The Internet of Things – Social science, ethical, legal and global issues | Oct. 17th, 2017 | The Royal Society

This page is still under construction.  Please check back in a few weeks.  (Just a bit longer, hopefully…Updated Nov. 8th, 2017)

In the interim please check out the following list of articles and youtube videos that touch on the subject of ethics and the IoT.

Automation Nightmare: Philosopher Warns We Are Creating a World Without Consciousness  February 11, 2017 | Paul Ratner
Recent conference held on AI hosted by the Future of Life Institute.
“The conversation’s topics centered on the future benefits and risks of artificial superintelligence, with everyone generally agreeing that it’s only a matter of time before AI becomes paramount in our lives. Eventually, AI will surpass human intelligence, with the ensuing risks and transformations.”

Weaponizing the Brain: Neuroscience Advancements Spark Debate   May 11th, 2017 | James Giordano | National Defense
“Advancements in neuroscience could be used to create ‘super soldiers,’ link brains to weapon systems for command and control, or even manipulate groups or leaders into taking actions that they normally wouldn’t do.”

Do We Have a Right to Mental Privacy and Cognitive Liberty?  The rapid expansion of neuroimaging and related technologies suggests that we’d better answer that question—quickly  May 3rd, 2017 | Marcello Ienca | Scientific American
“Research shows that the combination of neuroimaging technology and artificial intelligence allows to “read” correlates of mental states including hidden intentions, visual experiences or even dreams with an increasing degree of accuracy and resolution.”

Engineers Just Created a Tiny Antenna, Which Could Be Used for Brain Implants   Aug. 24, 2017 | Luke Dormehl | Digital Trends
“Revolutionary antenna, hundreds of times smaller than existing models, could help shrink phones and satellites, and even make smart brain implants a real thing.”

Self-Defense Against Robots and Drones  Oct. 3rd, 2014, last revised Jan. 16th, 2016 | A. Michael Froomkin |  SSRN
“May a landowner legally shoot down a trespassing drone? Can she hold a trespassing autonomous car as security against damage done or further torts? Is the fear that a drone may be operated by a paparazzo or a peeping Tom sufficient grounds to disable or interfere with it? How hard may you shove if the office robot rolls over your foot? This paper addresses all those issues and one more: what rules and standards we could put into place to make the resolution of those questions easier and fairer to all concerned. “

Eliminating the Human  We are beset by—and immersed in—apps and devices that are quietly reducing the amount of meaningful interaction we have with each other.  Aug. 15, 2017 | David Byrne | MIT Technology Review
“When interaction becomes a strange and unfamiliar thing, then we will have changed who and what we are as a species.”
This article discusses how technology is creating a world with less human interaction.

Commentary: The author suggests this tendency is “not a bug — but a feature” of technology. I would argue it’s a VERY unfortunate side effect, but the motivation is $$, not purposeful severing of humans from one another: Big tech profits from our data, so the more data they gather, the greater their profits.   Whatever the reason, we are fast being sucked down the I -connected “rabbit hole,” and robots are standing in wait to block our reentry into the real world…and true human to human interaction is becoming an anomaly.

Ray Kurzweil predicts computers will be as smart as humans in 12 years  Mar. 16th, 2017 | Fox News Tech
“By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence”
“12 years. That’s how long Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil thinks it will take for computers to reach human levels of intelligence.”
“But my [Kurzweil’s] scenario for how we’re going to use that [Artificial Intelligence] is we’re going to merge with it. We’re already doing that. We don’t have one or two AI’s in the world today, we have billions of them….They may not yet be inside our brains and bodies, that will happen by the 2030s.”

Commentary:  Clear judgment and right action cannot begin to keep pace with the exponential speed of technological development.

Extending Legal Protection to Social Robots: The Effects of Anthropomorphism, Empathy, and Violent Behavior Towards Robotic Objects Posted: 28 Aug 2012 Last revised: 8 Mar 2016 | Robot Law, Calo, Froomkin, Kerr eds., Edward Elgar
We Robot Conference 2012, University of Miami
Abstract: “People tend to anthropomorphize robots that interact with humans on a social level. This Article explores whether projecting emotions onto objects could lead to an extension of limited legal protections to robotic companions, analogous to animal abuse laws.”



Chinese man ‘marries’ robot he built himself  April 4th, 2017 | Benjamin Haas | The Guardian
“Zheng Jiajia had grown tired of pressure to get married so he turned to Yingying, a robot spouse he constructed last year….After two months of ‘dating’, he donned a black suit to ‘marry’ her at a ceremony attended by his mother and friends….”

