Chapter 80 — Roboethics: Social and Ethical Implications

Roboethics: Military robotics

Ethical, legal and societal issues in military robotics. The so-called field of military robotics comprises all the devices resulting from the development of the traditional systems by robotics technology: Integrated defense systems; and A.I. systems for intelligence and surveillance controlling weapons and aircraft capabilities. Unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), or autonomous tanks: Armored vehicles carrying weapons and/or tactical payloads, intelligent bombs and missiles. UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles): also referred to as autonomous flying vehicles (AFVs) or drones, unmanned spy planes and remotely piloted bombers. ASV (autonomous surface vessels) and patrol boats. AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles): Intelligent torpedoes and autonomous submarines. In this field, the main problems could arise from: inadequate management of the unstructured complexity of a hostile scenario; the unpredictability of machine behavior; the increased risk of starting a video-game-like war, due to the decreased perception of its deadly effects; unpredictable side-effects on civilian populations; human-in-control hierarchy and robot’s transparency; psychological issues of humans in robotized environments (mixed teams); accountability and responsibility gap; the assignment of liability for misbehaviors or crimes. Collateral damages: Despite the increasing success of this technology, military hierarchies feel concerned about the potential dangers. Drones can accidentally fall and possibly damage humans and objects. Daily news report about unintended injury or death of innocent non-combatants (usually known as “collateral damage”) from war theaters. Potential friendly-fire casualties in crowded battlefield or due to enemy’s tracking/hijacking.
Fiorella Operto
Scuola di Robotica - Manuel Stefanolo (Director). Thanks to Italian Airforce IED-EOD Demining Department