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Ethical Dilemma: To What Extent Are It Professional Responsible for the Surgery Accuracy of the Robots They Program?

Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics

Answer Based on the Lenses of Ethical Theories

The application of robotics in surgery is increasingly becoming a common practice in various healthcare centers. With the increase in the instances of robotic involvement in surgery, several bioethical issues have become common, such as the case in question. The answers provided herein will be based on three major lenses of which bioethics is based upon; character based ethics, social contract theory, deontology and utilitarianism. These theories will be used as a rationale in providing answers to the question featured for this study.

Answer Based on the theory of utilitarianism.

Background Information about the Theory of Utilitarianism

On a general note, the theory of utilitarianism is an ethical logic that was designed by John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. The theory featured herein derives its name from the noun utility which implies usefulness. According to this theory, any act worthy moral questioning can only be said to be right only if it ultimately results in good outcomes (Arntzenius, 2014). As most scholars interpret this theory, an action qualifies to be moral or good only if the actions results in the greatest amount of good for everyone who is concerned. There are two types of utilitarian believers; the act utilitarian and the rule utilitarian. The act utilitarian considers an action good if only the action results in happiness or in some way, averts the occurrence of pain. The rule utilitarian on the other hand makes rules based on personal experiences that will culminate to happiness.

There are critical aspects that define the utilitarianism. The major aspect that is usually propagated by this theory is that the moral worth of every single action is dependent on the direct consequences that will be realized as a result of that action. In other words, what the authors of this theory sought to insinuate is that an act is only considered to be good if it good is going to overweigh the bad scale for every single party that is involved. Notwithstanding, the main argument made by this theory is that in any action, the usefulness of an action usually lies in the act whose outcomes brings the greatest good for all parties involved. Another major aspect of the utilitarianism theory is that it treats rules in the determination of ethical behavior.

Based on the utilitarian theory, the answer to the ethical question featured herein is that IT professionals are notentirely responsible for the surgery accuracy of the robots that they program but to some extent, they are liable. It will be wrong to deny this obvious fact given that the decision to program robots goes through various review stages for it to be convincing enough to be used in such a complex task that is life threatening. As stipulated in the utilitarian theory, for an act to be considered good or moral it must have rules.

In the design and programing of robots, there are various rules that must be adhered to. The creator of these rules thus loses the liability responsible for the accuracy of robots that perform surgery. Most importantly, it is critical to note that the programming of robots follows a certain set of laws that all programmers and IT experts of robotics must adhere to. The first law in robotics states that by any chance, a robot should not inflict injuries to human beings, or by an act of error, facilitate the infliction of injuries on human beings. Secondly, a robot is subject to human beings and takes orders from human beings not unless the order will compromise the first law in robotics. The third law that IT experts adhere to when creating and designing robots is that robots should have the capability to protect themselves. However, this actually compromises the first law in which they are built upon. The essence of those rules is to attain accuracy. But the implementer is not the designer of the rules but rather the robot. In case of malfunction, it won’t be sensible to shift the liability of loss of accuracy to the designer because anything that can go wrong, can also go wrong. Thus, the above laws fit in the theory of utilitarianism and give justification as to why IT experts should not be held liable for the robots that they program to perform human surgery. These laws take away the aspect of liability because of the obvious fact that the robots are given rules which enable them to weigh on the good scale of their actions against the bad scale. After they weigh, they are supposed to choose the good scale by taking the best possible action.

Answer Based on the Social Contract Theory

Background information on the Social Contract Theory

Thomas Hobbe is the piooner of social contract theory. According to Hobbe, ideal humanity leaves in “state of nature”. In the people’s “state of nature”, people are rational and can reason. They are selfish by nature. Most importantly, these people believe that they have the right to have anything that they desire by any means possible as long as it guarantees survival. In “state of nature”, it means that there will be no schools, no religion, no police, no government, no economy and no hospital. This theory also means that there will be very scarce resources and no limits on behavior. Thus, Hobbes describes this state of nature as a constant state of war where people are poor, nasty, short and brutish. Usually, individuals have to compete so that they can take up the scarce resources. On the same note, the individuals need this resources. The stronger and smart can kill, hurt or trick others and take away their property.

