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…

Overriding Ethical Constraints in Lethal Autonomous Systems

This article describes the philosophy, design, and prototype implementation of an operator override system intended for use in managing unmanned robotic systems capable of lethal behavior. The ethical ramifications associated with the responsibility assignment of such a system are presented, which guide the development of the proof-of-concept system that serves as the basis for the…

Automated Killers and the Computing Profession

When will we realize that our artificial intelligence and autonomous-robotics research projects have been harnessed to manufacture killing machines? This is not terminator-style science fiction but grim reality: South Korea and Israel have both deployed armed robot border guards, while other nations--including China, India, Russia, Singapore, and the UK--increasingly use military robots. Fully autonomous robots…

The Ethical Landscape of Robotics

In this article, we highlight the possible benefits, as well potential threats, related to the widespread use of robots. We follow the view that a robot cannot be analyzed on its own without taking into consideration the complex sociotechnical nexus of today's societies and that high-tech devices, such as robots, may influence how societies develop…

Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design

This report is designed as a preliminary investigation into the risk and ethics issues related to autonomous military systems, with a particular focus on battlefield robotics as perhaps the most controversial area. It is intended to help inform policymakers, military personnel, scientists, as well as the broader public who collectively influence such developments. Our goal…

Autonomous Weapons: Are You Sure These are Killer Robots? Can We Talk About It?

The rise of autonomous weapons is creating understandable concern for the international community as it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen with the technology. This uncertainty has led some to advocate for a preemptive ban on the technology. Yet the emergence of a new means of warfare is not a unique phenomenon and…

From Killer Machines to Doctrines and Swarms, or Why Ethics of Military Robotics Is Not (Necessarily) About Robots

Ethical reflections on military robotics can be enriched by a better understanding of the nature and role of these technologies and by putting robotics into context in various ways. Discussing a range of ethical questions, this paper challenges the prevalent assumptions that military robotics is about military technology as a mere means to an end,…

Governing Lethal Behavior: Embedding Ethics in a Hybrid Deliberative/Reactive Robot Architecture

This article provides the basis, motivation, theory, and design recommendations for the implementation of an ethical control and reasoning system potentially suitable for constraining lethal actions in an autonomous robotic system so that they fall within the bounds prescribed by the Laws of War and Rules of Engagement. It is based upon extensions to existing…

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…