Robotics have rules, laws may be the next step...

Do you remember Asimov’s law about robot ? You know, this thing about « A robot may not injure a human being, a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings »… Ok, this is the basic. And of course, we clearly think that we have to go further and expect more from robots that do perform what they’re asked for. Conquer new technology spaces means much more to humans than to create plastic and friendly slaves.

That’s why robots are getting smarter and more present in daily life. But in the meantime, this obviously rises questions and issues about ethics and responsibilities. We have been in the robotics business for several years and always defended the idea that we can improve relationship between humans using new technologies. In this way of thinking, it’s not that weird to imagine voting laws on robotics. Civilisations have written laws to bring peace and justice in societies. Freedom for everyone depends on limits you have to draw. There is no specific law yet. And legislation for robots is mostly the same that the one we have for smartphones, robot vacuum cleaner or blender. The robots we use and roll out at Zora Bots Company are no toys, which would mean a lot of controls, but they’re really safe. That’s why there’s no specific law for them. But no legislation doesn’t mean we have no rules. Zora Bots company is guided by a « we care » vision.

How can we ensure accidents won’t happen ? Today, robots can only do what they are programed to do. We are cautious : our robots are equipped with sensors and cameras that makes it clearly impossible to cause a physical accident. What about tomorrow with a real AI in the hardware ? Trust has to be the first step. That’s what happened with internet. In a very short time, professionals built built up codes of conducts to self-regulate. It could go the same way for robotics. EU may call for a legislation about robotics ? Mady Delvaux, member of the European Parliament, made a report in that way. In the draft we get, we read that the aim of the committee on legal affairs could be shaping the technological revolution so that it serves humanity. As we said, we follow the exact same purpose. In that sense, we can support a regulation that would go in that way. We want to make every day’s life for everyone better using robots dedicated to assist and entertain people. We don’t want robots to be more human. We want robots that humans can rely on. This is our ethical vision and it clearly matches with Commission concerns. As long as we ensure that personal data’s are protected, it’s all fine. This is the first concern of our clients. Users can decide at the very beginning what the robot will be allowed to do. A robot won’t take a picture of you under your shower and share it on Facebook. Unless you’re asking him to do it. That means, this is a human decision, that means human responsibility. And Facebook won’t publish it anyway because of its own code of conduct which says « no nudity on Facebook » . Robots will do what humans told them to do. And nothing else. That’s the keypoint. Autonomy is always a programmed autonomy.

A European agency for robotics could be a an idea to be investigated further. One of the directions is to create a registration of the advanced robots. Why not ? But, the thing is that European Parliament has to define first what they want to do with this kind of authority. Cause we have to remind here that some of the robots we’re talking about could be personal and used in private life. This points out questions about privacy. The internet is based on human responsibility and human freedom too. That’s why social networks have defined a code of conduct. So, these are really good questions to dig in. This agency should not be there only to regulate and monitore robotics activity. It should also support robotics companies in their projects and researches. Speaking of that, we are currently working on a robot academy project. It will be a place where everyone, students, entrepreneurs or engineers, could learn basics of robotics, find engineering and technical support or even promote their projects. If private companies can build academies, politics support and legislation can keep up the dynamic. The key point is we have to keep in mind is that robotics have rules, because of the human responsibility which is behind the machine.

Zora and Pepper are applications based on the NAO and Pepper products of Softbank Robotics.