Ethics and autonomous robots in war


in Bombs and rockets, Geek stuff, Law, Politics

The increasing use of autonomous robots in warfare raises questions about how they can be used ethically and in concordance with international law on armed conflict. While unarmed robots like those used by bomb squads are ethically unproblematic, those with both weapons and an independent capability to make decisions about their use are quite different. This is especially true if they will be used in environments where civilians could be injured or killed.

The BBC has an article about some of the concerns that have been raised and issues that have been considered. In some ways, the trade-offs are similar to those with existing technologies. For instance, there is often a trade-off between how much risk an army exposes its own personnel to, and how effectively it can avoid causing civilian casualties.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

. August 21, 2009 at 12:20 am

“some worry that drones make killing too easy, too distant, too … robotic.
—Kevin Spak”

Tristan August 21, 2009 at 12:24 am

“Robots that can decide where to kill, who to kill and when to kill is high on all the military agendas,” Professor Sharkey said at a meeting in London.

“The problem is that this is all based on artificial intelligence, and the military have a strange view of artificial intelligence based on science fiction.”


Maddie August 21, 2009 at 9:39 am

I’ve just finished reading through Singer’s book on the subject of AI in conflict, which I found to be fascinating (although, as always I have a slight problem with his writing style, which always comes across as a bit disorganized)

I’m of the opinion that this and the use of PMCs are the most “up and coming” issues for IHL.

. August 21, 2009 at 10:10 am

Robots at War: The New Battlefield
by P. W. Singer

It sounds like science fic­tion, but it is fact: On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghan­istan, robots are killing America’s ene­mies and sav­ing Ameri­can lives. But today’s Pack­Bots, Preda­tors, and Ravens are rela­tively prim­itive machines. The coming generation of “war-bots” will be im­mensely more sophisti­cated, and their devel­op­ment raises troubling new questions about how and when we wage ­war.

R.K. August 21, 2009 at 10:21 am

I wonder if killer robots will ever be cheap enough for rebel armies and non-state groups to use.

. October 20, 2009 at 8:45 am
. October 20, 2009 at 11:42 pm

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