It is important to ensure that AI behaves in a safe and ethical manner by itself - without ‘regulations’ that only apply to few.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize many aspects of our lives, from transportation to healthcare to education. However, the development of AI also poses significant risks. ‘Freezing’ development so that regulation can catch up, as some have suggested, is unworkable unless we want Russia and China – who often choose not to follow international rules – to leap ahead of the rest of the world in this field.
As AI becomes more advanced and autonomous, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that it behaves in a safe and ethical manner by itself, without ‘regulations’ that only apply to few. One way to ensure this is to apply the equivalent of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics to keep AI under control.
Three Laws to keep humans safe from their own creation
Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics were first introduced in his science fiction stories in the 1940s. These laws state the following three principles, which in his stories were ‘coded’ into robots to ensure they did not harm humanity:
- 1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
- 2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders conflict with the First Law
- 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law
You can see that these laws were designed to ensure that robots, which in Asimov’s stories were highly advanced and autonomous, behaved in a safe and ethical manner. They recognized the potential dangers of advanced technology and the need to control it, from within, in order to prevent harm.
Science follows science fiction… again
While the Three Laws of Robotics were fictional, they have become an important reference point for discussions around the ethics of AI. As AI becomes increasingly sophisticated and autonomous, there is a growing recognition that we need to apply similar principles to ensure that it behaves in a safe and ethical manner.
The application of the equivalent of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics to AI is sometimes referred to as “machine ethics.” Machine ethics is concerned with the development of autonomous systems that behave in an ethical manner. This includes ensuring that AI systems do not cause harm to humans or other living beings, that they obey ethical principles, and that they are transparent and accountable.
The need for machine ethics is becoming increasingly urgent. As AI becomes more advanced and widespread, it is increasingly being used in areas such as healthcare, transportation, and finance, where the consequences of malfunction or misbehavior could be catastrophic.
For example, imagine an AI system that is responsible for managing a hospital’s patient records. If the system is not properly designed and tested, it could result in patients receiving the wrong medication or treatment, with potentially fatal consequences. Similarly, if an autonomous vehicle is not programmed to prioritize the safety of human passengers and other road users, it could cause accidents that result in injury or death. Furthermore, the laws can also apply to help bad actors use AI to harm others or create social conflict – Law number two could prevent someone like Putin from using AI to influence the US election, again, in favor of the candidate of his choice.
Adding our planet while we’re at it
In addition to protecting human beings, there is a growing recognition of the importance of protecting the environment from the potentially harmful impacts of AI. As such, there have been calls to expand the Three Laws of Robotics to include environmental protection.
Expanding the Three Laws of Robotics to protect the environment would involve adding an additional law that requires AI to protect the natural world and the ecosystem. This would involve ensuring that AI systems do not contribute to environmental degradation, that they promote sustainability, and that they respect the rights of non-human beings. For example, an AI system that is responsible for managing a factory’s production line could be programmed to minimize waste and energy consumption, thereby reducing the factory’s carbon footprint. Similarly, an AI system that is responsible for managing a city’s transportation system could be programmed to prioritize the use of public transportation, reducing the number of cars on the road and thereby reducing air pollution.
The application of some directives like the Three Laws of Robotics to protect the environment would also involve ensuring that AI systems do not contribute to the destruction of ecosystems or the extinction of species – including us. For example, an AI system that is responsible for managing a forest could be programmed to prioritize the protection of endangered species and their habitats. Furthermore, expanding the Three Laws of Robotics could also help to promote sustainability and responsible use of resources. By ensuring that AI systems promote sustainable practices, we can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change and ensure that resources are used in a responsible and equitable manner.
To prevent nightmare scenarios from occurring, it is essential that we apply the equivalent of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics to AI in a smart, bullet-proof manner. This means designing AI systems with ethical principles in mind, testing them rigorously to ensure that they behave in a safe and ethical manner, and ensuring that they are transparent and accountable. This is no easy task as AI is like the Internet – no single entity ‘controls’ it. The mechanics of having all AI follow a set of principles to protect us from harm need to be the result of creative engineering, not of regulation.
The development of AI has the potential to revolutionize many aspects of our lives. However, it also poses significant risks if it is not properly controlled. To ensure that AI behaves in a safe and ethical manner, it is essential that we apply the equivalent of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. By doing so, we can ensure that AI systems behave in a safe and ethical manner, and that they promote sustainability and the protection of the natural world. Only then could we harness the power of AI while minimizing the risks it poses, and ensure we’re moving forward with confidence in this new frontier of human ingenuity.
Note from the author
As you know, AI left the science fiction realm a few months ago. This article was generated by ChatGPT, and then edited by me, using the following prompts:
First prompt: “Write a 2 page article on why we need to apply the equivalent of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics to keep artificial intelligence under control.”
Second prompt: “Add a section on expanding the three laws of robotics to protect the environment.”