Category Archives: Ethics

A Few Thoughts on “Killer Robots”

I’ve been following the discussion over on IEEE Automaton about the letter from the AI conference in Brazil, (for, against, rebuttal, etc.) , and since this is the kind of thing that normally gets me very engaged (or enraged), I was surprised to find myself ambivalent on the subject.

The original letter ends, “Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”  but this gives us several propositions to consider:

  • “Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea”

Are “Animal Robots” Robots At All?

IEEE Spectrum had an article from a Chinese lab on “animal robots”. When I was back in grad school, we worked on a proposal for a similar project. We were going to connect moth antennae to a robot and use them as sensors to drive the robot around. Various people have worked on similar ideas over the years, and they’re a little disturbing but generally very informative.

This paper had a diametrically opposed approach. Instead of replacing the animal’s actuators with a robotic interface, they mounted a controller on the back of a rat and connected it to the rat’s motor neurons. Instead of creating a robot with biological sensors, they created a remote control animal.

Enough Inappropriate Ethical Analysis Already!

I’ve reached my threshold for uninformed articles about the supposed ethical conundrums that roboticists should be taking into account when they design autonomous cars.  At the end, I’ll be adding more questions to the list of potential research topics, but first, I want to address why these articles are so infuriating.

Grrrr.  Begin rant.

The articles don’t seem to have been vetted at all.  Exhortations to follow Asmiov’s three laws, or (worse yet) implement additional laws and address philosophical dilemmas about which group of people to kill in some avoidable concatenation of tragic events – they all incorporate assumptions about how robots are built and designed that are (at least currently) untrue.