Is it OK to kick a robot?

Answer: or is it morally wrong?

by News Staff / October 12, 2015

The emergence of artificially intelligent beings, and even robots programmed to experience what some say are similar to human emotions, brings a new array of moral questions to bear. In Japan a few weeks ago, a drunk man kicked a humanoid robot that greeted him at the door — and "Pepper robot" now moves more slowly.

The man can be charged with property damage, but not injury. Though Dr. Yueh-Hsuan Weng, cofounder of the ROBOLAW.ASIA Initiative at Peking University in China, believes a charge in between might be more suitable.

"The incident has been received with immense scrutiny from the public, as it is regarding a human-like sociable machine that was inappropriately treated," Weng wrote. "If the object had been an ATM or vehicle, the moral impact would be much less, as an evolved set of ethical principles for sophisticated and intelligent machinery like Pepper has yet to be developed."

Though today's primitive robots elicit little empathy from the public for the damage they sustain from drunken patrons, more advanced systems in the future will surely raise more difficult questions about morality and man's role on Earth.

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