Whom do we trust? What do we trust? Perhaps this is one best way to understand or explain our fear of robots.
There are some almost axiomatic principles that we, as individuals or as collection of individuals, choose to believe in: That all men are created equal for example, or that omnipotence means also having power to be purely evil, or that google doc is most secure way to write and track history, or that my own reasoning power is the only thing I trust, or that open source participation by entire humanity is the only knowledge base and thinking process that I trust, or that The Book is the only wisdom I believe in, etc. There will also be declaration of allegiance: In God we trust! Etc.
The problem with robots is that we do not trust them. The implementation process may be buggy–who can raise their hand and say they’ve never deployed a bug to production? The design could be flawed. Just look at humans! Evolution creates flaws too. The metal could bend and break. And most important of all, the actions of a robot cannot be summarized into simple and universally understandable axioms. Asimov’ three laws of robotics is one such an attempt to resolve the dissonance between fear and need for robotics. It may or may not be possible to have this in advance. In retrospect, after some millennium of work, we may know a set of rules but I do not see it as a solution to our fear of robots.
Another heuristic we have are processes. When we do not know of a near-constant time determiner of actions, we routinely use process to ensure results. Democracy is a process, it is a solution we came up with to solve a really hard organization problem. Registration for credit card is a process, another really hard problem with multiple parties taking actions each having disparate power and utilities. Application for admission to colleges. The doctor’s appointment… all of these are process that arriving at very simple outcomes: one leader chosen among 2 or dozen, credit granted or not, admitted or not, healthy or treatment.
One wonders if robotics will simply be enrolled in a process. Just as a child grows and earns the trust of her parents, peers and society, robots may need to go through the same process in order to be accepted into roles that adults human perform. It’s actually kind of like how the movies envisions it. After a while, the fearsome loathsome thing is gradually accepted by one, two, and more people.
There is still separation between systematic social acceptance, like legalizing self-driving cars, and personal acceptance–that I let it drive me. These are two different decisions that need to be made on a case by case basis. At least for now, until such a time when we have agreed upon our version of laws of robotics.