Could robots harm humans?

The science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote about controlling intelligent machines with the three laws of robotics:

  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
  • A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law

As so often is the case, science fiction has become science fact. A report published by the Royal Society and the British Academy suggests that there should not be three but just one overarching principle to govern the intelligent machines that we will soon be living alongside: “Humans should flourish.”

According to Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, who co-chairs the Royal Society’s science policy advisory group, human flourishing should be the key to how intelligent systems governed…

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