Pentagon hires British scientist to help build robot soldiers that 'won't commit war crimes'
2008 12 01

By Tim Shipman | telegraph.co.uk


The Pentagon aims to develop 'ethical' robot soldiers, unlike the indiscriminate T-800 killers from the Terminator films


The American military is planning to build robot soldiers that will not be able to commit war crimes like their human comrades in arms.

The US Army and Navy have both hired experts in the ethics of building machines to prevent the creation of an amoral Terminator-style killing machine that murders indiscriminately.

By 2010 the US will have invested $4 billion in a research programme into "autonomous systems", the military jargon for robots, on the basis that they would not succumb to fear or the desire for vengeance that afflicts frontline soldiers.

A British robotics expert has been recruited by the US Navy to advise them on building robots that do not violate the Geneva Conventions.

Colin Allen, a scientific philosopher at Indiana University's has just published a book summarising his views entitled Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "The question they want answered is whether we can build automated weapons that would conform to the laws of war. Can we use ethical theory to help design these machines?"

Pentagon chiefs are concerned by studies of combat stress in Iraq that show high proportions of frontline troops supporting torture and retribution against enemy combatants.

Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech university, who is working on software for the US Army has written a report which concludes robots, while not "perfectly ethical in the battlefield" can "perform more ethically than human soldiers."

He says that robots "do not need to protect themselves" and "they can be designed without emotions that cloud their judgment or result in anger and frustration with ongoing battlefield events".

Airborne drones are already used in Iraq and Afghanistan to launch air strikes against militant targets and robotic vehicles are used to disable roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.

Last month the US Army took delivery of a new robot built by an American subsidiary of the British defence company QinetiQ, which can fire everything from bean bags and pepper spray to high-explosive grenades and a 7.62mm machine gun.

But this generation of robots are all remotely operated by humans. Researchers are now working on "soldier bots" which would be able to identify targets, weapons and distinguish between enemy forces like tanks or armed men and soft targets like ambulances or civilians.

Their software would be embedded with rules of engagement conforming with the Geneva Conventions to tell the robot when to open fire.

Dr Allen applauded the decision to tackle the ethical dilemmas at an early stage. "It's time we started thinking about the issues of how to take ethical theory and build it into the software that will ensure robots act correctly rather than wait until it's too late," he said.

"We already have computers out there that are making decisions that affect people's lives but they do it in an ethically blind way. Computers decide on credit card approvals without any human involvement and we're seeing it in some situations regarding medical care for the elderly," a reference to hospitals in the US that use computer programmes to help decide which patients should not be resuscitated if they fall unconscious.

Dr Allen said the US military wants fully autonomous robots because they currently use highly trained manpower to operate them. "The really expensive robots are under the most human control because they can't afford to lose them," he said.

"It takes six people to operate a Predator drone round the clock. I know the Air Force has developed software, which they claim is to train Predator operators. But if the computer can train the human it could also ultimately fly the drone itself."

Some are concerned that it will be impossible to devise robots that avoid mistakes, conjuring up visions of machines killing indiscriminately when they malfunction, like the robot in the film Robocop.

Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist at Sheffield University, best known for his involvement with the cult television show Robot Wars, is the leading critic of the US plans.

He says: "It sends a cold shiver down my spine. I have worked in artificial intelligence for decades, and the idea of a robot making decisions about human termination is terrifying."

Article from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/
usa/3536943/Pentagon-hires-British-scientist-to-help-build-robot-
soldiers-that-wont-commit-war-crimes.html



Related Articles
Emotion robots learn from people
US robot builds copies of itself
Pentagon Prepares To Build $130bn Robot Army
Warbots to Replace Human Soldiers?
New Super-Gun from Metal Storm Inc.
Robot Demonstrates Self Awareness
Pentagon plans cyber-insect army
Remote Control Rodent 'Ratbots' Pass First Tests
Toyota to introduce home robots by 2010 (Video)
'We'll be able to upload our brains to a computer'
Robots, Cyborgs & A.I.


Latest News from our Front Page

Mad Science: ‘Genetically Modified Micro Humans’ to be ‘Farmed’ for Drug Testing by 2017
2014 09 12
Developers of artificial micro-humans, or ‘mini GM humans,’ are hoping to release their technology on the market by 2017. No this isn’t a sci-fi joke. Scientists are developing artificial humans in the same vein as GM plants with the hope that these creations will replace the need for using animals in laboratory testing. Artificial humans will be ‘farmed’ with interacting ...
Friends of Rape: How Feminist Liberals Help Sex-Crime to Flourish
2014 09 12
Deafeningly. That’s how liberals would have reacted if the victims in Rotherham had been Pakistani, the rapists White and the cover-up organized by the Conservative party and its allies in the right-wing media. If the scandal had been like that, the Guardian would have boiled with righteous wrath and indignation: “The horror of it. At least 1,400 victims subject to ...
How NASA Plans to Open ’Air Highways’ for Drones
2014 09 10
If Amazon and Google are going to take their drone delivery operations public, what’s going to ensure they do it safely? Air highways and specialized drone corridors designed by NASA scientists, apparently. Even if the Federal Administration Administration isn’t sold on the idea of commercial drones flying throughout the country, NASA is. The agency has quietly been working on an air ...
Ancient Egyptians documented animal extinctions
2014 09 10
"What was once a rich and diverse mammalian community is very different now," the study’s lead author Justin Yeakel said. Some six millennia ago, 37 species of large-bodied mammals roamed the deserts and river valleys of modern Egypt. Today, there are only eight. And as new research shows, ancient Egyptian art has helped tell the story of ecological loss in North ...
Internet Payment Network Paypal To Start Accepting Bitcoin
2014 09 09
EBay Inc. (EBAY)’s PayPal service will start accepting bitcoins, opening up the world’s second-biggest Internet payment network to virtual currency transactions. “We’re announcing PayPal’s first foray into bitcoin,” Bill Ready, the chief of EBay’s Braintree unit, said at Techcrunch’s Disrupt SF conference yesterday. “Over the coming months we’ll allow our merchants to accept bitcoin. On the consumer side it will be ...
More News »