EU Debates Kill Switches For Robots

The European Parliament's legal affairs committee has received a draft report that recommends that robots be equipped with a "kill switch" in case self-learning autonomous robotics has a down side.

The broad-ranging report, recently approved by the legal affairs committee, contains a variety of proposals designed to address possible legal and ethical issues that could arise through the development of autonomous artificial intelligences. These include the establishment of a European Agency for robotics and AI, plus a call for discussing the implementation of a universal basic income as a strategy to address the possible mass unemployment that could result from robotics replacing large portions of the workforce.

Issues of identifying legal liability in regards to the potential harmful actions of robots are prominently discussed in the report. As robots develop cognitive abilities that give them the ability to learn from experience and make independent decisions, the question of legal responsibility becomes an urgent one to address. The report asks how a robot could be held responsible for its actions, and at what point that responsibility falls on either the manufacturer, owner or user.

In the 1982 movie Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, Khan Noonien Singh took over a small space cruiser, the USS Reliant. He then sidled up close to the USS Enterprise, put up the Reliant's shields, attacked and disabled the Enterprise, and demanded that Kirk, Spock, et al, surrender. Fortunately, Spock was able to send a special code to the Reliant's computer, which provided them with a kind of backdoor to shut down the Reliant's shields, thereby saving the day.

A kill switch. Keith Laumer thought of something similar for cars - see the police control-override from A Plague of Demons (1965).

Consider this solution, proposed by Philip K. Dick in his 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?:

"In my purse," she said, " I have a mechanism which our autofac on Mars builds as an... emergency safety... while they're putting a newly made andy through its routine inspection checks. Get it out. It resembles an oyster....

"Is this it?" He held up a metallic sphere with a button-stem projecting.

"That cancels an android into catalepsy," Rachel said, eyes shut. "For a few seconds.
(Read more about the android safety mechanism)

Be sure to take a look at Google Working On A 'Cutoff Switch' For AI for more science-fictional ideas for "kill switches".

Via New Atlas.

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EU Debates Kill Switches For Robots
'I have a mechanism which our autofac on Mars builds as an... emergency safety...' - Philip K. Dick, 1968.

 

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