Developed as an undergraduate project by students at the Wooster Polytechnic Institute's Electrical and Computer Engineering and Robotics Engineering department. A paper detailing the methodology and development of the code was presented at the th ACM/IEEE international conference on Human-robot interaction in Osaka, Japan (March 02-05, 2010). "A Code of Ethics for Robotics Engineers." ISBN: 978-1-4244-4893-7
As an ethical robotics engineer, I understand that I have the responsibility to keep in mind at all times the well-being of the following communities:
Global - the good of people and the environment
National - the good of the people and government of my nation and its allies
Local - the good of the people and environment of affected communities
Robotics Engineers - the reputation of the profession and colleagues
Customers and End-Users - the expectations of the customer and end-users
Employers - the financial and reputational well-being of the company
To this end and to the best of my ability I will...
1- Act in such a manner that I would be willing to accept responsibility for the actions and uses of anything in which I have a part in creating.
It is the responsibility of a robotics engineer to consider the possible unethical uses of the engineer's creations to the extent that it is practical and to limit the possibilities of unethical use. An ethical robotics engineer cannot prevent all potential hazards and undesired uses of the engineer's creations, but should do as much as possible to minimize them. This may include adding safety features, making others aware of a danger, or refusing dangerous projects altogether. A robotics engineer must also consider the consequences of a creation's interaction with its environment. Concerns about potential hazards or unethical behaviors of a creation must be disclosed, whether or not the robotics engineer is directly involved. If unethical use of a creation becomes apparent after it is released, a robotics engineer should do all that is feasible to fix it.
2- Consider and respect people's physical well-being and rights.
A robotics engineer must preserve human well-being while also respecting human rights. The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://www.un.org/en/
documents/udhr/index.shtml) outlines the most fundamental of these rights. Privacy rights are especially of concern to a robotics engineer. A robotics engineer should ensure that private information is kept secure and only used appropriately. There are circumstances when honoring privacy rights or other rights conflict with preserving the well-being of an individual or group. In these cases, a robotics engineer must decide the ethical course of action, making sure the least harm is done.
3- Not knowingly misinform, and if misinformation is spread do my best to correct it.
A robotics engineer must always remain trustworthy by not misinforming customers, employers, colleagues or the public in any way. A robotics engineer must disclose when the engineer feels unqualified to safely or fully complete a required task. When others spread misinformation, a robotics engineer must do as much as possible to correct the misinformation. It is in the best interest of the robotics engineer and the field of robotics engineering to educate the public about robots and robotics engineering.
4- Respect and follow local, national and international laws wherever applicable.
A robotics engineer must follow the laws of the applicable communities. This includes where the robotics engineer is working and the communities targeted by the outcome of the engineer's work. The intellectual rights of others should be maintained at all times, and assistance received from others should always be properly credited.
5- Recognize and disclose any conflicts of interest.
A robotics engineer must disclose the existence of any conflicts of interest to employers. It is up to the robotics engineer to decide how to react to any such conflict, either by attempting to ignore personal feelings or by avoiding the source of conflict. An employer must be aware of conflicts and that these conflicts of interest may affect the robotics engineer's decisions. Bribery inherently creates conflicts of interest and is unethical.
6- Accept and offer constructive criticism.
A robotics engineer should always strive to produce the best work possible and to help others do the same. For this reason, a robotics engineer must both give and accept constructive criticism. This allows for robotics engineers to help improve each other's work, benefiting each other and those affected by the robotics engineer's work. A robotics engineer who refuses to consider criticism risks making avoidable mistakes.
7- Help and assist colleagues in their professional development and in following this code.
This code of ethics is available as a guideline for all robotics engineers as a means of uniting them with a common basis for ethical behavior. In following this code, a robotics engineer promotes the positive perception of the field by customers and the general public. In helping colleagues develop professionally and ethically, a robotics engineer makes sure that the field of robotics will continue to grow.
This code was written to address the current state of robotics engineering and cannot be expected to account for all possible future developments in such a rapidly developing field. It will be necessary to review and revise this code as situations not anticipated by this code need to be addressed.
Revision: February 22, 2010
This code has been posted with permission from its authors.