Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Robot warriors pose ethical dilemma

Date:
May 26, 2014
Source:
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology
Summary:
With the increasing use of drones in military operations, it is perhaps only a matter of time before robots replace soldiers. Whether fully automated war is on the immediate horizon, one researcher says it’s not too early to start examining the ethical issues that robot armies raise.

With the increasing use of drones in military operations, it is perhaps only a matter of time before robots replace soldiers. Whether fully automated war is on the immediate horizon, one researcher says it's not too early to start examining the ethical issues that robot armies raise.

Related Articles


In her recent thesis on the ethics of automation in war, Linda Johansson, a researcher in robot ethics at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology, suggests that it is necessary to reconsider the international laws of war, and to begin examining whether advanced robots should be held accountable for their actions.

The use of drones -- or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) -- is increasing, and more money is being poured into developing them, clearly changing the context of conflict and raising new questions.

"It's not too early to start discussing these kinds of issues … given the speed of development," Johansson says.

According to a UN survey, civilians have been killed in 33 separate drone attacks around the world. In Pakistan, an estimated 2,200 to 3,300 people have been killed by drone attacks since 2004, 400 of whom were civilians. According to the latest figures from the Pakistani Ministry of Defense, 67 civilians have been killed in drone attacks in the country since 2008.

"Soldiers may kill other soldiers in a war -- would it be permissible for someone on the other side of the earth to attack the operators who control the drones?" Johansson asks.

She also questions the ethics of assigning drone operators the task of tracking a targeted person from a safe distance for days, perhaps even a week, before striking. "This is different from ordinary combat soldiers who face their opponents directly," she says. "The post-traumatic stress syndrome that affects an operator may be just as severe as for a regular soldier."

Currently drones are still operated remotely by a human being, but technological advancement is so rapid that full automation is more than just a grim science fiction fantasy.

Johansson sketches out a scenario to show how reaching that point presents other ethical questions:

"Soon we may be facing a situation where an operator controls two drones instead of one, on account of cost reasons," Johansson says. "Add to that the human tendency to rely on technology. Now imagine a situation where very quick decisions must be made. It becomes easy to step out of the decision loop and hand over control to the robot or computer.

"Man becomes the weakest link."

It could also be argued that robots are not entitled to defend themselves, since under the rules of war they are not in danger of losing their lives. "Does it mean that they have lost the right to kill human soldiers?" she asks.

Robots, especially drones, can also facilitate the conduct of "secret war," with low transparency and minimal involvement of troops.

Linda Johansson's research has resulted in a compilation of seven articles. In addition to autonomous systems in the war, she studied other aspects of robots. One of the articles is about care-giver robots and the ethics around them. Two of her articles focus on the so-called "agent landscape" -- or if and when advanced robots can be held responsible for their actions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Peter Larsson/David Callahan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. "Robot warriors pose ethical dilemma." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140526101827.htm>.
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. (2014, May 26). Robot warriors pose ethical dilemma. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140526101827.htm
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. "Robot warriors pose ethical dilemma." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140526101827.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Computers & Math News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Bionic Ants Could Be Tomorrow's Factory Workers

Bionic Ants Could Be Tomorrow's Factory Workers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 30, 2015) Industrious 3D printed bionic ants working together could toil in the factories of the future, says German technology company Festo. The robotic insects cooperate and coordinate their actions and movements to achieve a common aim. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet Giants Drive Into the Electric Vehicle Space

Internet Giants Drive Into the Electric Vehicle Space

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 30, 2015) Internet companies are looking to disrupt the auto industry with new smart e-vehicles, but widespread adoption in Asia may not be cured by new Chinese investments. Pamela Ambler reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Facebook Building Plane-Sized Drones For Global Internet

Facebook Building Plane-Sized Drones For Global Internet

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) Facebook on Thursday revealed more details about its Internet-connected drone project. The drone is bigger than a 737, but lighter than a car. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Returns from International Space Station and Sets Two Guinness World Records

Robot Returns from International Space Station and Sets Two Guinness World Records

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 27, 2015) The companion robot "Kirobo" returns to earth from the International Space Station and sets two Guinness World Records. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins