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This is my story

Timothy Becker ’11, BMUS and Mathieu Rodrigue ’11

Making Robots Ethical

Timothy:

I am working on making robots behave ethically with computer science associate professor Michael Anderson in the College of Arts and Sciences, and his wife Susan Leigh Anderson, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Connecticut. We are focusing our efforts on Nao, a robot developed by the French company Aldebaran Robotics.

My particular project deals with sound recognition. I want to take Nao’s microphones and add another layer, giving him the ability to listen to sounds, identify and make sense of them that leads to making a choice. For example Nao would think “Was that a good sound? Was that a bad sound? Do I need to take action?” I want Nao to recognize when someone is crying out for help and then take steps to help.
This research allows me to combine the programming and problem-solving skills from my computer science major with the training I received from my degree in music production and technology in The Hartt School. I learned very high level listening skills and I want to pass that on to machines like Nao.

Mathieu:

I am helping computer science associate professor Michael Anderson in the College of Arts and Sciences, and his wife Susan Leigh Anderson, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, create ethical principles that would allow a robot like Nao make ethically correct decisions.

For example, I'm working with professor Michael Anderson on having Nao not just remind patients when it is time to take their medicine but to do so in an ethical manner. To do this, Nao would have to balance three factors: the good that can come from a patient taking the medication, the harm that could result from not taking the medication, and respect for the patient's autonomy.

I am researching how to use machine learning to develop ethical principles that can be used to weigh the consequences of particular actions in order to make the ethically correct decision. So, for instance, if the patient refuses to take the medicine, Nao could decide that the benefit of taking the medicine does not outweigh the importance of the patient's autonomy. But, in a life-threatening situation, Nao should determine it is more important to protect the patient from harm and could actually email the patient's doctor and ask him to intervene.


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