Ethics of Autonomous Military Robots
Ronald C. Arkin, “Governing Lethal Behavior: Embedding Ethics in a Hybrid Deliberative/Reactive Robot Architecture,” Technical Report GIT-GVU-07011. Fascinating (and long: 117-page) paper on ethical implications of robots in war.
Summary, Conclusions, and Future Work
This report has provided the motivation, philosophy, formalisms, representational requirements, architectural design criteria, recommendations, and test scenarios to design and construct an autonomous robotic system architecture capable of the ethical use of lethal force. These first steps toward that goal are very preliminary and subject to major revision, but at the very least they can be viewed as the beginnings of an ethical robotic warfighter. The primary goal remains to enforce the International Laws of War in the battlefield in a manner that is believed achievable, by creating a class of robots that not only conform to International Law but outperform human soldiers in their ethical capacity.
It is too early to tell whether this venture will be successful. There are daunting problems
- The transformation of International Protocols and battlefield ethics into machine usable representations and real-time reasoning capabilities for bounded morality using modal logics.
- Mechanisms to ensure that the design of intelligent behaviors only provide responses within rigorously defined ethical boundaries.
- The creation of techniques to permit the adaptation of an ethical constraint set and underlying behavioral control parameters that will ensure moral performance, should those norms be violated in any way, involving reflective and affective processing.
- A means to make responsibility assignment clear and explicit for all concerned parties regarding the deployment of a machine with a lethal potential on its mission.
Over the next two years, this architecture will be slowly fleshed out in the context of the specific test scenarios outlined in this article. Hopefully the goals of this effort, will fuel other scientists’ interest to assist in ensuring that the machines that we as roboticists create fit within international and societal expectations and requirements.
My personal hope would be that they will never be needed in the present or the future. But mankind’s tendency toward war seems overwhelming and inevitable. At the very least, if we can reduce civilian casualties according to what the Geneva Conventions have promoted and the Just War tradition subscribes to, the result will have been a humanitarian effort, even while staring directly at the face of war.