Boston Dynamics and other robotics companies signed a pledge Thursday not to produce robots that could harm people. Other companies included Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree.
Additionally, more robot manufacturers were encouraged to follow suit.
Warning against malicious use of robotics
“We are one of the world’s leading companies dedicated to bringing a new generation of advanced mobile robotics to society. “These next-generation robots are more accessible, easier to use, more autonomous, more affordable, and more adaptable than previous generations, and can navigate to places previously inaccessible with automated or remote-controlled technologies,” the robot’s makers wrote in the introduction to their publication. They added that their robots could provide great benefits to society as collaborators in industry and companions in people’s homes, but warned that malicious actors could maliciously exploit the technology.
“Like any new technology that offers new capabilities, advanced mobile robots offer the potential for abuse. They can be used by untrustworthy people to violate civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate. One area of particular concern is weaponry. “We believe that adding weapons to remote or autonomous robots that are widely available to the public and can navigate to previously inaccessible places where people live and work creates new risks of harm and serious ethical issues,” they explained.
They then went on to say that weaponized applications of these new robots undermine public trust for these reasons, and they do not support the weaponization of their advanced mobile general-purpose robots. They added that since there are many people who have made their ad hoc efforts to weaponize commercially available robots visible, they felt an urgent need to speak up now and commit to the safety of their robots.
“We promise not to weaponize our advanced mobile general-purpose robots or software being developed that enables advanced robotics, and we do not support others to do so. Whenever possible, we carefully monitor applications created by customers to avoid possible weaponization. We also promise to investigate the development of technological features that could mitigate or reduce these risks, “the companies added.
However, the companies have been clear that they are not opposed to existing technologies that countries and their government agencies use to protect themselves and enforce their laws. However, they have asked other organizations to help them in their mission to keep robots safe for humanity.
“We recognize that our commitment alone is not enough to fully address these risks, and we therefore call on politicians to work with us to promote the safe use of these robots and prevent their abuse. “We also call on all organizations, developers, and researchers… and users in the robotics community to provide similar pledges not to build, authorize, support, or permit the attachment of weapons to such robots,” the letter added.
The companies concluded their message by saying that the benefits of robots to humanity outweigh the risks of misuse, and that humans and robots could work side by side to solve some of the world’s challenges in the future.”
Read more about the pledge here