, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 939–943 | Cite as

Should I kill or rather not?

  • Luis Moniz PereiraEmail author
Curmudgeon Corner

Robots are already among us: They build our cars and vacuum our apartments. Why do these machines need a sense of right and wrong?

Their tasks will change: they will work a lot closer with humans, and they will have more autonomy, for example as caretakers for the elderly. Imagine a robot in a nursing home. It is helping elderly people with eating and grooming, and it is handing out medicine. One morning a resident asks the robot for painkillers, because he has a terrible headache. The robot is allowed to hand out pills only with the approval of a doctor. But none of the doctors are available. Will the robot let the resident suffer, or will it make an exception? Its decision depends on the way we program it.

The thought that a robot will take such decisions for us is a little eerie.

I think the problem is not that machines will take over. I think it is that we are giving too much power to simplistic machines: Machines that take decisions based on statistics. They can neither consider...


Curmudgeon Corner

Curmudgeon Corner is a short opinionated column on trends in technology, arts, science and society, commenting on issues of concern to the research community and wider society. Whilst the drive for super-human intelligence promotes potential benefits to wider society, it also raises deep concerns of existential risk, thereby highlighting the need for an ongoing conversation between technology and society. At the core of Curmudgeon concern is the question: What is it to be human in the age of the AI machine? -Editor.


Thanks are rightly due to the three interviewers mentioned in footnote 1: Nora Saager, Pedro Lucas and Virgílio Azevedo. This work was supported by FCT-Portugal/MEC through grant NOVA-LINCS UID/CEC/04516/2013.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor Emeritus of Departamento de InformáticaUniversidade Nova de LisboaCaparicaPortugal
  2. 2.NOVA-LINCS research centre, Departamento de InformáticaUniversidade Nova de LisboaCaparicaPortugal

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