Articles  |    |  December 12, 2014

The Rights and Wrongs of Robotics: Ethics and robots in public organizations

Article by Kenneth Kernaghan. 
Published in Canadian Public Administration


Some electronics experts believe that robots, like present-day computers, will be commonplace. A diverse assortment of robots, with varying purposes, capacities, forms, and sizes, is emerging with significant implications for the policy, service and regulatory responsibilities of government. This paper explores three public policy fields – aging, health care and defence – where the use of robotics is already substantial or where it is projected to grow substantially and where significant ethical issues exist or are anticipated. Applying ethical theories to the use of robotics is difficult. In the near-term, the focus should be on the ethical standards and behaviour of those designing, manufacturing, programming and operating robots. Several key topics in contemporary public sector ethics, including personal moral responsibility, privacy and accountability, are central to the emerging field of robot ethics. This suggests developing an ethics regime for robotics and examining the need for laws and regulations governing its use.

About the Author

Kenneth Kernaghan is professor emeritus of political science and management at Brock University, Ontario.