Killer Robot has “Software Glitch”. Ooops!

Most people don’t realize it yet, but right now the future of war is crashing into the present. Right now, this year, the world of conflict is undergoing a profound shift. Does it have social and ethical implications? You betcha. Just listen to this guy.

Related Articles:

Reuters: Killer Robots and a Revolution in Warfare – “You need to be an optimist to think that political leaders will opt for negotiation over war once combat casualties come home not in flag-decked coffins but in packing crates destined for the robot repair shop.”

Wired for War – The Robotics Revolution – A video containing reports that children have been killed by unmanned US drones … and a whole bunch of other stuff that will blow your mind.

Carnegie Network – Robot’s, the Battlefield and Ethics – “Can intelligent robot soldiers be designed to be more ethical in battle than human soldiers? Would you prefer a robot or a human deciding about the possibility of civilian casualties?”

Illah Nourbakhsh Lecture: Ethics in Robotics – “Are there types of robots that shouldn’t be created? Should we use robots in military combat? Or is there actually nothing to worry about?”

6 thoughts on “Killer Robot has “Software Glitch”. Ooops!

  1. I’d never heard of military robots before you mentioned them some time ago. I’d never seen the likes of those quadrupeds.
    I don’t see those robots as an entirely new moral category. A self-guided missile allows the senders to sit back comfortably on another continent, and might fail due to software error. But you can see the potential for more to go wrong.
    As a programmer and I know all too well how easy it is for mistakes to end up in complex software, especially when there are deadlines.
    And how tragic that the military has such a budget that it gets such a good share of R&D. I guess medicine gets a good share as well, and if the building industry had all that, lots of people would be out of work.
    One of the great tech advances in war was atomic bombs. Now we have nuclear non-proliferation treaties. Maybe there will need to be one for military robots.


  2. Eric: I think part of the problem there is that a robot may end up choosing targets. Maybe my knowledge of self-guided missiles is incomplete, but it’s my understanding that a human being still has to target them. Yes, it may then guide itself to the target, but it just doesn’t fly around until it’s programming says, “There’s a tank over there, fly into it and explode.”
    Robots may reach the point where we attend to get them to the point where they attempt to analyze their surrounding and pick a target to attack. Actually, it sounds exactly like that’s what the R2D2 robot mentioned in the video does do. It determines if the the object in the air is an incoming missile, targets it, and destroys it. What if it misinterprets something else as a missile though?


  3. Eric, would non-proliferation treaties even be possible? In one of the videos it was stated this revolution will be “open source”. If there are already concerns that a bunch of collage kids could get their hands on military drones, at this rudimentary stage, imagine the proliferation possibilities in ten or twenty years time!


  4. I agree with Jarred. There is a difference between “self guided” bullets and “self targeting” guns. In the former case there is still a hand on the trigger. In the latter case there is not. This is something new. Robotization diffuses human responsibility to a degree not seen before, making it much more difficult to establish accountability. Behind this I see a very human desire to avoid responsibility for war crimes and collateral damage.


  5. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
    News release – 1 Feb 2010
    “The LS3 program is a joint effort between DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) and the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL). The program goal is to develop a walking quadruped platform that will augment squads by carrying traditional and new equipment autonomously.”


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