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Scientists: Robots Could be Programmed to Kill You ‘For the Greater Good’
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Scientists: Robots Could be Programmed to Kill You ‘For the Greater Good’

As the United Nations debates legislation that could outlaw ‘killer robots’, scientists predict that artificially intelligent systems could one day decide to kill humans “for the greater good.”

In an article for Popular Science, Erik Sofge outlines a scenario whereby robot cars would decide to sacrifice their human owner in order to prevent a collision that could kill more people.
A front tire blows, and your autonomous SUV swerves. But rather than veering left, into the opposing lane of traffic, the robotic vehicle steers right. Brakes engage, the system tries to correct itself, but there’s too much momentum. Like a cornball stunt in a bad action movie, you are over the cliff, in free fall.

Your robot, the one you paid good money for, has chosen to kill you. Better that, its collision-response algorithms decided, than a high-speed, head-on collision with a smaller, non-robotic compact. There were two people in that car, to your one. The math couldn’t be simpler.

Sofge cites an opinion piece by Patrick Lin, an associate philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, in which Lin delves into the “legally and morally dangerous paths” presented by the emergence of robotic vehicles.

Aside from Google cars and other autonomous forms of transportation, the question of giving robot soldiers a license to kill has raged for years and is currently the subject of a highly anticipated debate in New York being overseen by the U.N.’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.


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