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The Case Against Autonomous Killing Machines
George Dvorsky   Jun 30, 2012  

Robots for War - is it really ethical to use these terribly destructive creations, that the USA military is rapidly developing and deploying ?

Long a staple of science fiction, the notion of autonomous robots that can kill is starting to take root in the U.S. military. It’ll only be a matter of time before these “thinking” machines are unleashed on the battlefield — a prospect that’s not sitting well with people both inside and outside of the Pentagon.

Is it really ethical to develop and deploy these terrible creations? And what, if anything, can we do to prevent it?

One person who believes that this is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately is Wendell Wallach, a scholar and consultant at Yale’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Bioethics and coauthor of Moral Machines: Teaching Right From Wrong. io9 recently spoke with Wallach to get a better understanding of this issue, and to find out why he feels that autonomous killing machines should be declared illegal.

But first, it’s worth doing a quick overview to get a sense of just how close the U.S. military is to deploying such weapons.

To read the rest of the article click HERE


Image via Terminator Wikia

George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.


Wendell Wallach is a bit behind the Times.

Two years ago I attended a conference where I met the Scientist/Engineer (he is both) in charge of the USA’s policy about “Autonomous Killing Machines” (and with implementing that policy).

Currently, there are no “Autonomous Killing Machines.”

And, according to this person (Dr. Ron Arkin of Georgia Tech) Autonomous Killings Machines would be a more moral and ethical soldier than would humans in the same role (I tend to believe his claims, after examining the evidence).

The article, upon reading it, is woefully ignorant of the debate that HAS (and continues) taken place regarding such weapons.

The link contains a plethora of academic publications on this very subject.

And, that is not all.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have worked on a system that would eventually supplement future Autonomous Combat Robotics.

But I had no idea at the time that the system in question would be applied to such technologies. All I was interested in doing was solving the problem I was given at the time - and was not filled in until considerably after the fact.

Most of the tropes presented in this article are more about humanity than they are about the reality of robotic weapons; much in the same way that Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is more about humanity than it is about biology, or about robots.

If we continue to repeat tired tropes about the hubris of science and humanity, then why don’t we rewind the story some 10,000 to 100,000 years:

After all, this is really what we are talking about:

Caveman Scientist: “I am make Science, I am put fire in cave.”

Caveman Chorus: “No! You go to far! no control nature!”

Caveman Scientist: “No, am keep warm…”

<<scenes of the world on fire>>

Caveman Scientist: “Me go too FAR!”

Isn’t this really what we are talking about here when we mention movies like “The Terminator” or “Battlestar Galactica” (admittedly, the latter does attempt to remain realistic about the issues, and presents a more realistic take on things, where the “robots” had a very real issue against which they rebelled)?

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