Military Robotics

The Philosophical Question of Ethical Killer Robots

Posted 23 Dec 2008 at 21:07 UTC by steve Share This

We recently reported on the NY Time article, "A Soldier, Taking Orders From Its Ethical Judgment Center". It brought the issue of lethal military robots back into the news with the suggestion that robots could behave more ethically than humans on the battlefield. The Conscious Entities blog takes up this question in a recent post called Ethical Kill-bots, and suggests it would be better to say that robots might "exceed the human in propriety" by more accurately following rules of engagement. The essay notes that current military robots are not actually agents capable of ethical action. The author also questions whether robots will ever be able to grasp ethics and morals. Appropriately, the post is illustrated with an image of a Bender, everyone's favorite unethical robot.

Ethical robot soldier, posted 24 Dec 2008 at 14:34 UTC by motters » (Master)

Once autonomous robots capable of exercising deadly force do begin to be used within war zones I think it will become clear that the idea of the ethical robot soldier is nonsense. In fact I think the use of such robots will make massacres and other unethical activities easier to prosecute, and also carry a greater degree of deniability for war criminals. As we know from everyday life, automaticity is frequently used as an excuse for poor service or bad behavior. In a battle situation it may be used to excuse acts which if committed by a human would be deemed reprehensible.

Incidentally, once you have a robot capable of autonomously making high level ethical decisions based upon its sensory data you've solved the grounding problem, and are a good way towards solving the AGI problem, in which case a technological singularity is pretty close at hand and you'll have a lot more to think about than merely military applications.

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