Patrick Lin, George Bekey, and Keith Abney are editing a new book, Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics, forthcoming from MIT Press. I’m writing a chapter on the potential impact of robots on privacy. Here’s an excerpt:
According to a popular quote by science fiction writer William Gibson, “The future is already here. It just hasn’t been evenly distributed yet.” Gibson’s insight certainly appears to describe robotics. One day soon robots will be a part of the mainstream, profoundly affecting our society. The preceding chapter has attempted to introduce a variety of ways in which robots may implicate the set of societal values loosely grouped under the term privacy. The first two categories of impact—surveillance and access—admit of relatively well-understood ethical, technological, and legal responses. The third category, however, tied to social meaning, presents an extremely difficult set of challenges. The “harms” at issue are hard to identify, measure, and resist. They are in many instances invited. And neither law nor technology has obvious tools to combat them. Our basic recourse as creators and consumers of social robots is to proceed carefully.