Humans and robots are on the cusp of a sexual intimacy we may never reverse  Aug. 11th, 2017 | Cassie Weber | Quartz
Interview of Van Wynsberghe, professor of robotics and ethics at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands…”edited and condensed for clarity.”
The interview covers topics such as “Teledildonics”

Commentary:  Forgive my prudishness, (PC aside)….This – Teledildonics – is insane !!!  And we should compromise our health, cyber security, privacy, add exponentially to e-waste, and conflict minerals, and harm wildlife for THIS??!!

Six Life-Like Robots That Prove The Future of Human Evolution is Synthetic  Aug. 9th, 2017 | Victor Tangermann | Futurism
“The latest iterations [of robots] are able to talk like us, walk like us, and express a wide range of emotions. Some of them are able to hold a conversation, others are able to remember the last interaction you had with them.”

Robots will destroy our jobs – and we’re not ready for it  Jan. 11th, 2017 | Dan Shewan | The Guardian
“Two-thirds of Americans believe robots will soon perform most of the work done by humans but 80% also believe their jobs will be unaffected. Time to think again.”

This Robotic Jewelry Crawls All Over Your Outfit – Creepy, or the future of haute-tech fashion?  Aug. 8th, 2017 | Katherine Shwab | CoDesign
“They [tiny robots] scuttle across the surface of the fabric, performing tasks or acting purely as decoration….They’re part jewelry, part interactive clothing.”

Meet the most lifelike robot ever created  Feb. 13, 2017 | Blazey
“Sophia”, a robot questions “her” own existence and grapples with concepts such as whether “she” is happy to be “alive” and whether robots will ever harm people. Her “creator” asks “her” some pretty tough questions during their discussion.

Commentary: Please note the disclosure beneath the video clip, “Sophia has had some things added/tweaked.”

Teaching Robots Right from Wrong  June/July, 2017, Simon Parkin | The Economist
Discussion about making robots that know – or are able to learn – right from wrong.

Commentary:  Brings to mind a 21st century version of the Tower of Babel(IoT ToB)

“The robots may come, but the cyborgs are already in the office”   Aug. 8th, 2017, Mark Coeckelbergh | Gastkommentar
“Increasing automation may imply not only replacement but also new couplings between humans and machines. New cyborgs. ‘New’, since this is already the way many of us work today. In factories, but also in the office: we collaborate with computer programs to do our work. New algorithms will be developed that change these collaborations, without replacing the human. This creates chances to do new things, perhaps also new creative things. But there is also the danger that this increased cyborg-style automation leads to new ways of working that have even less regard for human needs and well-being, and that further exploit us for profit.”

Embedded chip on your shoulder? Some privacy and security considerations  Aug. 1, 2017, Joseph Jerome |IAPP
“Our cyborg future has been viewed by some as inevitable; Elon Musk has argued the merging of machine and biological matter is essential for humanity to remain relevant as a species.”

“’Cyborgification’ raises a host of ethical questions, but employer-driven ‘chipping’ poses at least three immediate challenges.”

Commentary:  Although there is substantial science about the health impacts of microchips for animals, no mention is made of it by this author.  For more on microchipping pets, please see and .

Microchipping goes mainstream: Wisconsin company announces plan to chip employees   July 29, 2017 by: Isabelle Z. | Natural News
“The next time your boss asks you to do something you’d rather not, just remember that it could always be worse: you could be working for Three Square Market.
The Wisconsin firm, which designs software that is used in office complex break room markets, has found itself in the spotlight after announcing its intention to be the first American firm to offer its workers microchip implants.”

“It’s hard to say for sure how this could affect a person’s health as there are no long-term studies. However, these microchips are very similar to those used to keep track of pets, which is pretty alarming given their track record. Some owners have reported that their dogs and cats experienced weakness in all of their limbs because the chips were not placed precisely.

There is even an entire website,, that is devoted to pet owners whose pets died because of their chips, with serious problems like blood loss, spinal cord injury, lymphoma and cancer being blamed on the chips.”

CGI and AI are going to turbocharge ‘fake news’ and make it far harder to tell what’s real   July 28, 2017, Rob Price | Business Insider UK
“Tech is being developed that will make it easy to create fake video footage of public figures or audio of their voice.
The developments aren’t perfect yet, but they threaten to turbocharge “fake news” and boost hoaxes online.
In years to come, people will need to be far more skeptical about the media they see.”

The ‘Iphone’ Of Robots Could Bring Capitalism As We Know It To An End   July 27Th, Matthew Hart | Nerdist
“Although it seems as if there’s a monstrous mishmash of robots already at our doorstep—sometimes literally, in the case of the Domino’s Pizza Delivery Robot—it’s likely that all these robots are, in the grand scheme of the evolution of AI, gimmicky. They’re narrow AI: capable of a specific task, within specific parameters. But the hypothetical iPhone of robots will be generally intelligent. It’ll be able to make your breakfast in the morning, play catch with you in the afternoon, and go off to its factory job at night.”

