Posts Tagged ‘Frank Pasquale’

Four new laws of robotics

December 3, 2020

When “automation” first became a word back in the 1950s and 1960s, some of us had a hopeful vision of machines during all the dirty, backbreaking work, while human beings monitor and command the machines.

Nobody that I know of imagined places like customer service call centers or the Amazon warehouses or , where human beings are still doing high-stress and backbreaking work, and the supervision is done by machine intelligences.

Technology is not an autonomous force.  It is created to serve human purposes.  The question is which humans and which purposes.

I read an interesting interview with a writer named Frank Pasquale, author of a book called New Laws of Robotics.  He says the robots and artificial intelligences in our lives serve the interests of people with wealth and power.  It is time to take back control and make sure they serve us and not them.

He proposed new laws of robotics as follows.

  1.  Robotics should complement professionals, not replace them.  As a general rule, management should not use technology to eliminate jobs or to reduce the need for skilled labor.  The purpose of technology should to add value to labor.
  2. Robots and AI should not counterfeit humanity.  If robots send automated messages on social media, or evaluate your credit score or medical record, we have a right to know what they are and who owns them.
  3. Robots and AI should not contribute to zero-sum arms races.  It isn’t just robotic warfare.  It is the construction of an $800 million fiber optics able between Chicago and New York so that speculators in Chicago can get in orders to the New York Stock Exchange a few fractions of a second earlier and thereby gain a competitive advantage.  There is a lack of money for crucial infrastructure, but seemingly unlimited funds to gain small marketing or financial advantages.
  4. Any person or control group that puts a machine or AI into operation should be legally liable for the consequences of what it does.  AI algorithms can eliminate the human factor.  It is just pushed into the background.

Asking whether technology is good or bad is meaningless, because every society, including those we regard as primitive, has some technology.  The important question is always how a particular technology works, how controls it and whose interests it serves. 

Computer algorithms may be good or bad, just as laws can be good or bad, but both are products of human judgment.  Those judgments should be open to discussion and accountability.

LINKS

New Laws of Robotics with Frank Pasquale, an interview for Monthly Review Online.  The interview is long, but rich and thought-provoking.  I barely skimmed the surface of it in this post.  I ordered Pasquale’s book and plan to review it.

A Short Comment on a Big Danger by Jack Rasmus.