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Lethality and Autonomous Robots: An Ethical Stance



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Lethality and Autonomous Robots An Ethical Stance Ronald C Arkin and Lilia Moshkina College of Computing Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta GA 30332 arkin lilia cc gatech edu Abstract This paper addresses a difficult issue confronting the designers of intelligent robotic systems their potential use of lethality in warfare As part of an ARO funded study we are currently investigating the points of view of various demographic groups including researchers regarding this issue as well as developing methods to engineer ethical safeguards into their use in the battlefield 1 Introduction Battlefield ethics has for millennia been a serious question and constraint for the conduct of military operations by commanders soldiers and politicians as evidenced for example by the creation of the Geneva conventions the production of field manuals to guide appropriate activity for the warfighter in the battlefield and the development and application of specific rules of engagement for a given military context Breeches in military ethical conduct often have extremely serious consequences both politically and pragmatically as evidenced recently by the Abu Ghraib and Haditha incidents in Iraq which can actually be viewed as increasing the risk to U S troops there as well as the concomitant damage to the United State s public image worldwide If the military keeps moving forward at its current rapid pace towards the deployment of intelligent autonomous robots we must ensure that these systems be deployed ethically in a manner consistent with standing protocols and other ethical constraints that draw from cultural relativism our own society s or the world s ethical perspectives deontology right based approaches or within other related ethical frameworks Under the assumption that warfare unfortunately and inevitably will continue into the foreseeable future in different guises the question arises as to how will the advent of autonomous systems in the battlefield affect the conduct of



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