Challenges and Problems

Powerful technologies bring problems as well as benefits, and advanced Robotics is expected to bring problems of several sorts:

  • Economic disruption
    Technological change continually disrupts employment patterns. Machines have already replaced people in a variety of jobs. This can only increase, as machines become more intelligent. When machines have the ability to think, reason, and interact more with their environment we will lose our advantages over them. They will be able to perform tasks faster and with more accuracy than any person could.

  • Deliberate abuse/terrorism
    Robots will have a dramatic effect on the ways wars are fought. If we no longer had to worry about human life the war would be far less costly.

  • Effect on society
    We live in a society that is becoming increasingly lazy. We sit around watch TV play on the Internet. Once robots become household objects this will only increase our ability to sit around and not do anything. We won't have to mow the yard, take out the trash, and paint the house or any of the other necessary tasks that have to be done. While nobody likes to do these think it forces us to remain active.

  • Lack of access
    Excessive or incorrect patenting of intelligent machines may reduce commercial competition and make Robotic products too expensive for many to benefit.

Tom Shanks, Ph.D., of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, identifies the following questions:
  • If in the future machines have the ability to reason, be self-aware and have feelings, then what makes a human being a human being, and a robot a robot?

  • Are there any kinds of robots that shouldn't be created? Or that you wouldn't want to see created? Why?

  • If you could have a robot that would do any task you like, a companion to do all the work that you'd prefer not to, would you? And if so, how do you think this might affect you as a person?

  • Automation and the development of new technologies like robotics is viewed by most people as inevitable. But many workers who lose their jobs consider this business practice unfair. Do you think the development of new technologies, and their implementation, is inevitable? What, if anything, should we as a society do for those people who lose their jobs?

Edited by Fiorella Operto

Draft 5th Jan '04