RO-MAN To Propose How to Roll Man

In a nondescript house somewhere near Hatfield, UK robots are being trained to sneak up on and "harm humans if necessary." Not really, but in an article in today's Guardian they profile both the house and the RO-MAN 06 conference on human robot interaction at the Univ. of Hertfordshire next week.

The house, though nondescript, is being used to refine robot behaviors so that their (temporary) human masters will be able to relax and let down their guard.
"People strongly dislike it when the robot moves behind them for example,"
says Prof Dautenhahn. "Most volunteers also felt uncomfortable when the robot
came at them directly from in front, possibly because it seems aggressive. A
more subservient, oblique approach seems the best option."
NOTE: robot house servants will attack via an oblique approach. This may give us the precious seconds needed to throw the kill switch.

The more disturbing facts in the article are those concerning the keynote speaker Prof. Shuji Hashimoto of Waseda University, Japan.
"A conference on human-robot interaction at the University of Hertfordshire next week may offer more cause for human anxiety as one Japanese expert will advocate a fundamental shift from Isaac Asimov's first law of robotics, which states that a robot should be programmed never to harm a human, either deliberately or by its inaction.

Shuji Hashimoto will propose what he calls a "new relationship between machine and human", where robots should be allowed to go through a kind of adolescence, and be given the ability to think and make decisions for themselves and even to harm humans if necessary. "The philosophy of Asimov is too human-centred," says Professor Hashimoto."
It appears as though there may be a robot war looming Japan. Companies who embrace the original 3 laws will build robot servants who at first will try to stop the machines that don't have the human-protection programming. This conflict may come sooner than later if Hashimoto's tough love bots are put in the same room with a 3-law bot. (Talk about inter-vendor software incompatibility! And you though the Mac vs. Windows wars were bad?!) Unfortunately I doubt the gentle 3-law machines will put up much of a fight.

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