“We need a reflection on ethical and moral dilemmas so that the technology does not become dangerous”

Robotics and artificial intelligence have a high gradient of development. The Internet of Things (IoT) can be overcome by the Internet of Skills (IoS), a tactile Internet

The current industrial revolution, with all its pervasive dimension in the form of technologies and robotic systems, also corresponds to an economic, social, cultural and anthropological revolution. Compared to the past, the robot’s actions today are no longer a predetermined sequence of movements, but are performed automatically thanks to a control system that directs the movement in relation to what is happening in the environment. Hence the definition of robotics as “intelligent connection between perception and action” with a cognitive dimension, in relation to the possibility of deciding and planning the actions to be performed; a sensory dimension, understood as knowledge of reality through analysis of data; finally, an implementation dimension with the measures that must be taken to achieve the desired purpose. Robotics, in relation to the digital world with the physical, is destined to become the driving technology for a whole new generation of autonomous devices that, through learning capabilities, will be able to interact with the external environment. In this sense, the neologism of interaction technologies (Iat: InterAction Technologies) was introduced to explain how robotics and intelligent machines represent the future of the information and communication technologies (ICT), which today stop at the level of collecting and processing data, but which will only unfold their full potential when they can be used to physically intervene in the environment and on people, to modify the former and help the latter with the ability to perceive and act in the physical world in real time. If before the robots were confined for safety reasons in spaces far from people, in the new generation factories they have become cobots that work together with the worker in a safe and reliable way, or are equipped with autonomy to move and work on their own presence. of uncertainty and variation in the environment.

When even collaborative robots have become tools that can be used intuitively, as it is for the devices we normally use without instructions, we will have a technology capable of revolutionizing not only the production approach, but also everyday life. Reduction of risks and work fatigue, improvement of production processes of material goods and their sustainability, safety, efficiency and reduction of the environmental burden from the transport of people and goods, physical assistance to disabled or elderly people, advances in diagnostic techniques and surgical , are all examples where the new interaction technologies can be a tool for human service. 5G will also contribute to the efficiency of robotic systems and pave the way for a new generation of robots controlled via wireless communication and at the same time equipped with new processing and data storage resources via the cloud. The robots that in the near future will operate in environments inhabited by humans must have the ability to interact, make decisions and respond flexibly to unexpected events. To do this, the robot must be able to probe the environment and become aware of what surrounds it. Improving the sensory skills and processing information coming from outside is essential through the use of exteroceptive sensors such as distance, vision and contact sensors. Deep learning image and audio processing techniques have increased the need for high computational resources. Although the computing capacity and the miniaturization of processors have improved in recent years, one cannot think of housing all the necessary computing capacity in a robot. Being able to connect a robot via a wireless connection with one or more external computers represents an enormous wealth that can open the doors to a new generation of robots with characteristics of autonomy, safety and reliability that are unprecedented. Having said this, for a robot to function properly it is necessary that the connection allows the transfer of a large number of data per second and that the time it takes to transfer the data is sufficiently small and above all predictable, i.e. with constant latency.

With 5G in perspective, robots can be dynamically controlled in real time and connected to people and machines both locally and globally. It is therefore understood how the Internet of Things (IoT) can be surpassed by the Internet of Skills (IoS) a “tactile internet” to allow an external physical experience through haptic devices combined with skills, for example the drone operator or the surgeon employing itself with an operation performed via a remote robotic system. What has been described belongs to a future dimension towards which research is heading. But the promise of the permeation of robots and intelligent machines into our society cannot help but point to a wide range of ethical problems and moral dilemmas that we must all think about, as scientists and as men.

What will be the social impact on the labor market if the use of advances in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) further concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a few? In psychological terms, what will the consequences be that can result from human-robot relationships? How can we deal with dependency on these tools? In legal terms, should we consider whether robots deserve to be recognized as “humans” and what are the legal and moral implications of this choice? The questions are many and must be asked starting from the assumption that man is a “technical subject” and has always equipped himself with tools for freedom and liberation with which he has been able to develop. In the future, robotics and artificial intelligence will be two tools with a high development gradient, and therefore it goes without saying that a deep reflection must be opened on the limitations that will be placed on progress, so that the technology does not become dangerous and alienating, but, just like politics and economics, take responsibility and always have human needs and what is central to their creation in mind. (*The engineer Bruno Siciliano, born in Naples in 1959, is a professor at Federico II. He has just been awarded the Engelberger Robotics Awards 2022 in Munich)

July 27


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