Robots and the Non Aggression Principle

Robots and the Non Agression Principle
It seems that any science fiction involving sufficiently advanced robots usually includes some element of struggle between them and their human creators.  Is this just a useful plot device, or is their really an inherent danger in creating powerful, rugged, autonomous beings?  Perhaps the behavioral framework within which we have been considering robots is flawed.  Maybe the solution would be treating robots the same way we treat humans (or at least the way we ought to).  Consider the most well-known rules for programming well behaved robots. 

Isaac Asimov defined the Three Laws of Robotics as follows:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Those seem like pretty good laws, right?  They're pretty airtight.  But, what if we tried something a little bit different?  What if we paused for a moment and decided to program our robots to obey the Non-aggression Principle, the axiom that one shall not initiate the use of force against other persons or their property.  This is a fundamentally different way of treating robots that transcends Asimov's master/slave-relationship-based rules.

I think this is great fodder for any budding libertarian-sympathizing science fiction writers out there.  What would be different? What are the potential pitfalls, and what are the potential benefits of programing robots to be actually autonomous?  Not just autonomous slaves, but nonviolent, nonsubservient, synthetic beings.  Why can't the rules that govern human action also govern the action of artificially intelligent beings? 

Things That Annoy Me - Another Update

I really am going to be a grumpy old man, as evidence by my new label "Things That Annoy Me" required to organize the series of posts devoted to things that annoy me.  Tack on yet another thing that simply drives me insane: 

People who use the term "delta" to mean either "change" or "differential" in spoken language.  

If you are and engineer, or if you work with them, you have probably experienced this.  First of all, the mark of a mature, intelligent person is the ability to communicate at least moderately technical information to the lay person in common language.  Second, unless your audience is made up of engineers, they are not going to understand your meaning.  This is not because it is complex, but because you are simple.  Finally, unless they are as pretentious as you are, they think you sound stupid. 


Beyond Tuition - A New Model for Education

I have a crazy idea - one that I think is just crazy enough to work.  I propose a model for providing education, for a profit, without requiring students to pay tuition.  The model also provides strong incentives for the institution to give career-relevant lessons and to ensure that each student achieves financial success after graduation.  I'm sure I'm not the first person to suggest this, though I have done zero research on the subject. 

The model is simple.  Students are enrolled in the institution based on whatever criteria the school finds appropriate, but the student is never required to pay tuition (room and board, books, etc. are TBD).  The students agree by contract upon enrollment to pay the institution a percentage of their earnings following graduation for an agreed-upon period.  It could be 10 years, or 20 or until retirement.  I'm not sure how the numbers would work out, but it would likely correlate to the reputation of the institution for turning out successful professionals. 

If the school is not successful in fostering a good career for the student, the student owes them little, or nothing.  If there is a widespread failure to provide relevant education (hard to imagine...), the taxpayers are not on the hook to back bad loans paid to students with little chance of making a go of it with their degree in Art History.  The institutions responsible would be...well...responsible. 

First, Assume a Ladder

I was reminded of a joke I haven't heard in a long time but that everyone should keep in mind when listening to economists prattle on about their theories.  I have heard of few variants, but the one from this health care blog was the first to show up in Google and will do just fine:

[Have you heard ]the story of the engineer and the economist who, walking through a remote forest, fell into a very deep hole with vertical sides[?]  The engineer said, "We'll die down here.  No one can hear us calling for help, and it is impossible to climb out."

 The economist said, "On the contrary, there is no problem.  First, assume a ladder."





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