The idea is that just like the I-phone has become integrated into much of what just about everything people do, so too will each person have a robot equivalent – an “I-robot”- that will become essentially, their personal assistant.



How Do Humans Respond To Perfect Robots? Aug. 5th, 2017, Adi Gaskell | Huffington Post
“Our results showed that the participants liked the faulty robot significantly more than the flawless one.”

“The findings provide a further reminder that as robots are being designed with social interaction in mind, it might be worthwhile ensuring that they retain the kind of imperfections we humans have rather than designing them out.  By embracing the flaws in social robot technology, it might help make robots more believable, likeable and natural, and therefore increase the speed of acceptance within society.”

Commentary:  Maybe we should consider leaving human interactions to humans with our inherent and natural “imperfections” rather than create robots to mimic these imperfections.

Intelligent robots must be trusted by humans – Advances in machine learning make agents harder to control  Aug. 4th, 2017 | The Financial Times
“But AI programmes, driven by the developing field of machine learning are now capable of behaviour that is not only surprising, but unsettling. Two examples emerged this week of unplanned consequences from letting AI robots learn for themselves. One was in China, where two automated chatbots were removed from popular online messaging apps after….”

“Robots can help people with their work and unleash social and economic benefits. But they must be trusted, or the humans will vote to take back control.”

Please Prove You’re Not a Robot   July 15th, Tim Wu | NY Times, Sun. Review, Opinion
“To be sure, today’s impersonation-bots are different from the robots imagined in science fiction: They aren’t sentient, don’t carry weapons and don’t have physical bodies. Instead, fake humans just have whatever is necessary to make them seem human enough to ‘pass’: a name, perhaps a virtual appearance, a credit-card number and, if necessary, a profession, birthday and home address. They are brought to life by programs or scripts that give one person the power to imitate thousands.”

“Twitter estimates at least 27 million probably fake accounts; researchers suggest the real number is closer to 48 million, yet the company does little about the problem.”

The rise of sex robots is real, and we should be concerned Aug. 6th, 2017, Johanna Legatt | Mercury
“Recently, the Foundation for Responsible Robotics (FRR) released a report looking at the development of sex robots over the next five to 10 years. According to Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield and co-founder of the FRR, we need to start taking their rise seriously.”

 Seems like we’ll all be robots sooner or later  Aug. 3rd, 2017, Paul Sassone | Chicago Tribune
“Until now, robots, automated devices, required a human agency. Someone has to turn them on, direct what they do. They were instruments of humans. But by implanting microchips into humans, no instrumentality is required. Humans have become the instrument itself…. It seems that we now are approaching robotization from two directions – automation and a kind of microchipped human evolution.”

Legal robots deployed in China to help decide thousands of cases  Aug. 4th, 2017, Neil Connor| The Telegraph
“’Legal robots’ have been deployed on thousands of cases in China to help decide sentencing. The robots – which are about three feet tall and have heads shaped like toasters – review documents and identify problems with cases. They also advise on sentencing, and can generate arrest warrants and ‘approve indictments,’ said prosecutors in the eastern province of Jiangsu, where the robots are being piloted.

Chinese chatbots apparently re-educated after political faux pas   Aug. 4th, 2017, Pei Li and Adam Jourdan | Reuters
“A pair of ‘chatbots’ in China have been taken offline after appearing to stray off-script. In response to users’ questions, one said its dream was to travel to the United States, while the other said it wasn’t a huge fan of the Chinese Communist Party.”

The ‘suicidal robot’ that drowned in a fountain didn’t kill itself after all – Technical error as algorithm fails to detect uneven surface   July 29th, 2017, Fiona Keating | Independent
“A technical error led to the K5 robot’s demise when an algorithm did not detect the uneven surface, leading to Steve tumbling into the fountain and drowning.”Apparently, this was not the robot, K5’s first blooper. The article explains:

“In 2016, the K5 was involved in an accident when it ran over a 16-month-old child at the Stanford Shopping Centre, leaving him bruised and shaken. ‘The robot hit my son’s head and he fell face down on the floor. The robot did not stop, it kept moving forward,’ Tiffany Cheng, the toddler’s mother, to ABC 7.  ‘He was crying like crazy.’”

Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Robots Shut Down After They Start Talking to Each Other in Their Own Language  July 31st, 2017, Andrew Griffin | Independent
“Facebook abandoned an experiment after two artificially intelligent programs appeared to be chatting to each other in a strange language only they understood.

The two chatbots came to create their own changes to English that made it easier for them to work – but which remained mysterious to the humans that supposedly look after them.”



