Killer Robots on the Battlefield

On April 11, member states at the United Nations will meet at another informal meeting of experts under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, a treaty that prohibits weapons deemed to have indiscriminate effects or to cause excessive injury. They are meeting for the third time in Geneva to consider whether to…

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…

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…

Twenty Seconds to Comply: Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Recognition of Surrender

The United States Department of Defense defines autonomous weapons as weapon systems that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator. Autonomous weapon systems are widely predicted to be the future of war fighting, at least in the armed forces of highly industrialized nations. Consequently, there is now a…

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…

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…