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BS 8611: highlighting the ethical standards for robots

15 April 2016

Using digital information and automation technologies, such as robots, within the manufacturing sector is growing more prevalent to help increase productivity levels. BSI, the business standards company has recently published BS 8611 Ethics design and application robots.

As the use of robots and autonomous systems grows and more research is carried out in this area, it is important that ethical hazards associated with their use are emphasised and BS 8611 highlights that ethical hazards have a broader implication than physical hazards. Most physical hazards are associated with psychological ones due to associated fear and stress. It is implied that ethical standards and safety design features are part of ethical design. It is, therefore, important that different ethical harms and remedial considerations are made. Safety elements are covered by safety standards, while this standard is concerned with ethical elements.

BS 8611 provides guidelines for the identification of potential ethical harm; provides additional guidelines on safe design, protective measures and information for the design and application of robots; and builds on existing safety requirements for different types of robots.

Dan Palmer, head of manufacturing at BSI, said: “Using robots and automation techniques to make processes more efficient, flexible and adaptable is an essential part of manufacturing growth. For this to be acceptable, it is essential that ethical issues and hazards such as dehumanisation of humans or over-dependence on robots, are identified and addressed. This new guidance on how to deal with various robot applications will help designers and users of robots and autonomous systems to establish this new area of work.”

BS 8611 was developed using a consensus-based collaborative approach using expertise from individuals and organisations within the robotic, manufacturing and engineering industries as well as safety experts, scientists, academics, ethicists and philosophers.


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