A kill bot is robot designed for killing, pure and simple. To many, the killer robot represents the ultimate in death dealing technology. Emotionless, efficient, rugged and unstopping, they present the platform for the perfect murderer. Science fiction literature and movies have popularized the killer robot scenario for most of the last century. This concept planted the seed for "The Case of the Killer Robot" in the brain of Richard Epstein, a professor at Pennsylvania's West Chester University. What if a robot killed through no fault of its own? Where does the responsibility lie in a case of robotic manslaughter?

"The Case of the Killer Robot" is a sequence of fictitious articles that detail the story of the death of robot operator Bart Matthews at the hands of a new supposedly state of the art Robbie CX30 industrial robot. Examining the project development process that lead to the construction of a machine that proved deadly dangerous, Epstein examines issues in computer ethics and quality management in software engineering. Presenting the internal conflicts and politics of the modern engineering workplace to readers, he forces the examination of software development in a fluid business environment. The scenarios also introduce psychological issues like organizational behavior, human psychology (in both programmers and users), the software development life cycle, and the nature of requirements and risk management in today's workplace. The key issue of determining when software is "good enough" for release when lives are involved forces readers to seriously consider this question.

It is a very unique and entertaining educational exercise. It clearly shows that unlike the resulting code, software development is a highly subjective social process, loaded with hidden pitfalls and ethical considerations. If you are involved in computer programming, whether lives depend on it or not, this is an excellent read.

Richard G. Epstein. "The use of computer ethics scenarios in software engineering education: the case of the killer robot." Software Engineering Education: Proceedings of the 7th SEI CSEE Conference, San Antonio. Jorge L. Diaz-Herrera, editor. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 750. Springer-Verlag 1994.

The Case of the Killer Robot Richard G. Epstein., John Wiley and Sons, 1997

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