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ETHICS OF AI - Human-Robot Interaction

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) is its own academic field. As a company specializing in Artificial Intelligence (AI), we would like to clarify that not all robots utilize AI systems, and not all AI systems are robots.

Though, the interaction of humans and robots is becoming more commonplace and will continue to do so, and we therefore believe it’s important to address the ethics of HRI. Robot ethics examines how robots may be used to benefit or harm humans, how they might affect individual autonomy, as well as their potential impact on social justice.

Much of robot ethics centers around the technological aspect of robots, what’s in the ‘mind’ of the robot. Though some have contended that the focus should shift outside of the physical robot and concentrate on what robots do to humans.

The human interaction and perception of robots is inherently different to that of other technology. This is partly due to the human-like traits of robots which then creates a strong social or emotional relationship in human-robot interactions. This has been proven in many human-robot studies, and can be seen when people speak to some robots as though they have feelings or emotions, which we know to be untrue.

Knowing that humans can be easily manipulated by, form attachments to and anthropomorphize robots must be at the forefront of HRI ethics studies.

Laurel D. Riek and Don Howard in their paper, “A Code of Ethics for the Human-Robot Interaction Profession”, have clearly laid out their suggested guide to be considered while building and developing robots that will interact with humans.

Here are some highlights:

"Human Dignity Considerations

  • The emotional needs of humans are always to be respected.

  • The human’s right to privacy shall always be respected to the greatest extent consistent with reasonable design objectives.

Design Considerations

  • Maximal, reasonable transparency in the programming of robotic systems is required.

  • Predictability in robotic behavior is desirable.

  • Obvious opt-out mechanisms (kill switches) are required to the greatest extent consistent with reasonable design objectives.

Legal Considerations

  • All relevant laws and regulations concerning individuals’ rights and protections (e.g., FDA, HIPPA, and FTC) are to be respected.

  • A robot’s decision paths must be re-constructible for the purposes of litigation and dispute resolution.

Social Considerations

  • The tendency for humans to form attachments to and anthropomorphize robots should be carefully considered during design.

  • Avoid racist, sexist, and ableist morphologies and behaviors in robot design."

If you’d like to further discuss HRI and AI Ethics, please feel free to reach out to us at or use our contact form.


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