NASA’s Mars rovers could inspire a more ethical future for AI
Since ChatGPT’s release in late 2022, many news outlets have reported on the ethical threats posed by artificial intelligence. Tech pundits have issued warnings of killer robots bent on human extinction, while the World Economic Forum predicted that machines will take away jobs.
There is a better way to bring artificial intelligence into workplaces. I know, because I’ve seen it, as a sociologist who works with NASA’s robotic spacecraft teams.
The scientists and engineers I study are busy exploring the surface of Mars with the help of AI-equipped rovers. But their job is no science fiction fantasy. It’s an example of the power of weaving machine and human intelligence together, in service of a common goal.
Instead of replacing humans, these robots partner with us to extend and complement human qualities. Along the way, they avoid common ethical pitfalls and chart a humane path for working with AI.
The replacement myth in AI
Stories of killer robots and job losses illustrate how a “replacement myth” dominates the way people think about AI. In this view, humans can and will be replaced by automated machines.
Alternatives to straight-out replacement are “mixed autonomy” systems, where people and robots work together. For example, self-driving cars must be programmed to operate in traffic alongside human drivers. Autonomy is “mixed” because both humans and robots operate in the same system, and their actions influence each other.