Articles  |    |  May 8, 2018

An architecture for ethical robots inspired by the simulation theory of cognition

Article by Dieter Vanderelst and Alan Winfield. 
Published in Cognitive Systems Research. 


The expanding ability of robots to take unsupervised decisions renders it imperative that mechanisms are in place to guarantee the safety of their behaviour. Moreover, intelligent autonomous robots should be more than safe; arguably they should also be explicitly ethical. In this paper, we put forward a method for implementing ethical behaviour in robots inspired by the simulation theory of cognition. In contrast to existing frameworks for robot ethics, our approach does not rely on the verification of logic statements. Rather, it utilises internal simulations which allow the robot to simulate actions and predict their consequences. Therefore, our method is a form of robotic imagery. To demonstrate the proposed architecture, we implement a version of this architecture on a humanoid NAO robot so that it behaves according to Asimov’s laws of robotics. In a series of four experiments, using a second NAO robot as a proxy for the human, we demonstrate that the Ethical Layer enables the robot to prevent the human from coming to harm in simple test scenarios.

Cognitive Systems Research. Volume 48, May 2018, Pages 56-66