The Thick Scalpel of Robotics

In a front-page article in the New York Times today, Robert Worth and company describe a drone strike that took out not only intended targets, but also a key cleric who commanded strong community respect and was arguing forcefully with the targets of the strike. The story is telling because remote control is just that: remote. As our robots become more autonomous and our technology reaches further away from our physical presence, so they will do more for us. But of course their use will always outstrip the circumstances under which they perform flawlessly. Boundaries will be tested, and robots will take actions that are, objectively, mistaken. The robot future this paints is a world, not of laser focus, but of ever-increasing distant causality, with scalpels that are thicker than we want each step of the way.

 

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