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The Dark Side of Ethical Robots

by   Dieter Vanderelst, et al.

Concerns over the risks associated with advances in Artificial Intelligence have prompted calls for greater efforts toward robust and beneficial AI, including machine ethics. Recently, roboticists have responded by initiating the development of so-called ethical robots. These robots would, ideally, evaluate the consequences of their actions and morally justify their choices. This emerging field promises to develop extensively over the next years. However, in this paper, we point out an inherent limitation of the emerging field of ethical robots. We show that building ethical robots also necessarily facilitates the construction of unethical robots. In three experiments, we show that it is remarkably easy to modify an ethical robot so that it behaves competitively, or even aggressively. The reason for this is that the specific AI, required to make an ethical robot, can always be exploited to make unethical robots. Hence, the development of ethical robots will not guarantee the responsible deployment of AI. While advocating for ethical robots, we conclude that preventing the misuse of robots is beyond the scope of engineering, and requires instead governance frameworks underpinned by legislation. Without this, the development of ethical robots will serve to increase the risks of robotic malpractice instead of diminishing it.


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