Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Military robots and ethics – more debate, but still missing some questions?

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In the BBC’s top technology stories tonight:  a University of Sheffield professor of artificial intelligence states that a military robot’s ability to distinguish friend from foe reliably is still 50 years away, meaning that the technology needs restraint while the ethics catch up.

Regardless of whether it’s fifteen or fifty years, Moore’s Law practically mandates that the technology will outrace ethics and policies, absent a multinational commitment to constrain it. There are questions beyond rules of engagement as exercised by a semi-autonomous or autonomous robot – for instance, whether controllers, safely ensconced hundreds or thousands of miles away, constitute legitimate military targets. All such questions point to a grave potential – the probability that the growing use of robots could encourage rather than inhibit war, and expand the domain of the battlefield to include more civilians.

The same questions have been raised when it comes to cybersecurity, leading some to raise the idea of an international convention. If it comes about, it might need to aim at a larger ambition – to understand, and then govern automation as it advances and is applied to war.

Written by Mark

August 3, 2009 at 9:36 pm

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