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Time is running out for ethicists to tackle very real robot quandaries

By its nature, the Open Roboethics Initiative is easy to dismiss — until you read anything they’ve published. As we head toward a self-driving future in which virtually all of us will spend some portion of the day with our lives in the hands of a piece of autonomous software, it ought to be clear that robot morality is anything but academic. Should your car kill the child on the street, or the one in your passenger seat? Even if we can master such calculus and make it morally simple, we will do so only in time to watch a flood of household robots enter the market and create a host of much more vexing problems. There’s nothing frivolous about it — robot ethics is the most important philosophical issue of our time.

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