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Robots and Artificial Intelligence

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For years, science fiction author Issac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics were regarded as sufficient for robotics enthusiasts. The laws, as first laid out in the short story “Runaround,” were simple: A robot may not injure a human being or allow one to come to harm; a robot must obey orders given by human beings; and a robot must protect its own existence. Each of the laws takes precedence over the ones following it, so that under Asimov’s rules, a robot cannot be ordered to kill a human, and it must obey orders even if that would result in its own destruction.

But as robots have become more sophisticated and more integrated into human lives, Asimov’s laws are just too simplistic, says Chien Hsun Chen, coauthor of a paper published in the International Journal of Social Robotics last month. The paper has sparked off a discussion among robot experts who say it is time for humans to get to work on these ethical dilemmas.

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