Is It Time for Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics?

I noted last night on the News Hour on PBS, a report on the IBM Watson computer playing Jeopardy.  And this morning, I happened across this note on “Trends to Watch, Formal Relationships Between Governments and Hackers“.  I could summarize that article as, “How the next world war will be fought and what the battlefield will be”.

If we combine these two articles, we get an interesting notion of a potential future.  One where computing can analyze human conversation, and act, and where the power of networks to connect, are used to disrupt a nation in war time. 

An unseen risk is the fact common components and software (think Intel chips and Linux for example) are becoming ubiquitous.  Exploits to hack these components can have wide ranging application.  Said differently, and in a biological way, if we develop a computing based species (as the Watson story hints at), it would be a good idea to have enough gentic diversity to prevent an infection in one species from overwhelming the entire “biosphere”.  We have seen this in the PC market where infections of Intel+Microsoft Windows “species” don’t carry over to the Apple, or RIM species.

For some time, science fiction has provided stories of many futures where computing becomes sentient.  Isaac Asimov in the I Robot series in 1950 explored this notion.  Perhaps its time for a modern version of his three laws of robotics to be applied to computing in its broadest sense as we seem to be heading down a road where world-wide agreement on the “rules of war” in a cyberage, before we wage that war, might be a good idea.

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