Academic Master


A Response Paper on Noel Sharkey’s ‘The ethical Frontiers of robotics’

Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist, is known for his expertise in robotics. Artificial intelligence and robotics are the fields he is known for throughout the world. In his article, ‘The Ethical Frontiers of Robotics,’ Noel raises an important issue related to the field of robotics. No doubt their services are helping human beings in many different ways, but Noel has highlighted the ethical issues associated with the help taken from robots.

These ethical issues include less personal connection and the need for care judgments in certain sensitive situations. To support his claims, examples from daily life have been highlighted. With the use of anecdotes, expert sources, and statistics from history, Sharkey has successfully proved the ethical issues associated with the use of robots in everyday routine and warfare as well.

Sharkey claimed that using robotics is no longer a new idea in this era of technology where everything gets fulfilled with the desired application. From minor tasks in daily life to the job of defending the lives of people, everything works according to technology and its various dimensions. Sharkey has supported this fact using statistics. The sales of professional and personal service robots have risen since 2008. I agree with Noel that our dependence on technology has been the foundation for the rise of this sale. In 2008, sales were nearly 5.5 million, which rose to 11.5 million in 2011.

Nanotechnology and sensor technology are the technologies in which advancements are seen prominently. Japanese and South Korean people have played a prominent part in developing a child-minding robot. These robots are capable of doing many real things including speech recognition.  While explaining the advantages of robots, Sharkey mentioned the positive aspects of caring for children through robots. The positive stuff includes tracking the children when they are away, providing entertainment services, and arousing curiosity and interest in the children. All his positive claims about the attention of the children are justified as I have seen many infants attracted to technological products like tablets, iPhones, etc.

After reading the title of ‘The Ethical Frontiers of Robotics,’ I thought the text would highlight only the ethical issues. However, the article mentions many useful claims that are enough to raise awareness among new parents who rely on robots to care for their infants and young children. No matter how much care robots give young children, there is still some need for the children that must be fulfilled by the parents only. Less interaction with human beings and more interaction with robots can cause young children to tend towards social isolation. This claim by Sharkey has been supported by the study of the early development of the monkeys. Social dysfunction was seen in the infant animals, who were allowed to develop interactions only with inanimate surrogates. The sad aspect is that this issue has been ignored by national legislation as well. This point needs to be discussed in public to overcome the negative consequences.

Leaving the elderly in the care of machines is another ethical issue highlighted by Sharkey in his text. There are many machines like Secom and Sanyo who are helping in living the elderly to an independent life in their houses, but this will make the old isolated giving them significant emotional discomfort in their lives. The robots might be able to cover up the nature of their use, but the need for social interaction will still exist for the elderly and young children. Technology is advancing in every dimension, but it is still not enough to fulfill human beings’ practical and emotional needs. I believe Sharkey’s claim is justified since I can never imagine life without social interaction and dependence on technology for every single thing.

Sharkey has also highlighted the ethical issues raised by using robots in military applications in his writing. Starting with the ethical issues associated with using robots in the military, Sharkey started with the development of mobile robots, which were more than 5000 in number for the forces of Iraq. He then highlights that since these robots have humans behind for the decision-making and they are capable of targeting the areas unconventionally hence there are many chances for innocent human beings to get destroyed during military attacks. He justifies his claim by mentioning the examples of MQ1 Predator and MQ9 Reapers. The threatening aspect here is that the presence of a single unclear definition in the robot’s programming can make them create complex situations that can be hard to overcome.

To conclude, Sharkey has shown his concern for the human race by mentioning the set of issues associated with leaving young children and the elderly among the robots. This will make them socially awkward and destroy their emotional needs. No doubt they are providing excellent ease to them as well. Besides this, the use of robots in the military can create unwanted situations destroying the human race in a minute. However, this issue needs to be discussed publicly so that possible ethical problems can be overcome and advantages can be taken from them as well.


Sharkey, N. (2008). The Ethical Frontiers of Robotics (5th ed.). Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield, Retrieved from



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