Working Wisdom: quote about innovation and technology

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”

Isaac Asimov (born in Russia on 2 January 1920, died in New York City on 6 April 1992) was an American professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was a prolific writer who is credited with writing or editing over 500 books as well as thousands of letters and postcards. During his lifetime he was considered one of the ‘big three’ science-fiction writers alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke.

This quote comes from his 1942 short story titled Runaround, in which he introduces ‘The Three Laws of Robotics’ (also known as ‘The Three Laws’ or ‘Asimov’s Laws’), and the laws form a common thread running through his subsequent robot-based fiction. Much of his work was then spent testing the boundaries of his three laws to see where they would break down, or where they would create paradoxical or unanticipated behaviour. His findings suggest that no set of fixed laws can sufficiently anticipate all possible circumstances.

As robotization continues to advance, including in the logistics and supply chain sector, there is an increasing focus on the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) and what this means for businesses from both a roboethics and a machine ethics perspective. The likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are currently involved in a non-profit partnership to formulate best practices on AI technologies including machine perception, learning and automated reasoning, for example.

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