28 March 2013


[Read the fictitious Killer Robot case at the web site for the Online Ethics Center for Engineering at www.onlineethics.com/CMS/computers/compcases/killerrobot.aspx The case begins with the manslaughter indictment of a programmer for writing faulty code that resulted in the death of a robot operator. Over the course of many articles you are introduced to several factors that contributed to the accident. Discuss at least two of the factors that contributed to the accident. Consider what went wrong and what is important in the software development lifecycle.]


Manslaughter, or murder?

Did the code writer design the code without proper safeguards, which resulted in the robot operator's death? Were those supposed safeguards overlooked? Was the dead operator an intended target of malicious code or was that person simply an innocent victim? If malicious, who were the parties directly responsible, and whom if any were the parties indirectly responsible? Can I keep writing rhetorical questions like a flippant op/ed article?

The dangerous factors:

Mabel Muckraker, writing for the "Silicon Valley Sentinel-Observer", first broke the story of Silicon Valley attorney Jane McMurdock indicting Randy Samuels for manslaughter, a case brought on the codewriter for Techtronics who is responsible for the code in an assembly-line robot that killed Bart Matthews.

As the Cybernetics robot malfunctioned, Matthews was killed instantly by the violently flailing robot. Attorney McMurdock stands assured in Samuels' guilt, based on the code being his design, a conjecture that omits Samuels did not write murderous code and equally omits in accusation that the code was not altered by him after successful assembly functions.

The article makes no case and offers no proof that Samuels maliciously tampered with the code to the detriment and fatality of Matthews. The supposition open is user error aside public accusations and fervor. Comparative code drafts of Samuels have been reportedly obtained, which depict the machine's movements, and authorities have yet to exclude suicide by Matthews, meaning Samuels gets Manslaughter in the second degree, and likely charges dropped with nominal public favor. The article allows speculation that improper code would allow the code to be somehow self-aware, ambivalent if not malign to the decedent, and makes no mention of work conditions that might have put the workplace in blame.

There expert reached for assessment of the code is not mentioned as a certified professional, and mentions of unsuccessfully reaching Samuels for comment are suspicious as is the case with such in much journalism.

Despite any conditions mentioned in other research, there is no mention that the assembly-line robot was being used for the first time, leaving room for reasonable doubt for the accused, in errors or maladies as I have mentioned previously. For example, a code writer under stressful writing conditions doesn't account for misunderstanding the robot's functionality, but does raise suspicion to dangerous or absent safety protocols. Also, accounts of Samuels' character showed him as a "prima donna', opening the case from manslaughter to negligence, and raises questions of malice toward the victim.

Corporate espionage is considered by the contrast of two competing companies, which is possible, and reports of failed safety tests being forged as passing tests add variable to espionage on both physical and publicity levels. As another article continues to cast doubts on the safety of the machinery, I found no mention that this was the assembly-line machine's initial operation, leaving the general public, the family of the victim, and the authorities with many questions and few answers. In regards to the ethics of the robot, Skynet became aware, August 29th, 1997. Judgement day is inevitable.