Robot ethics is a growing interdisciplinary research effort roughly situated in the intersection of applied ethics and robotics with the aim of understanding the ethical implications and consequences of robotic technology, in particular, autonomous robots. Researchers, theorists, and scholars from areas as diverse as robotics, computer science, psychology, law, philosophy, and others are approaching the pressing ethical questions about developing and deploying robotic technology in societies. Many areas of robotics are impacted, especially those where robots interact with humans, ranging from elder care and medical robotics, to robots for various search and rescue missions including military robots, to all kinds of service and entertainment robots. While military robots were initially a main focus of the discussion (e.g., whether and when autonomous robots should be allowed to use lethal force, whether they should be allowed to make those decisions autonomously, etc.), in recent years the impact of other types of robots, in particular, social robots has become an increasingly important topic as well.
The Technical Committee on Robot Ethics aims to provide the IEEE-RAS with a framework for raising and addressing the urgent ethical questions prompted by and associated with robotics research and technology. Ever since its inception almost a decade ago in 2004, the TC (in its third generation now) has been involved in organizing various types of meetings (from satellite workshops at main conference, to standalone venues) to call attention to the increasingly urgent ethical issues raised by the rapidly advancing robotics technology. For example, an increasing number of workshops and special sessions was organized recently at main conferences (such as ICRA, IACAP, AISB and others). And more workshops, special sessions, and standalone venues are in the planning. Moreover, an increasing number of publications as well as public lectures and interviews by former and current TC co-chairs and other researchers invested in this topic focus on increasing the awareness of researchers and non-researchers alike about the urgent need to understand the social impact and ethical implications of robot technology. In addition to organizing special sessions and workshops at major international venues on robot ethics, the TC continues to raise public awareness and aims to organize a standalone international event in the near future.