Hippocrates and Asimov

Made aware of our Roomba’s military parentage on the weekend, I took a little look around iRobot‘s site. Amongst the slightly-sinister-but-undeniably-cool fishbots, and swarm-deploying mothershipbots I found the Bloodhound.

When Bloodhound arrives at the wounded soldier, it will notify the medic, and the medic will examine the casualty using the robot’s sensors. Bloodhound’s diagnostic sensors include video cameras, an electronic stethoscope, and two-way audio to communicate with a conscious casualty.

After determining the extent of the casualty’s injuries, the medic will be able to treat those injuries using Bloodhound’s medical payloads. Potential payloads include devices to stop bleeding (inflatable bandages, fibrin bandages, liquid fibrin sealants, Factor VII), intramuscular auto-injectors (which can deliver morphine, adrenaline, and nerve agent antidotes), and advanced diagnostic devices. Using these payloads, the medic will be able to stabilize the casualty’s condition until a medic can arrive or the casualty can be evacuated.

Bloodhound is part of a Robotic Rescue Team being developed at iRobot. Other members of this team will include robots for evacuating casualties and robots for shielding casualties from hostile fire.

The bloodhound is semi-autonomous, so a human medic makes the choices for it. However, it is not an enormous leap to think of autonomous battlefield medibots. Would their dispassionate graphite and metal swarms shield and treat the enemy without discrimination?

Would their manufacturer feel obligated to encode in them not only Asimov’s Laws but supplement them with the Hippocratic Oath?

0 comments
  1. Foe said:

    Dispassionate robot rescue dogs make a lot of sense, and not only for their bipartisan potential. In his account of animal culture, The Ape and the Sushi Master, Frans de Waal talks about depressed rescue dogs:

    “The image of the rescue dog as a well-behaved robot is hard to maintain, however, in the face of their attitude under trying circumstances with few survivors… When rescue dogs encounter too many dead people, they lose interest in their job regardless of how much praise and goodies they get.”

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