November 24, 2012
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report entitled “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots” which warns that autonomous synthetic armed forces lack conscious empathy that human soldiers have and could perform lethal missions without provocation.
Autonomous synthetic robots used as weapons cannot inherently conform to “the requirements of international humanitarian law” as they cannot adequately distinguish “between soldiers and civilians on the battlefield or apply the human judgment necessary to evaluate the proportionality of an attack – whether civilian harm outweighs military advantage.”
Using the excuse that these robots would save military lives in combat situations, does not address the fact that they are fully programmable computers lacking compassion for human life – whether it is for the targeted “enemies” or civilians.
The HRW report states: “Human emotions provide one of the best safeguards against killing civilians, and a lack of emotion can make killing easier. Emotions should be viewed as central to restraint in war.”
Indeed, the responsibility factor is questionable on a legal stand-point because who is ultimately responsible for the actions of a synthetic armed force robot? Would the ultimate charge fall to the:
HRW, a non-governmental organization, has partnered with Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic to demand that an international treaty be drawn that would strictly “prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.”
The restriction of national governments from developing, producing and using these “weapons” within domestic borders is also being brought to light.
Steve Goose, Arms Division director at HRW, explained: “Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far. Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries.”
The South Korean government has created the SGR – 1 sentry system that has been deployed in demilitarized zones to identify intruders and fire on them with the assistance of a human operator. The SGR – 1 is also fully autonomous and can be enabled to carryout missions without the control of a remote operator.
The SGR – 1 has an extremely limited ability to gauge complex environments facilitated by war. Its ability to calculate responses is narrow and therefore it’s “reasoning” and decision-making skills are questionable. This robot cannot distinguish between combat and non-combat which leaves it highly lethal, regardless of its target.
Predicted by an Air Force report entitled, “Technology Horizons” published in 2010, “by 2030 machine capabilities will have increased to the point that humans will have become the weakest component in a wide array of systems.”
This experiment monitored the “highly adaptable, autonomous systems that can make intelligent decisions about their battle space capabilities and human-machine brainwave coupling interfaces” to add to the development of future synthetic armed forces.
This endeavor sought to understand human decision – making systems in order to give the US military industrial complex “a tremendous operational edge over potential adversaries who are limited to human decision and control.”
The Department of Defense (DoD) asserted that although current ground – based weapons were being used extensively, “there is an ongoing push to increase autonomy, with a current goal of ‘supervised autonomy,’ but with an ultimate goal of full autonomy.”
Small autonomous robots, like tiny robot insects are now engaged to spy on targets.
In August, DARPA awarded Boston Dynamics, Inc. a $10.9 million contract to manufacture humanoid robots that are bi-pedal, built like humans and have a sensor head with on-board computing capabilities. Completion of the project is expected for August of 2014.
These robots are being created to assist in excavation and rescue missions, according to DARPA. They could also be employed to evacuation operations during either man-made or natural disasters.
The DARPA’s Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program seeks to find ways to utilize different remote robotic manipulation systems that are controlled by humans. This program is divided into 3 aspects:
• Hardware: to design dexterous multi-fingered robotic hands
• Software: develop complex algorithms for grasping, manipulation and sensory perception
• Outreach: beta-testing robotics in public forums to further study robotic autonomy
The Naval Research Laboratory has developed SAFFiR, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot. SAFFiR is an autonomous bipedal humanoid robot, based on the CHARLI-L1 robot created at Virginia Tech. This robot can interact with humans with a comprehensive response system that utilizes language – including slang to make it more familiar. A robot that can hold a conversation and fight fires is quite impressive.
In 2010, DARPA revealed a robot at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Conference in Denver that was interactive in a public forum. Participants would write software and have the robot preform specified tasks.
The goal of this event was to show that robots were being developed by the US government to preform “dangerous tasks” such as disarming an explosive device thereby reducing “significant human interaction”.
The DARPA Robotics Challenge is putting out the call for a synthetic force that can be designed for autonomous thought; yet mitigate the risk to human life when preforming a rescue mission.
Thanks to the Robotics Challenge autonomous robots will be able to process operator interface, signals, neural signatures and cognitive visual algorithms. In short, although DARPA cannot utilize precise technologies to allow fully autonomous robots engage in missions independently, the quest toward this goal is quickly being realized.
DARPA claims: “Our best robotic tools are helping, but they are not yet robust enough to function in all environments and perform the basic tasks needed to mitigate a crisis situation. Even in degraded post-disaster situations, the environment is scaled to the human world, requiring navigation of human obstacles such as doors and stairs, manipulation of human objects such as vehicles and power tools, and recognition of common human objects such as levers and valves.”
Goose says that the systematic halting of “the development of killer robots before they show up in national arsenals” is essential because countries like the US are actively investing in this technology and once it is in their hands, “it will become harder to persuade them to give it up.”
It is clear that regardless of the risks, the US military are endeavoring toward a synthetic armed force fighting in the stead of current active duty soldiers. A force of robotic “peacekeepers” that are programed to become violent without remorse – will enable the government to organize and act where human law enforcement may hesitate.Add This to Technorati Faves