ethics shmethics

Posted on June 26, 2009
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arnold-schwarzenegger-the-terminator

Give yourself a giggle and read this article on how they’re going to teach battlefield robots to be ethical. From The New Scientist

Technology has always distanced the soldiers who use weapons from the people who get hit. But robotics engineer Ron Arkin
at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, is working to imagine
wars in which weapons make their own decisions about wielding lethal
force.

He is particularly interested in how such machines might be programmed to act ethically, obeying the rules of engagement.

Arkin has developed an “ethical governor”, which aims to ensure that robot
attack aircraft behave ethically in combat, and is demonstrating the
system in simulations based on recent campaigns by US troops, using
real maps from the Middle East.

In one scenario, modelled on a situation encountered by US forces in Afganistan in 2006,
the drone identifies a group of Taliban soldiers inside a defined “kill
zone”. But the drone doesn’t fire. Its maps indicate that the group is
inside a cemetery, so opening fire would breach international law.

In
another scenario, the drone identifies an enemy vehicle convoy close to
a hospital. Here the ethical governor only allows fire that will damage
the vehicles without harming the hospital. Arkin has also built in a
“guilt” system which, if a serious error is made, forces a drone to
start behaving more cautiously. You can see videos of these simulations on Arkin’s website.

In
developing the software, he drew on studies of military ethics, as well
as discussions with military personnel, and says his aim is to reduce
non-combatant casualties. One Vietnam veteran told him of soldiers
shooting at anything that moved in some situations. “I can easily make
a robot do that today, but instead we should be thinking about how to
make them perform better than that,” Arkin says.

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