On the ethics of killing with robots

Yesterday, I broached the topic of autonomous killer robots for the second time on this blog.

But this morning I came across the best article I’ve seen on the topic so far in Unmanned Systems magazine, written by Judi Hasson.

The article spotlights Ron Arkin, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who is apparently trying to write the rulebook on killing by armed autonomous weapons, the increasingly inevitable next step in the technology of war. His web site is here: http://www.cc.gatech.edu/projects/robotsurvey/auvsi.html.

Here’s a glimpse of the subscriber-only article:

His goal is to create a framework that would integrate an artificial conscience and restrict actions to an ethics code. So a robot would be programmed not to order soldiers to fire on unarmed civilians or engage in action such as the destruction of an unarmed village.

“As codes of conduct and laws change, we have to design it in a flexible way. All of this changes over time. It is not cast in stone like the Ten Commandments,” Arkin says. … “Part of my mission is raising the consciousness among other researchers about the ramifications of our research.”


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3 Responses to On the ethics of killing with robots

  1. Rob Coppinger 29 November, 2007 at 3:19 pm #


    While this system doesn’t fly the Mobile Detection Assessment Response System, and its “-E” for exterior variant, has been developed by DARPA with General Dynamics.

    The article I wrote about it for a previuous employer is here;


    Note the EIS date of 2006. And this final sentence in the story, “The robots were originally designed to carry an undefined type of less-lethal weapon to disable intruders. But this was abandoned following advice from US army lawyers, and the robot will now simply notify a control centre of intruders.”


  2. Russ Fortson 9 October, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    “following advice from US army lawyers” ????

    Wow, we’re in deeper doo doo than I thought if the Army now has lawyers telling them how they can and can’t develop weapons systems.

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