Robot ethics book released by MIT Press

I am pleased to announce that our edited volume Robot Ethics: The Social and Ethical Implications of Robotics has now been released by MIT Press.

The preface and table of contents are below (incl. link to Ryan Calo's chapter on privacy):


“Nothing is stranger to man but his own image.”
– Karel Čapek in Rossum’s Universal Robots (1921)

If not yet the world, robots are starting to dominate news headlines. They have long been working on our factory floors, building products such as automobiles, but the latest research from academic labs and industry is capturing our imagination like never before. Now, robots are able to deceive, to perform surgeries, to identify and shoot trespassers, to serve as astronauts, to babysit our kids, to shapeshift, to eat biomass as its fuel (but not human bodies, the manufacturer insists), and much more.

As a case of life imitating art, science fiction had already predicted some of these applications, and robots have been both glorified and vilified in popular culture—so much so that we are immediately sensitive, perhaps hypersensitive, to the possible challenges they may create for ethics and society. The literature in robot ethics can be traced back for decades, but only in recent years, with the real possibility of creating these more imaginative and problematic robots, has there been a growing chorus of international concern about the impact of robotics on ethics and society.

For the serious reader interested in this dialogue, it takes some work to pull together the various strands of discussions from books and scholarly journals to media articles and websites. Thus, we have designed this edited volume to fill that gap in the information marketplace: to be an accessible and authoritative source of expert opinions on a wide range of issues in robot ethics, all in one location. While there is some technical material in this edited collection of papers, it does not presuppose much familiarity with either robotics or ethics, and therefore it is appropriate for both the university classroom as well as for policymakers, industry, and the broader public.

The first section of this volume provides a broad survey of the issues in robot ethics, along with a chapter that discuss the latest trends in robotics and one that gives an overview of ethical theories and issues as relevant to robotics. Then, as guideposts for the reader, the remaining parts or sections start with a short introduction that summarizes the papers in those sections, organized so that there is continuity of flow from one paper and section to the next:

In section or part 2, we look at issues related to the possibility of programming ethics into a robot, as an intuitive approach to controlling its behavior. As perhaps the most prominent and morally problematic use of robots today, our discussion naturally leads to the issue of designing a responsible or discriminating robot for war, which is the focus of section 3. But ethical use of military robots can also be promoted through governance or policy, which leads to papers in section 4 about law, including legal liability and privacy concerns. Some privacy issues arise given the physical access robots may have to our homes and lives, as well as the emotional access they have from their resemblance as humans. Section 5, then, starts with an investigation of risks related to such emotional bonds, followed by papers on more intimate relationships: robots as lovers. Not quite as personal, section 6 examines ethical issues related to robots as caregivers, such as for medical purposes, and as our servants. In section 7, we telescope back out to broad and more distant (but nonetheless plausible) concerns about the possibility that we should give rights or moral consideration to robots. Finally, our epilogue ends the volume with some concluding and unifying thoughts on the issues discussed.

Though the papers and sections follow a sensible train of discussion, they do not need to be read in order. We invite you to start with whatever paper interests you the most and jump around to others as desired. The crucial point here is to be engaged in this important, but underdeveloped, global discussion at all. As robots advance into our homes, workplace, schools, hospitals, battlefields, and society at large, it would serve us well to be informed of the ethical and social issues and prepared for a more mechanized world.






  1 Introduction to Robot Ethics
  Patrick Lin

  2 Current Trends in Robotics: Technology and Ethics
  George Bekey

  3 Robotics, Ethical Theory, and Metaethics:
  A Guide for the Perplexed
  Keith Abney


  4 Moral Machines: Contradiction in Terms, or
  Abdication of Human Responsibility?
  Colin Allen and Wendell Wallach

  5 Compassionate AI and Selfless Robots: A Buddhist Approach
  James Hughes

  6 The Divine-Command Approach to Robot Ethics
  Selmer Bringsjord and Joshua Taylor


  7 Killing Made Easy: From Joysticks to Politics
  Noel Sharkey

  8 Robotic Warfare: Some Challenges in Moving from
  Non-Civilian to Civilian Theaters
  Marcello Guarini and Paul Bello

  9 Responsibility for Military Robots
  Gert-Jan Lokhorst and Jeroen van den Hoven


  10 Contemporary Governance Architecture Regarding
  Robotics Technologies: An Assessment
  Richard O'Meara

  11 A Body to Kick, But Still No Soul to Damn:
  Legal Perspectives on Robotics
  Peter Asaro

  12 Robots and Privacy
  M. Ryan Calo


  13 The Inherent Dangers of Unidirectional Emotional
  Bonds between Humans and Social Robots
  Matthias Scheutz

  14 The Ethics of Robot Prostitutes
  David Levy

  15 Do You Want a Robot Lover?: The Ethics of Caring Technologies
  Blay Whitby


  16 Robot Caregivers: Ethical Issues Across the Human Lifespan
  Jason Borenstein and Yvette Pearson

  17 The Rights and Wrongs of Robot Care
  Noel Sharkey and Amanda Sharkey

  18 Designing People to Serve
  Steve Petersen


  19 Can Machines Be People? Reflections on the Turing Triage Test
  Rob Sparrow

  20 Robots with Biological Brains
  Kevin Warwick

  21 Moral Machines and the Threat of Ethical Nihilism
  Anthony Beavers


  22 Roboethics: the Applied Ethics for a New Science
  Gianmarco Veruggio and Keith Abney

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