"People are often concerned with super-intelligent robots and how we should treat them, and this brings up issues like 'robot rights.' But it's a distraction from the real issues," said Winfield. "Instead of worrying about super-intelligent robots, we should be worrying about the safety and dependability of autonomous dumb robots."

Adds Mackworth: "We don't yet have really good theories that can predict behaviour in even one, simple robot that could apply to every environment."

However, Rosenberg thinks the time is right to start thinking about the role of a robot, in part because even in their simplest form, they have an impact on the world around them.

"Technology always causes change, even if you aren't aware of it, and more often than not, we have to accommodate it as much as it does to us," he said. "If you want a robot to be as safe as it could be, you have to interact with it in a certain way. So with a robot your use of language, the way you move, all of these things will change as you adapt.


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