An Ethical Care Robot

Prof. Dr. Michael Anderson, one of the most famous machine ethicists in the world, attended the 23rd Berlin Colloquium. He summarized his presentation („An Ethical Care Robot“) in the brochure of the event with regard to the technology of care robots as follows: As with any technology, „its advantages need to be tempered with its possible disadvantages such as fewer employment opportunities and patient isolation“. „Further, given the intimate nature of this technology, it is of paramount importance that it behaves in an ethical manner towards its users. To insure ethical behavior from such technology, we maintain that its actions should be guided by a set of ethical values. As it is unrealistic to expect those with the expertise necessary to develop such technology will be equally competent in its ethical dimensions, we also maintain that this set of values be abstracted from a consensus of ethicists. To this end, we propose a case-supported, principle-based behavior paradigm where behavior of autonomous machines is directed by domain-specific ethical principles abstracted from the judgements of ethicists on simple, agreed upon cases. As ethics entails more than simply not taking improper action but choosing the best action in a given situation, we advocate that every action a care robot takes be determined by such ethical principles. As transparency will be important in such systems, ethical principles and the cases from which they have been derived have the added benefit of serving as support for why a particular action was chosen over another. To show the feasibility of the proposed paradigm, we have developed a principle in the domain of elder care and instantiated it in a SoftBank Robotics NAO robot situated in a simulated eldercare environment.“ Michael Anderson had been invited by Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel, who is himself a machine ethicist.

Fig.: Michael Anderson in Berlin (Photo: Daimler and Benz Foundation)