EAP Date (approved for print): 10 August 2011
War fighting is currently undergoing a revolution. The use of robotics platforms for carrying weapons is coming on track at an increasing rate. US plans from all of the armed forces indicate a massive build up of military robots and at least 50 other countries have either bought them or have military robotics programmes.
Currently all armed robots in the theatre of war are remotely controlled by humans; so called man-in-the-loop systems. Humans are responsible for both target selection and decisions about lethal force. But this is set to change. The role of the person in the loop will shrink and eventually vanish. But are we ready for this step? Do we understand the limits of the technology and how massive increases in the pace of battle will leave human responsibility in the dark? Before moving to autonomous operation we need to consider the lessons learned from the application of the current remotely piloted armed robots.
Four areas are considered here: (i) moral disengagement; (ii) targeted killings in covert operations; (iii) expansion of the battlespace; (iv) the illusion of accuracy.
Noel Sharkey PhD DSc FIEE FBCS CITP FRIN FRSA
Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Professor of Public Engagement University of Sheffield
© 2011 Journal of Law, Information & Science and Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania.