Military Robots: Life Imitating Sci-Fi

Big Dog Military Robot
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. M. L. Meier
from wikimedia commons

Leo Lewis writes Military’s killer robots must learn warrior code in the February 16 issue of The Times:

The report compiled by the Ethics and Emerging Technology department of California State Polytechnic University and obtained by The Times: “strongly warns the US military against complacency or shortcuts as military robot designers engage in the “rush to market” and the pace of advances in artificial intelligence is increased.”

“Any sense of haste among designers may have been heightened by a US congressional mandate that by 2010 a third of all operational “deep-strike” aircraft must be unmanned, and that by 2015 one third of all ground combat vehicles must be unmanned. “A rush to market increases the risk for inadequate design or programming. Worse, without a sustained and significant effort to build in ethical controls in autonomous systems . . . there is little hope that the early generations of such systems and robots will be adequate, making mistakes that may cost human lives,” the report noted.”

The 112-page report prepared for the Office of Naval Research was 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. Its stated goal is to raise the issues that need to be consider in responsibly introducing advanced technologies into the battlefield and, eventually, into society.

The report contains 8 preliminary conclusions including this warning: While a faster introduction of robots in military affairs may save more lives of human soldiers and reduce war crimes committed, we must be careful to not unduly rush the process. Much different than rushing technology products to commercial markets, design and programming bugs in military robotics would likely have serious, fatal consequences.

A look into the future – a very interesting read.

Read the report in full.