Ethics, Legal, & Society Impacts
Considering any technology, the study of its ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) can be an important part of design and implementation. Given the growing importance of autonomous and robotic systems in modern economies and societies, inquiries into ELSI in these domains will be necessary for the smooth integration of technologies into areas such as human health, environmental sensing and remediation, law enforcement, transportation, national security, and other new fields that we cannot yet anticipate.
ELSI studies may influence design and implementation on several fronts. First, the mission of a particular system—its designed goals and ancillary objectives—can be scrutinized for consistency with human safety, privacy, well-being, and respect for rights. A system may also be studied from the standpoint of consistency with the law; regulations and doctrines of liability might apply to the behavior of the system in relation to human beings and other designed systems such as transportation infrastructure or financial securities exchanges. Finally, the reciprocal influence between these technologies and the societies in which they are deployed is a complex area of inquiry. ELSI research in autonomous and robotic systems can produce knowledge that will assist in implementation and evaluation, and also enable engineers to better understand and characterize the broader social impacts of their work.