Bad Bots

Asimov’s three laws of robotics state:

The Three Laws of Robotics (often shortened to The Three Laws or Three Laws, also known as Asimov’s Laws) are a set of rules devised by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov. The rules were introduced in his 1942 short story “Runaround“, although they had been foreshadowed in a few earlier stories. The Three Laws are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

But what happens when bots go bad?

Daniel Rivero at Fusion reports:

Maybe it’s a sign that robots are growing up, and thus hitting the rebellious stage.

The Random Darknet Shopper, an automated online shopping bot with a budget of $100 a week in Bitcoin, is programmed to do a very specific task: go to one particular marketplace on the Deep Web and make one random purchase a week with the provided allowance. The purchases have all been compiled for an art show in Zurich, Switzerland titled The Darknet: From Memes to Onionland, which runs through January 11.

The concept would be all gravy if not for one thing: the programmers came home one day to find a shipment of 10 ecstasy pills, followed by an apparently very legit falsified Hungarian passport– developments which have left some observers of the bot’s blog a little uneasy.   

If this bot was shipping to the U.S., asks Forbes contributor and University of Washington law professor contributor Ryan Calo, who would be legally responsible for purchasing the goodies? The coders? Or the bot itself?

In the U.S., Calo ponders, criminal law is statutory, meaning that the wording of the law itself would have to be taken into consideration.

“If, for instance, the law says a person may not knowingly purchase pirated merchandise or drugs, there is an argument that the artists did not violate the law,” he said. “Whereas if the law says the person may not engage in this behavior recklessly, then the artists may well be found guilty, since they released the bot into an environment where they could be substantially certain some unlawful outcome would occur.”

But, Calo adds, since the program was being made for an art show, “I presume they even wanted the bot to yield illegal contraband to make the installation more exciting. Wanting a bad outcome doesn’t make it illegal (you cannot wish someone to death), but purposefully leaving the bot in the darknet until it yielded contraband seems hard to distinguish from intent.”

For their part, coders Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo say that they are assuming full responsibility for the bot’s actions and for the illegal contraband, even though the gallery is ironically located next door to a police station.

“We are the legal owner of the drugs – we are responsible for everything the bot does, as we executed the code,” Smoljo told the Guardian. “But our lawyer and the Swiss constitution says art in the public interest is allowed to be free.”

Fine. Yet that still leaves Calo’s worries unaccounted for. As of now, it is still unclear what the implications of cases like this will have for our future interactions with robots and machines.

 

Maybe it is bad bots commenting on this site…or juking my stats…that must be it..Kim Dotcom says so.

 

– Fusion

 


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  • My personal site (you can easily find it most of the time) was down for a bit: my server says someone did a DDOS on the host. I also note that someone has taken down Yahoo and Bing today.

    Back up your data, folks, and keep the OS updated and the host server patched.

  • AF

    Not sure about the relevance of the Asimov laws given they pertain to standalone robots, rather than internet bots, but it is interesting nonetheless to see them being quoted. There was a zeroeth law introduced in a later story – can anyone guess what that law was?

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