Tuesday, 03 Mar, 2009 Technology

Can Robots Be Given Lethal Weapons?


According to Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield in the UK, the idea that some day robots will have the ability to tell a friend from an enemy is very wrong.

The researcher expressed his opinion regarding the report that called for military robots equipped with weapons to be developed taking into consideration the same ethical rules of commitment as human soldiers.

A report that was funded by the Pentagon states that companies that are in a hurry to complete the requirement for 1/3rd of US troops to be removed by 2015 are at high risk of leaving ethical worries by the wayside, informs NewScientist. The report can be downloaded here .

"Fully autonomous systems are in place right now. The US navy's Phalanx system, for instance, can identify, target, and shoot down missiles without human authorization," says Patrick Lin, the author of the research at California State Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo.

Although Sharkey has a positive attitude towards the report's extensive coverage of the issue, he says that it is way too optimistic. He considers that it focuses on an old view that robots could act more ethically than soldiers due to the fact that they don't have emotions, they cannot get angry and they are unable to seek revenge.

Sharkey says that robots are unable to exercise judgment, having no empathy, and while they don't have the ability to find difference between innocent passersby and soldiers, they should not judge about lethal force.

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