European politicians want a set of rules and policies that govern how robots interact with humanity and whether they should have a kill switch.
The debate stems from a report that suggests that Europe needs to prepare for a new industrial revolution.
"From Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's Monster to the classical myth of Pygmalion, through the story of Prague's Golem to the robot of Karel Čapek, who coined the word, people have fantasised about the possibility of building intelligent machines, more often than not androids with human features," it states.
"Now that humankind stands on the threshold of an era when ever more sophisticated robots, bots, androids and other manifestations of artificial intelligence ("AI") seem poised to unleash a new industrial revolution, which is likely to leave no stratum of society untouched, it is vitally important for the legislature to consider all its implications."
There is a lot for the MEPs to consider in the report. It takes in the idea that robots might soon dominate humans in terms of brain power and that we might all have to start taking Asimov's rules on robotics to heart each and every day of our lives.
"[The EC] considers that a guiding ethical framework for the design, production and use of robots is needed to complement the legal recommendations of the report and the existing national andUnionacquis; proposes, in the annex to the resolution, a framework in the form of a charter consisting of a code of conduct for robotics engineers, of a code for research ethics committees when reviewing robotics protocols and of model licences for designers and users," it states.
It also states that manufacturers of robots should adhere to set of principles that ensure such machines cannot harm humans.
"You should integrate obvious opt-out mechanisms (kill switches) that should be consistent with reasonable design objectives," states one. "You should ensure that a robot operates in a way that is in accordance with local, national and international ethical and legal principle," says another.
Of course for now such debates are largely more theoretical but the speed at which robotics and other related technologies are progressing, such as artificial intelligence, could mean that interact with robots become common place sooner than may be expected.
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