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Ethical Implications for the Use of Robots

Derived from the ethical tensions that uniquely result from the transition of robots into more human environments and the increasing interaction of humans with robotic systems, Riek and Howard (2014) proposed a code of ethics for the HRI profession (p. 6). The principles of this code of ethics (outlined in Box 10.4) provide an opportunity for rehabilitation professionals to reflect on the many ethical considerations of incorporating robots in their practice. In fact, Riek and Howard’s code is meant to broaden the scope of robot ethics beyond the research and product development arena and to involve practitioners. Thus, readers are encouraged to carefully review the proposed code and consider that the ethical tensions it reflects will expand as robot autonomy increases.

BOX 10.4 RIEK AND HOWARD’S CODE OF ETHICS FOR THE HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTION (HRI) PROFESSION

PRINCIPLES OF HRI PROFESSION CODE (AS PROPOSED BY RIEK AND HOWARD 2014)

Human Dignity Considerations

  • (a) The emotional needs of humans are always to be respected.
  • (b) The human’s right to privacy shall always be respected to the greatest extent consistent with reasonable design objectives.
  • (c) Human frailty is always to be respected, both physical and psychological.

Design Considerations

  • (d) Maximal, reasonable transparency in the programming of robotic systems is required.
  • (e) Predictability in robotic behavior is desirable.
  • (f) Trustworthy system design principles are required across all aspects of a robot’s operation, for both hardware and software design, and for any data processing on or off the platform.
  • (g) Real-time status indicators should be provided to users to the greatest extent consistent with reasonable design objectives.
  • (h) Obvious opt-out mechanisms (kill switches) are required to the greatest extent consistent with reasonable design objectives.
 
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