on 19 February 2009
The pace of development in A.I. and robotics technologies continues to increase. We are now witnessing an increasing ubiquity of robots, ranging from the humble floor-cleaning Roomba to the lethal SWORDS and Predator drones depolyed by the U.S. military.
Wallach and Allen's book provides a tour de force of the essential considerations humans should have in designing, deploying and interacting with ever more complicated machines. It should be noted that this is neither an introduction to ethical theories nor robotics (though those with no grounding in either should be able to pick it up). In fact the focus of the book, which is also its unique strength when compared to other literature in the field, is that it deals with the practicalities of how one would go about building an ethical robot or virtual agent in the first place.
As a primer for the burgeoning new sciences and their associated ethical trends and ideas in the realm of A.I. and robotics it is difficult to fault this book. It is balanced, very well sourced, highly readable, well structured and is also written with a sense of humour to boot. In fact I would go so far as to say it may be destined to become a classic, especially as this field develops.