Responsible Domestic Robotics: Exploring Ethical Implications of Robots in the Home

ETHICOMP 2018, September, Gdansk, Poland

26 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2018

See all articles by Lachlan Urquhart

Lachlan Urquhart

University of Edinburgh - School of Law; Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute

Dominic Reedman-Flint

University of Nottingham - Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute

Natalie Leesakul

University of Nottingham - Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute

Date Written: May 25, 2018

Abstract

The vision of robotics in the home is driven by increased convenience, comfort, companionship, and greater security for users. However, if robots are not being developed in a responsible manner, then the robot industry risks causing harm to users, being rejected by users, or being regulated in overly prescriptive ways. There is a need to create more socially responsible robotics and, in this paper, we explore some of the challenges and requirements for this, both conceptually and empirically. To do this, firstly, we explore the emergence of robots in the home, examining definitions of robotics and the current commercial state of the art. In particular, we consider emerging technological trends, such as smart homes, that are already embedding computational agents in the fabric of everyday life. By turning to human computer interaction, particularly notions of values in design, we unpack the importance of user centric design and the home as a deployment setting for domestic robotics. Subsequently, we consider the nature of responsibility in robotics, examining what it means and consider lessons from past home information technologies. In this paper, we look at a specific responsibility, namely that of roboticists to ensure they engage with user concerns, needs, and respond to them appropriately in design. In wider IT design, this often does not occur sufficiently, leading to technologies that are not fit for purpose and disrupt the social order of the home.

Working from this basis, we then present findings from an exploratory, qualitative survey we conducted to highlight concerns users have about domestic robots. The survey established a range of themes, but we focus on the form of robots, privacy concerns and many aspects of trust. To explore these in more depth, we then analyse relevant literature from across technology law, computer ethics and computer science, to reflect on how these concerns are discussed there. We conclude by drawing together both our empirical observations and conceptual analysis, considering what is needed for the future of responsible domestic robotics: user centric design.

Keywords: Domestic Robotics, Cyber-Physical Systems, Internet of Things, Responsibility, Regulation and Governance, Law

Suggested Citation

Urquhart, Lachlan and Reedman-Flint, Dominic and Leesakul, Natalie, Responsible Domestic Robotics: Exploring Ethical Implications of Robots in the Home (May 25, 2018). ETHICOMP 2018, September, Gdansk, Poland. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3184963

Lachlan Urquhart (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh - School of Law

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom

Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute ( email )

University of Nottingham Innovation Park
Triumph Road
Nottingham, NG7 2TU
United Kingdom

Dominic Reedman-Flint

University of Nottingham - Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute ( email )

United Kingdom

Natalie Leesakul

University of Nottingham - Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute ( email )

United Kingdom

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