In the same way that schoolkids are urged not to do drugs and university students are urged not to have sex (who are they even kidding), an Australian ethicist has urged the international community to stop making militarised, “killer” robots like the Predator drone as they’re only serving to lower the bar for a new world conflict. Wait, what?
Dr Robert Sparrow, a philosopher from Victoria’s Monash University is the man behind these calls, and he’s authored a paper called Just Say ‘No’ To Robots.
The Dr Sparrow in his paper talks about the risk that robots like drones and UAVs pose to governments:
Military robots are making it easier for governments to start wars, thinking that they won’t incur any casualties on their own side…[but] the ethics of working on military robotics today cannot be entirely divorced from the ethics of the ends to which military robots are used
When you look at the problem Dr Sparrow talks about, it’s not actually that far off the mark. It took one man with a gun to set off a European powder-keg that descended into the first World War. Could a state-sanctioned assassination via drone strike trigger a regional or even a global conflict?
Furthering his point, Dr Sparrow says that because so many robotics projects now have military applications, conscientious objectors and those who don’t want their research used for military applications will struggle more and more to find work in the field.
Given how much robotics research is funded by the military, engineering students looking for a job or a place to undertake their doctorates may face a choice between working on a military project or not gaining entry into their desired profession at all.
Is robotics a slippery slope that spirals down to make killing people easier? Or is this just an anti-war academic demonising the new weapons of conflict? [Monash]
Image: Charles McCain