Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Telegraph follows up on military angle

The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph is running a story by reporter Tim Shipman under the headline "Pentagon hires British scientist to help build robot soliders that 'won't commit war crimes'" which greatly exaggerates my role as an external consultant for a Navy-sponsored report. The authors of the report ("Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design", award no. N00014‐07‐1‐1152) are in fact Patrick Lin (who is also co-editor of a 2007 volume on nanotechnology ethics), George Bekey, and Keith Abney.

Despite misrepresenting my role on the project, and my having a few minor factual quibbles, Shipmans' story successfully captures why we need to be thinking about these ethical issues now.


Thom Blake said...

I think the first bit of the article gets it wrong - the robots in Terminator aren't indiscriminate killers; presumably, they can at least avoid killing each other, and they have very good systems for recognizing and targeting people. If we could actually build Terminators then it would be relatively easy work to make them pick the right targets.

Colin Allen said...

Thom, Right! It was a rather sensationalistic approach to the whole story, and the kind of thing we actually try to resist in the book --- the robots aren't coming to take us over or kill us indiscriminately, but they are being placed in decision-making positions where ethics matters.