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Discrimination and Fairness in the Design of Robots

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[Note: This is (roughly) the text of a talk I delivered at the bias-sensitization workshop at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Montreal, Canada on the 24th May 2019. The workshop was organised by Martim Brandão and Masoumeh (Iran) Mansouri. My thanks to both for inviting me to participate - more details here]I never quite know how to pitch talks of this kind. My tendency is to work with the assumption that everyone is pretty clever, but they may not know anything about what I am talking about. I do this from painful personal experience: I've sat through many talks at conferences like this where I get frustrated because the speaker assumes I know more than I do. I'm sorry if this comes across patronising to some of you; but I'm hoping it will make the talk more useful to more of you.So, anyway, I am going to talk about discrimination and robotics. More specifically, I am going to talk about the philosophical and legal aspects of discrimination and how they might have some bearing on the design of robots.Before I get started I want to explain how I approach this problem. I am neither a roboticist nor a computer scientist; I am a philosopher and ethicist. I believe that there are three perspectives from which one can approach the problem of discrimination and fairness in the design and operation of robots. These are illustrated in the diagram below.The diagram, as you can see, illustrates three kinds of relationships that humans can have with robots. The first, which we can call the 'design relationship', concerns the relationship that the original designers have with the robot they create. Discrimination becomes a worry here because it might leak into that design process and have some effect on how the robot looks and operates. The second relationship, which we can call the 'decision relationship', concerns the decisions the robot makes with respect to its human users. Discrimination becomes a worry here because the robot might. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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