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XXI century is the age of modern technologies and scientific progress, every field of science, especially robotics, has developed a lot during last years, Remarkable illustrations for that are chess- playing robot AlphaZero and social humanoid robot Sophia. Because of great improvement in robotics these machines can perform different kinds of tasks and as a result they are used for more and more purposes. But in some cases it can raise various problems, many scientists have expressed their ideas about these issues and Noel Sharkey, professor of computer science at the University of Sheffield was no exception. In his article The Ethical Frontiers of Robotics Sharkey discusses two main categories of robots, first that is made for caregiving to children and elder people and second that can be used in the military. According to Sharkey growing demands on service robots has caused important developments and gave these machines opportunity to become more mobile and sociable, as a result they can substitute humans in many kind of works, however article says that using robots for caregiving or military purposes is against humanity.
Personally I consider Sharkey’s ideas as a very important ones and I think that they should be taken into consideration before making significant decisions in the field of robotics. Artificial intelligence make it possible for the robots to develop some aspects of human features, such as language interaction or expressing of emotions. It allowed them to replace humans in the process of caregiving to children. If we discuss only short-term exposure, then they have some advantages over humans, because they can engage children with video or verbal quiz games that are very enjoyable, in most cases babies prefer them even to a traditional teddy bear. But we don’t know what can cause long-term exposure, maybe social isolation can result serious psychological issues, unfortunately we are not possible to provide experiments on children in order to find and study all the consequences, but studies of early development in monkeys support the idea that lack of social relationships can be the reason of psychological dysfunctions.
My personal experience shows me that it is very significant for children to grow in stable social environment, otherwise it can have incorrigible outcomes. I have seen many examples of what can cause shortage of communication in infant, so I fully agree with Sharkey’s idea that robots are not possible to give appropriate care to children. Sharkey sharpens attention on sophisticated elder-care robots. These kind of robots can help old people in performing many tasks, for instance they can feed them, wash and rinse clothes, deliver messages or even remind to take medicine. These robots can assist elderly to maintain independence in their own homes. At a glance these machines have many advantages compared to human caregivers. However old people are also needing in social communication that can’t be provided by robots. Only normal caregivers can ensure proper social relations, that are essential for elderly. Also article describes robots that are marketed as pets with ability to imitate some features of pets.
But neither these toys nor robot caregivers can lighten loneliness and social isolation for old people. They are needing in much more attention and support than this kind of machines can provide, so I think that their use as a full-time caregivers isn’t morally and ethically right. Also article responds to a very topical issue, using robots on battlefields. Military forces in middle-east have deployed several thousands of mobile robots, most of them are used to disposal bombs, but some of them can be used in combat too. These kind of machines are semiautonomous, it means that all these weapons have a human in the loop to decide whenever open the fire, but even in such situations these kind of robots have resulted the death of many innocents. Bigger issue arises when it comes to fully autonomous military machines. This problem occurs because there is no computational system that can differentiate combatants and innocent people, it is impossible to create this kind of system because there isn’t clear definition of combatant or noncombatant.
I share Sharkey’s thoughts about this problem, in my opinion it is ethically wrong to produce such weapons, because there isn’t algorithm that can make proper decisions in incredible number of situations, even the best scientists of this field aren’t capable of composing the system that can make rational decisions in such complicated circumstances. In my judgment producing of fully autonomous weapons is inhumane action, because it can have awful consequences. At last I’d like to say that even though robots have some advantages their use in such delicate areas as caregiving or military is immoral and unethical. I fully share Sharkey’s ideas about this issue and think that there are too many potential dangers and it is important to set policy guidelines in order to use robots in much safer and morally straightened way.
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