Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sharkey on Killer Robots in the Daily Telegraph

Noel Sharkey published a piece in the Daily Telegraph on the need to consider the moral consequences of developing mechanical soldiers. He writes in an article title, March of the killer robots, that:
Despite planned cutbacks in spending on conventional weapons, the Obama administration is increasing its budget for robotics: in 2010, the US Air Force will be given $2.13 billion for unmanned technology, including $489.24 million to procure 24 heavily armed Reapers. The US Army plans to spend $2.13 billion on unmanned vehicle technology, including 36 more Predators, while the Navy and Marine Corps will spend $1.05 billion, part of which will go on armed MQ-8B helicopters.

[I]n Waziristan, where there have been repeated Predator strikes since 2006, many of them controlled from Creech Air Force Base, thousands of miles away. According to reports coming out of Pakistan, these have killed 14 al-Qaeda leaders and more than 600 civilians.

Such widespread collateral damage suggests that the human remote-controllers are not doing a very good job of restraining their robotic servants. In fact, the role of the "man in the loop" is becoming vanishingly small, and will disappear. "Our decision power [as controllers] is really only to give a veto," argues Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. "And, if we are honest with ourselves, it is a veto power we are often unable or unwilling to exercise because we only have a half-second to react."

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