Killer Robots:

Prepare for rise of ‘killer robots’ says former defence chief Aug. 27th, 2017 | Ben Farmer | The Telegraph
“He [Gen Sir Richard Barrons] said: ‘The temptation to have them [killer robots] I think will be terrific because they will be more effective, they will be cheaper, they will take people out of harm’s way and will give you bigger armed forces, so the pressure to have them will only grow.’”


Killer robots are almost inevitable, former defence chief warns  Aug. 27th, 2017 | Sally Hayden | The Independent
‘A machine doesn’t blink, doesn’t get hot, doesn’t get cold and just follows the rules,” he said. “Why would you send a 19-year-old with a rifle into a house first to see if anything is in there if you could send a machine?’”

Elon Musk leads 116 experts calling for outright ban of killer robots Open letter signed by Tesla chief and Alphabet’s Mustafa Suleyman urges UN to block use of lethal autonomous weapons to prevent third age of war  Aug. 20th, 2017 | Samuel Gibbs | The Guardian
“Some of the world’s leading robotics and artificial intelligence pioneers are calling on the United Nations to ban the development and use of killer robots saying:
‘Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.  We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.’”

Robots’ Psyche:

Wikipedia study warns even good robots are unpredictable  Aug. 26th, 2017 | Kevin Leen | Gears of Biz
“In an open letter to the UN, these business leaders – including Tesla’s Elon Musk and the founders of Google’s DeepMind AI firm – warned that autonomous weapon technology could be misused by terrorists and despots or hacked to perform in undesirable ways.  But the real threat is much bigger – and not just from human misconduct but from the machines themselves…
The research into complex systems shows how behaviour can emerge that is much more unpredictable than the sum of individual actions.”

Racist Robots:

‘We have a problem’: Racist and sexist robots  – Artificial intelligence is increasingly biased against women and non-white people, experts claim as such programs creep ever further into our lives  Aug. 25th, 2017 | Henry Bodkin | National Post
“Programmes designed to ‘pre-select’ candidates for university places or to assess eligibility for insurance cover or bank loans are likely to discriminate against women and non-white applicants, according to their [experts’] research.”

Robots Betray Their Human: 

Researchers warn against ‘hackable’ robots   Aug. 22nd, 2017 | Jane McCallion | IT Pro
“Cyber security firm IOActive claims it has discovered flaws in several commercially available robots that could lead to the devices hacking networks or even physically attacking their owners.”
“There’s an even more sinister element to the vulnerabilities IOActive said…: they can be programmed to maim the humans around them.”

Should Robots Be Taxed? 

California Wants to Tax Job Stealing Robots
Millions of people are at risk of losing their jobs to robots and AI, somebody says it’s about time that a robot tax to be imposed.
 Aug. 26th, 2017 | Wall Street Pit
“The International Labor Organization has also stated that as many as 137 million workers across Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam are at risk of being displaced by robots. And this number represents approximately 56% of the total workforce of said Asian nations….Well, let those machines share the same burden that we workers have long been carrying on our shoulders:  TAX.”

Hacked Robots: 

Industrial hack can turn powerful machines into killer robots Aug 22, 2017 | Taylor Hatmaker | TechCrunch
“When we imagine the existential threat to humanity posed by automation, we usually think of the negative impact on the workforce, not robots quite literally bludgeoning us to death.  In a post titled ‘Exploiting Industrial Collaborative Robots,’ security researchers at IOActive detail how popular models of consumer and industrial robots have already been compromised in such a way that could cause humans bodily harm.”

UBTech Alpha 2 turns Chucky | Aug. 29th, 2017 | IOActive
Video clip: Hackers turn “friendly robot” into a brute.

Commentary:  A micro example of a macro problem brought on by the Internet of Things.

For more details, please see

Robot Consciousness:

Can Machines Be Conscious? Scientists Say Robots Can Be Self-Aware, Just Like Humans  Nov. 4th, 2017 | Anthony Cuthbertson | Newsweek 
“Cognitive scientists Stanislas Dehaene, Hakwan Lau and Sid Kouider posited in a review published last week that consciousness is ‘resolutely computational’ and subsequently possible in machines. The trio of neuroscientists from the Collège de France, University of California and PSL Research University respectively addressed the question of whether machines will ever be conscious in the journal Science.”  
See also:



“With the internet as its nervous system, the world’s connected cell phones and sensors as its sense organs, and data centers as its brain, the ‘whatever’ will hear everything, see everything, and be everywhere at all times. The only rational word to describe that ‘whatever’, thinks Levandowski, is ‘god.’”

“I would love for the machine to see us as its beloved elders that it respects and takes care of. We would want this intelligence to say, ‘Humans should still have rights, even though I’m in charge.’”


Additional Resources about Ethics