Accountable Algorithms

Many important decisions historically made by people are now made by computers. Algorithms count votes, approve loan and credit card applications, target citizens or neighborhoods for police scrutiny, select taxpayers for an IRS audit, and grant or deny immigration visas.The accountability mechanisms and legal standards that govern such decision processes have not kept pace with…

Ban Killer Robots before They Become Weapons of Mass Destruction

Last week the Future of Life Institute released a letter signed by some 1,500 artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and technology researchers. Among them were celebrities of science and the technology industry—Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak—along with public intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Daniel Dennett. The letter called for an international ban on…

Military Robots: Mapping the Moral Landscape

Philosophers have wrestled over the morality and ethics of war for nearly as long as human beings have been waging it. The death and destruction that unmanned warfare entails magnifies the moral and ethical challenges we face in conventional warfare and everyday society. Intrinsically linked are questions and perennial problems concerning what justifies the initial…

Why We Need Better Ethics for Emerging Technologies

Technological revolutions are dissected into three stages: the introduction stage, the permeation stage, and the power stage. The information revolution is a primary example of this tripartite model. A hypothesis about ethics is proposed, namely, ethical problems increase as technological revolutions progress toward and into the power stage. Genetic technology, nanotechnology, and neurotechnology are good…

Contemporary Governance Architecture Regarding Robotics Technologies: An Assessment

Even a cursory review of the contemporary governance architecture regarding military technological innovation generally reveals a disturbing lack of consensus regarding the necessity for governance and methodologies to be utilized to achieve it. Innovations, adaptations, and uses in the areas of nanotechnology, bio-science, information science, cognitive technologies - referred to generally as NBIC - and…

Is the Concept of an Ethical Governor Philosophically Sound?

In a series of publications, Ronald Arkin and his team (Arkin, 2009; Arkin et al., 2009) have proposed the concept of an ethical governor, which is supposed to effectively control and enforce the ethical use of lethal force by robots on the battlefield. The idea of an ethical governor, although presently of little influence on…

Killer Robots: Legality and Ethicality of Autonomous Weapons

Military robots and other, potentially autonomous robotic systems such as unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) could soon be introduced to the battlefield. Look further into the future and we may see autonomous micro- and nanorobots armed and deployed in swarms of thousands or even millions. This growing automation of warfare…