Saturday, October 31, 2009

ICRAC and a Conscience for Drones

An article in The Times titled, Can you give a drone a conscience? discusses not only plans by the Bristish and US defence forces for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) but also cites the formation of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC).

However, it is ethical issues arising from hunter-killer UAVs now in development, and not the use of Reapers, that are under discussion. Christopher Coker, Professor in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, will ask delegates at the RUSI conference: “Can you give a drone a conscience?”

The debate about if and when a UAV can be given an artificial conscience that will allow it to operate autonomously in theatre and discriminate, for example, between combatants and civilian targets has intensified since the launch last month of ICRAC, formed by Professor Sharkey with three academics from Australian, German and US universities. “With UAVs like the Reaper, there is still, at the moment, a human being in the loop, who will decide when, why and whom to kill,” Professor Sharkey says. “I know that British sorties make every effort to ensure the risk of collateral damage is minimised. However, UAVs now in development are creeping towards autonomy.”

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