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Soldier launching UAV  (Source: Sgt. 1st Class Michael Guillory, U.S. Army)
Robots with ethics could one day be used on the battlefield

The United States military continues to invest heavily into robotic technology, as the newer generations of robot-based soldiers will be programmed to understand battlefield ethics.

According to an article in the Army Times, the so-called 'ethical robots' would follow international laws.  Ronald Arkin, from the Mobile Robot Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, wrote a book to discuss the future of robotics.

In "Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots," Arkin claims robotics, if programmed correctly, have numerous advantages over human ground troops.  Robots are emotionless , expendable, and can be customized for specific missions.  

It's possible the robots could be taught remorse, compassion and guilt, but exact senses the robots would be programmed with are still unknown.  Furthermore, depending on the determined level of guilt, and the mission being carried out, the firepower and effectiveness of weapons used will change.

The robots could also be used to monitor soldiers to ensure international treaties are being followed by U.S. and coalition ground troops.  Although many soldiers don't want to be monitored in such an intrusive manner, several high-profile cases of abuse and murder have further blemished the military's image among locals in Iraq.  

If funding is properly allocated for the research, it could be available in 10 to 20 years.  As the U.S. continues to fight wars using enhanced technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other unmanned resources have become popular alternatives to launching manned missions -- and is expected to further increase in the future.

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RE: Oh #$*$!
By nafhan on 12/30/2009 10:03:20 AM , Rating: 3
I'm of the opinion that the "Three Laws of Robotics" are a little too vague and simplistic to be used for anything more than a programming guideline. Go ahead and define a human, how to identify one, and - most importantly - what "injuring" or harming a human (especially through inaction) means.
Anyway, the three laws will never be implemented even if they could. There will be at least one country that won't follow the laws with their robots, and if someone does it then everyone who doesn't want to be at a huge disadvantage will. Best we can hope for is robots fighting robots! :)

RE: Oh #$*$!
By Fritzr on 12/30/2009 4:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
Most of Asimov's Robot stories dealt with the gray areas where the the robot was damned if it followed the law & damned if it failed to follow the law.

One of the detective stories featured a catatonic robot...its arm was the murder weapon. For a basic grounding in what can go wrong, check out Asimov's Robot books. If your library doesn't have them, they can get them on interlibrary loan :)

RE: Oh #$*$!
By Lerianis on 12/31/2009 1:02:36 AM , Rating: 2
They are good STORIES, but the fact is that in a case where the Robot was 'damed if they do, damned if they don't'.... the robot could be programmed to just simply SHUT DOWN for good or do nothing.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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