UK watchdog issues laws for Robots

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsThe UK’s national standards body charged with creating the technical standards and certification for various products and services, has just produced its first set of official ethics guidelines relating to robots.

British Standards Institution felt there was really a need for a set of guidelines, setting out the ethical principles surrounding how robots are used.

Dan Palmer, head of market development at BSI, said that the BS 8611 guidelines start by echoing Asimov’s Three Laws that Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans.

It adds: “It should be possible to find out who is responsible for any robot and its behavior. There’s even discussion about whether it’s desirable for a robot to form an emotional bond with its users, an awareness of the possibility robots could be racist and/or sexist in their conduct, and other contentious gray areas.”

The standards notes that ethical hazards are broader than physical hazards. Most physical hazards are associated with psychological ones due to associated fear and stress. Thus, physical hazards imply ethical hazards and safety design features are part of ethical design. Safety elements are covered by safety standards however; this British Standard is concerned with the ethical elements.