Machines with meaning: the ethics of robots

When a chess-playing robot broke a seven-year-old’s finger at the Moscow chess open recently, the story tapped into deep seated cultural ideas and fears about robots. 

Robots, like other technologies, pose a range of ethical and human rights issues.

Safety – as highlighted by the chess incident – is paramount. But issues like privacy, discrimination, and transparency are also important. There is also the broader effect on society and human relationships when robots take over tasks.

Professor Robert Sparrow is an expert in philosophy and applied ethics at Monash University, including the ethics of new technologies like robots. We chat to Robert about robot ethics, and ask him whether Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics hold any relevance today.

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