May 7, 2007 / 7:03 AM / 13 years ago

South Korea plans code of ethics for robots

Humanoid robot HRP-2 uses a tap after washing a cup during a demonstration at Tokyo University in this February 28, 2007 file photo. Tech-savvy South Korea, which predicts there will be a robot in every household in little more than a decade, is drawing up a code of ethics for the machines. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Tech-savvy South Korea, which predicts there will be a robot in every household in little more than a decade, is drawing up a code of ethics for the machines.

A 12-member task force including scientists, lawyers and doctors wants to have a set of rules by the end of the year to prevent android abuse and define proper relations between robots and humans, the commerce ministry said.

The panel’s work comes as South Korea is facing a future with a smaller and older population that will start to rely on robots for such tasks ranging from patrolling the heavily armed border with North Korea, cleaning houses and performing surgery.

“We expect the day will soon come when intellectual robots can act upon their own decisions. So we are presenting this as an ethical guideline on the role and ability of robots,” the ministry said in a statement.2

Officials said the code may borrow from the laws of robotics spelled out some 60 years ago by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, author of “I, Robot” which was turned into a Hollywood movie starring Will Smith.

Asimov’s three laws said robots must not injure humans or allow harm to come to them, obey orders given by humans unless those orders conflict with the first law and protect their own existence as long as that protection does not violate the other two laws.

South Korea spends about $80 million a year to develop robots and is trying to create models that will help take care of its rapidly ageing society.

Songang University robotics student Kim Jae-jin said after seeing so many science fiction movies where unruly robots rise up against humans, a code of conduct is essential.

“We have to show people that science is safe and work with robots is guided by ethics,” Kim said.

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