Why it is not possible to regulate robots | Technology | The Guardian

Cory Doctor is one of my favorite fiction authors (read Little Brother, or Homeland or Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom) and also one of my favorite non-fiction writers as well. He has written an article today about the challenges of regulating robots now and in the future.

I don’t know how I feel about the future of artificial intelligence, or if robots will someday take over the world, enslaving humanity. I don’t really think about it, to be honest. It doesn’t scare me because it’s hard enough to envision us humans not causing our own demise first, I guess. But who knows, right? At least we know we have smart people like Cory Doctorow out there thinking of these things from all angles.

The distinction here is between a robot that is designed to do what its owner wants – including asking “are you sure?” when its owner asks it to do something potentially stupid – and a robot that is designed to thwart its owner’s wishes. The former is hard, important work and the latter is a fool’s errand and dangerous to boot.

A fool’s errand

It’s a fool’s errand for the same reason that using technology mandates to stop people from saving a Netflix stream or playing unapproved Xbox games is a fool’s errand. We really only know how to make one kind of computer: the “general purpose computer” that can execute every instruction that can be expressed in symbolic logic. Put more simply: we only know how to make a computer that can run every programme. We don’t know how to make a computer that can run all the programs except for a subset that, for whatever reason, good or bad, we don’t want people to run.

This is not a contentious statement among computer scientists – it’s about as controversial as saying “we can’t make a wheel that only turns for socially beneficial purposes” or “there’s no way to make a lever than can only be used to shift masses in accord with the law of the land.”

via Why it is not possible to regulate robots | Technology | The Guardian.

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