Robot Law

Robot Law

Edited by Ryan Calo, A. Michael Froomkin and Ian Kerr

Robot Law brings together exemplary research on robotics law and policy – an area of scholarly inquiry responding to transformative technology. Expert scholars from law, engineering, computer science and philosophy provide original contributions on topics such as liability, warfare, domestic law enforcement, personhood, and other cutting-edge issues in robotics and artificial intelligence. Together the chapters form a field-defining look at an area of law that will only grow in importance.

Chapter 6: The Open Roboethics initiative and the elevator-riding robot

AJung Moon, Ergun Calisgan, Camilla Bassani, Fausto Ferreira, Fiorella Operto and Gianmarco Veruggio

Subjects: innovation and technology, technology and ict, law - academic, internet and technology law, law and society, legal philosophy, legal theory, public international law, terrorism and security law, politics and public policy, public policy, terrorism and security


The increased development and deployment of robotics has brought with it a growing expression of ethical, legal and societal implication (ELSI) concerns among designers and the public. There is a need to break down current boundaries in roboethics discussions and to broaden stakeholder dialogues on these issues. The “Open Roboethics initiative” (ORi) is an open-source, Internet-based resource to drive discussion of roboethics, policy, and design. The authors envision ORi to grow into a dynamic online platform where various stakeholders can connect and engage. This synergy between bottom-up roboethics discussions and open sharing of robot designs is proposed to accelerate policy and design changes in robotics. Bottom-up approaches are among the most inclusive and useful in addressing applied ethics issues as social norms evolve. They aim to understand the opinions and perceived values of the public or stakeholder groups, while being managed and supported by an “experts committee.” Open source models encourage developers to share designs or source code and to distribute their technical contribution to the worldwide community for free. Established open source initiatives are discussed, showing examples of success and providing lessons on the practical issues of an open, online community for advancing roboethics. To demonstrate how ORi works, the authors present a case study involving a humanoid robot, PR2, who needs to ride an elevator to fulfill a delivery task, putting the robot in conflict with existing elevator patrons. In this case, ORi uses an online discussion space to crowd-source the perceptions of participants about cultural norms, expectations, social conventions and ELSI issues. The modules uses Q-learning, a machine learning technique, to select an appropriate behavior based on each unique situation, given pilot online survey responses. This case study demonstrates how the ORi concept can be particularly effective and illustrates some challenges that may occur in its implementation. The authors believe ORi will serve as a catalyst for discussions within and across nations and organizations regarding robot technology design and policy changes.

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