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Now scientists, legal experts and philosophers are joining forces to scrutinise the promise of intelligent systems and wrangle over their implications. This week in Brighton, the fourth EuCogIII members' conference is set to tackle these issues head on. "Fundamentally we're interested in considering the ethical and societal impact of such systems," says
It's a point well illustrated by
"There is a huge amount of knowledge now that doctors can potentially have. Obviously they can't absorb all of it and they can't necessarily remember all of it," says
But there is a hitch. With intelligent systems accessing medical records comes the fear of compromised privacy and security, as many will be connected via the internet. Could we, or even should we, be allowed to opt out of such an intelligent system? "It is a decision we have to make as a society," says Prescott. "Whether we want to give up some of our privacy in order to get improved services like better healthcare."
But how far can we trust such systems? Putting your faith in a "black box" may seem at best naive, at worst reckless. It is an issue that boils down to trust, making it essential that doctors are closely involved in training such systems, understanding how they work and confirming the diagnoses are spot on.
At the heart of the revolution is you, the consumer. With computers getting smaller, more powerful and more energy-efficient, few areas of our lives will remain untouched by intelligent machines. Driverless cars are expected to cause a storm. "The technology is ready," says Winfield. "The problem is insurance and legislation." While driverless cars could offer many benefits, from bringing independence to the elderly to reducing the number of road accidents, disasters could still happen. Who then pays the damages - the owner, or the car producer?
Last year a European research project, RoboLaw, was created to tackle such legal conundrums and will deliver its guidelines on regulations to the European commission in the spring. One question is whether it's time to rethink liability to ensure safety and justice without compromising the incentive for companies to develop the technology - "for instance, through the usage of compulsory insurance schemes or by assessing so-called 'safe harbours' to shield, in some cases under certain conditions, the liability of the producer of the car," explains
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