Robots and Cyborgs

by Kathryn on April 20, 2017

Recently, I’ve written two articles for Science News for Students about robotics:

Teaching robots right from wrong and Wired and weird: Meet the cyborg plants

Artificial intelligence has always been one of my favorite things to learn about and think about. When my editor at Science News for Students said she’d like to see a feature on robot ethics, I was thrilled. An ethical system isn’t necessarily intelligent or self-aware, but clearly if machines do become self-aware, we’d want them to follow some sort of code of ethics that makes it possible for us to peacefully co-exist.

Robot-ethics-screenshot

I loved researching this story. At first, I thought I’d be focusing on ethical dilemmas – the kinds of situations in which a robot or autonomous system is torn between difficult choices, such as the self-driving car that must choose between killing its passenger and killing a group of pedestrians. But as I worked on the piece, I realized these imaginary situations are interesting thought experiments, but not very practical. And the science just isn’t at the point yet where such an unlikely situation even matters. 99.99% of the time, the self-driving car simply has to avoid hitting pedestrians – that’s almost always the right thing to do! But even that simple rule can be tricky to implement, even given recent advances in machine vision and AI.

My other story, about cyborg plants, is more technical than philosophical. But it was also a fun one to work on because most people don’t think about combining plants and electronics. I know I certainly didn’t before I discovered the news story about a rose with a wire growing through its stem!

The robot theme doesn’t end here, either. I’ve also written two books that will come out in the next year: Careers in Robotics and Cutting Edge Careers: Robotics Engineer. Plus, I recently agreed to write a book about robotics in medicine, though I haven’t started that project just yet. I’m sure it will be fun to work on!

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