According to Hobbes, no one is safe for a very long period of time since stronger people can come and do the same to them. This is because it is through human nature that people don’t want worry, fight, get killed or get hurt. To escape from the state of nature, people have seen it necessary to make contracts. For example they can make a contract to preserve life like “I won’t kill you if you won’t want to kill me”. The most common contract in life is trade whereby the example of “I will give you this bread if you give me those bananas” is applicable. But keeping in mind of the fact that people are in a state of nature, it means that are no rules and a cheater can get away with it. People who want to live with little fear usually create a sovereign(Bong-Jin Ko, 2014). The sovereign is the entity that is entrusted with the ultimate power. Thus, these people give up their natural rights in the custody of the sovereign. In this regard, it is right to make the assumption that people are in constant need of an authority that guarantees them freedom, property and life. This explains why people elect governments.

The social contract theory stipulates important aspects that can be applied in the context of bioethics, particularly, the use of robotics technology for surgery purposes. The question featured in this research seeks to determine whether is ethical for the IT experts who program the robots used for surgery to be entirely responsible for the accuracy of the robots that they program. To determine the extent of liability, it is critical to identify the main aspect of the social contract theory that fits in this case scenario. Thus, the aspect of the social contract theory that best fits in this case scenario is sovereignty. When programing robots, IT experts give up the sovereignity of human beings in determining the outcomes of surgical procedures. This kind of contract means that it will be illogical to hold IT experts fully liable for the robots that they program for surgery purposes. In other words, the answer is that the IT experts are liable for the accuracy of the robots that they program for surgery but they are not entirely liable because at some point, this liability is transferred to the robots.

Answer Based on Deontological Theory of Ethics

The provisions of this theory are somewhat similar to the provision of the theory of utilitarianism because this theory incorporates the use of rules. According to the provisions of this theory, for an action to be considered as ethical, it must demonstrate the use of rules. Based on this theory, it is right to answer that IT experts are not entirely responsible for the accuracy of the robots that they program for surgery. This is because the programming of robots follows a certain set of laws that all programmers and IT experts of robotics must adhere to(Lazar, 2019). The first law in robotics states that by any chance, a robot should never inflict injuries, or by an act of error, facilitate the infliction of injuries on human beings. Secondly, a robot is subject to human beings and takes orders from human beings not unless the order will compromise the first law in robotics. The third law that IT experts adhere to when creating and designing robots is that robots should be able to protect themselves not unless the act of protecting themselves compromises the first law in which they are built upon. The essence of those rules is to attain accuracy. In this case, the implementer is not the designer of the rules but rather the robot. Thus, this explains the reason as to why in case of malfunction, it won’t be sensible to shift the liability of loss of accuracy to the designer of the surgical robot because anything that can go wrong, can also go wrong.

Answer Based on Character Based Ethics

According to the provisions of this theory, what is considered moral or what is considered good is based on a select group of habits and character traits whose sole purpose to humanity is to facilitate good life full of fulfillment and achievement (Alzola, 2017). This theory us based on the need for individuals to cultivate certain character traits so that they can live well. Thus, an action is good or moral only if it directly results in good living.

Using character based ethics theory as the premise for answering the question featured herein, it is logically valid to stipulate the fact that IT experts are totally liable for the accuracy of the robots that design for use in surgery purposes. This is usually because the intent that they hold when designing these robots for surgical purposes is to attain accurate outcomes for the surgeries that the robots undertake in.

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Answer Based on the ACS code of Ethics

The Australian Computer Society Code of ethics stipulates a number of aspects that define how members advance, and uphold effectiveness, dignity, honor and effectiveness at being professionals. In addition to taking every action in the realms of constitutional provisions, members of this organization are expected to adhere to a number of various societal values. The first societal value that members are supposed to adhere to is meeting the need to put public interest first. This means that individuals will place sectional and business interests as first priority as opposed to personal interests. The second provision of Australian Computer Society is enhancing the quality of life. Thus members are obliged to make sure that they give quality life for the people that they work for. The third provision of the Australian code of ethics is honesty. Members of this society are expected to maintain a high level honesty when undertaking in the development of products or offering services. At the same time, members are expected to be honest while using their knowledge and skills for the better good of everyone. The fourth provision of Australian Computer Society’s ethics is competence. Members are expected to show diligence and competency to reflect the needs of the stakeholders(CSSE, n.d.).The other provision of the Australian Computer Society’s code of ethics is professional development. Members are expected to demonstrate an enhancement in the career as well as show professionalism while handling the needs of their job descriptions.

The answer to the ethical dilemma featured herein is that IT experts are responsible for the accuracy of the robots that they program because several aspects featured in the provisions of the Australian Computer Society dictates so. One such provision is the enhancement of the quality of life that the patients who depend on surgical procedures by robots live. Robots can do better than humans in some instances and as a result, IT experts need to pull up their socks and make them more accurate.

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