Ethical Implications of Robots in War

From Slashdot:

Schneier points out an interesting (and long, 117-pages) paper on the ethical implications of robots in war: “This report has provided the motivation, philosophy, formalisms, representational requirements, architectural design criteria, recommendations, and test scenarios to design and construct an autonomous robotic system architecture capable of the ethical use of lethal force. These first steps toward that goal are very preliminary and subject to major revision, but at the very least they can be viewed as the beginnings of an ethical robotic warfighter. The primary goal remains to enforce the International Laws of War in the battlefield in a manner that is believed achievable, by creating a class of robots that not only conform to International Law but outperform human soldiers in their ethical capacity.”

Get the report here (PDF)

[source]

Comments

  1. #1 Flaky
    January 29, 2008

    The way I see it, fully automated robots would behave more ethically than humans, since they don’t have sexual urges and only sense of self preservation is dictated by the requirement to maintain operational capability. I.e. you wouldn’t see robots raping and murdering civilians and shooting randomly when feeling threatened.

  2. #2 Dennis
    January 29, 2008

    With robots doing the fighting, though, one has to ask, “What is war good for, then?” (And I’m very much of the “not much” camp to begin with, but that’s irrelevant.)

    Seriously, isn’t the point of war to hurt the other guys? And I don’t mean the Fox News/Pentagon justification for war; I mean the real reason. The reason that Billy Bob in Texarkana supports war. Any war. There’s a certain subset of the population who start whooping and hollering in delight at the merest mention of war, and you know they do so merely because they’re thrilled at the thought of our boys getting to “kick a little ass.”

    The men who wage war know this, and for that reason they’ll never let it happen. They know their base simply won’t be able to get it up at the thought of robots doing the ass-kicking.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    January 29, 2008

    I agree completely except this: The men who wage war … in the field … generally would prefer not to.

  4. #4 Dennis
    January 29, 2008

    Ah, yes, I should have chosen my words more carefully. I meant the suits who decide to go to war; not the men who actually have to do the work of it.

  5. #5 Dennis
    January 29, 2008

    And the women who have to do the work of it, of course.

  6. #6 Mac
    January 30, 2008

    Dennis: We already use robots in war. (google: “predator uav” for an example) Ok they are not autonomous and they don’t have ethical intelligence, but they do quite a bit of butt-kicking that is not trumpeted very publicly.

  7. #7 phill
    February 26, 2008

    Sorry, but I really struggle with the concept of “the ethical use of lethal force”, it just seems sort of unethical to kill people…

  8. #8 the real cmf
    February 27, 2008

    So ethics are merely an algorhithm then?

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