Ex Machina, and Ghost in The Shell. The fact that these films are so popular and universally loved shows that people are interested in AI and how to effects them. The other theories that Gips outlines contain Consequentialist theories and Virtue-based theories.


In the book ‘Machine Ethics’ by Susan Leigh Anderson, she presents four visions for the future of machine ethics. 1) AI is ideally suited to exploring the process of ethical reasoning and decision making. 2) AI could create a system that would be able to make better decisions due to its ability to be more impartial and check for consistency in social circles. 3) Whether AI will become less ethical and will actually surpass humans in its ability to make decisions and therefore define its own ethics. 4) AI has already surpassed humans in intellectual prowess and ethics as we have set the bar so low already. These four visions show a range of ideas and theories of what AI will become and what potential it has in what it will/should become. AI is a very powerful tool in western culture and will become even more powerful and I believe will determine how we communicate and interact with each other and the world around us. For my research question in relation to communications and media, I would like to focus on the evolution of AI robotics socially and how it affects us both physically and ethically in western society.



-Anderson, M. & Anderson, S. (eds.) (2011).  _Machine Ethics_. Cambridge Univ. Press

-Gips, James  (1994).  Toward the ethical robot. In Kenneth M. Ford, C. Glymour & Patrick Hayes (eds.), _Android Epistemology_. MIT Press

-Duplex show Google failing at ethical and creative AI design

Natasha Lomas

January 2018

Duplex shows Google failing at ethical and creative AI design


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