Hi all

As you should be aware I am studying Body and Mind and within the unit we will get to AI and robots. Not quite yet though, but to get things going a little early I would see if we could get a discussion going about this article from BBC – Science.

It is a short piece about the use of “decision-making” robots in military applications.

What do you all think?


4 Responses to “Robots”

  1. 1 Simon May 4, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    ’tis an interesting article you’ve found there Waz. What is it that you’re most concerned about? As I’m interested more with moral & political philosophy the rights issue that the cited article illustrates is what interests me the most.

    Does anyone believe that robots should have rights? I certainly do not. Put simply (really simply actually), I feel that any particular ‘thing’ is only deserving of rights if it possesses the ability to have qualia, or, the lack of rights ascription to the ‘thing’ in question will affect, in one way or another, another ‘thing’ that can have qualia. Maybe we could call this ‘negative rights ascription’. In Nagel’s terms, and in my opinion, there is nothing that it is like to be a robot, therefore a robot has no qualia (simplified).

    Robots, whether autonomous or not, fulfill a functional application of mental states. I’m with Ned Block in claiming that functionalism is too liberal in the ascription of mental states and that robots would fall under this definition. I don’t believe that the nation of China is a person any more than a robot is.

    Any thoughts?

  2. 2 Waz May 4, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    For me, the main interest is similar, but slightly different in that I am interested in who would take responsibility for the robots “decisions”.

    As we know, a robot has no emotional attachment in its decision making processes, so if faced with a situation where it had to choose between killing one person – who is on the “same side” to save the lives of 10 people, it will do so without hesitation. Even if that person is its creator or another person of significance.

    Also one could envisage that the robots in military uses could be designed only to “attack” other robots. What if the programming is hacked or is infected by a virus and the robot goes on a rampage and kills hundreds of innocent people? Who would be responsible in that instance?

    So many questions, so few answers…

  3. 3 Simon May 4, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Interesting points Waz.

    How should we define emotional attachment? Why is it necessarily so that robots wouldn’t possess this attribute. And why need the robots decision be so utilitarian? As the robot (my opinion again) would be a realisation of a functional state it would be dependent upon a given machine table. If this machine table were written in such a way that was more deontological than utilitarian would your fears be allayed?

    As to responsibility.
    Iff the robot were correctly interpreting the machine table then the author(s) of the machine table would be responsible for the robots actions. Logical?
    Iff the robot could dynamically adjust its machine table according to ‘new’ inputs then the author of the machine table that governs the adjustments would be responsible. Logical?
    If, however, there were some virus that implanted a new machine table or damaged the original machine table then it would seem logical that the author of the virus would be responsible. Likewise in a sabotage attempt. Logical?

  4. 4 Simon May 4, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    As an aside, have you seen the new McDonalds advertisement on TV? The one where the person who is ‘desiring’ the burger is a homunculi-head. Totally irrelevant, I know, but still interesting that advertisers are now using such examples. I should have analysed this advertisement for my essay on Block’s homunculi-headed systems, what better counter example could there be!

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