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Robotics is a fantastic and frightening new frontier in the further expansion of technology. Visions of dystopian ...
Robotics is a fantastic and frightening new frontier in the further expansion of technology.
Visions of dystopian Terminator futures plague the imagination, while impressive innovations that increase human mobility, improve medical science, and push the limits of military technology scream for more forward progress. There is great consternation involving the proper method and approach for the responsible pursuits of these new technologies.
The debate between open and closed robotics platforms is of particular note. The results of this conversation will determine the rate of robotic evolution in America.
In a closed system, robotics are extremely proprietary, ensuring they are only used for the purpose they were designed to fulfill. There is little to no room for consumer modification or contribution.
If a feature that would enhance an existing robot is discovered, owners of that product are forced to wait for the release of a compatible upgrade, and/or the newest model in order to benefit from that discovery.
An open system, on the other hand, fosters technology that is infinitely adaptable. Because there is no predetermined function for robots under this system, consumers are free to let their creativity take whatever form they please.
They can alter the robot physically and enhance the technology as they go, without sacrificing performance. An open system encourages both contribution and collaboration, allowing robotics to evolve at an astonishing rate.
The obvious choice is the open system, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple. The root of this debate is the issue of liability. In a closed system, developers and manufacturers can be confident that their product is safe, and if it is altered or misused, they can protect themselves from expensive lawsuits.
In an open system, any Joe Schmo with a wayward inclination could create something harmful as easily as something helpful. Companies do not want to be held liable for that eventuality, and have generally shied away from the open system as a result. This has drastically stagnated the progress of robotic innovations in America.
Law professor Ryan Calo suggests that “we should consider immunizing the manufactures of open robotic platforms for what users do with them.” If American law grants limited immunity to such manufacturers, robotics will be free to flourish in this country.
We don’t have to be left in the dust.