Artificial Intelligence - Ethics Of Autonomous Weapons Systems.


Autonomous weapons systems (AWS) are armaments that are designed to make judgments without the constant input of their programmers.

Navigation, target selection, and when to attack opposing fighters are just a few of the decisions that must be made.

Because of the imminence of this technology, numerous ethical questions and arguments have arisen regarding whether it should be developed and how it should be utilized.

The technology's seeming inevitability prompted Human Rights Watch to launch a campaign in 2013 called "Stop Killer Robots," which pushes for universal bans on their usage.

This movement continues to exist now.

Other academics and military strategists point to AWS' strategic and resource advantages as reasons for continuing to develop and use them.

A discussion of whether it is desirable or feasible to construct an international agreement on their development and/or usage is central to this argument.

Those who advocate for further technological advancement in these areas focus on the advantages that a military power can gain from using AWS.

These technologies have the potential to reduce collateral damage, battle casualties, the capacity to minimize needless risk, more efficient military operations, reduced psychological harm to troops from war, and armies with declining human numbers.

In other words, they concentrate on the advantages of the weapon to the military that will use it.

The essential assumption in these discussions is that the military's aims are morally worthwhile in and of themselves.

AWS may result in less civilian deaths since the systems can make judgments faster than humans; however, this is not always the case with technology, as the decision-making procedures of AWS may result in higher civilian fatalities rather than the opposite.

However, if they can avoid civilian fatalities and property damage more effectively than conventional fighting, they are more efficient and hence preferable.

In times of conflict, they might also improve efficiency by minimizing resource waste.

Transportation of people and the resources required to keep them alive is a time-consuming and challenging part of battle.

AWS provides a solution to complex logistical issues.

Drones and other autonomous systems don't need rain gear, food, drink, or medical attention, making them less cumbersome and perhaps more successful in completing their objectives.

AWS are considered as eliminating waste and offering the best possible outcome in a combat situation in these and other ways.

The employment of AWS in military operations is inextricably linked to Just War Theory.

Just War Theory examines whether it is morally acceptable or essential for a military force to engage in war, as well as what activities are ethically justifiable during wartime.

If an autonomous system may be used in a military strike, it can only be done if the attack is justifiable in the first place.

According to this viewpoint, the manner in which one is murdered is less essential than the reason for one's death.

Those who believe AWS is unethical concentrate on the hazards that such technology entails.

These scenarios include scenarios in which enemy combatants obtain weaponry and use it against the military power that deploys it, as well as scenarios in which there is increased (and uncontrollable) collateral damage, reduced retaliation capability (against enemy combatant aggressors), and loss of human dignity.

One key concern is whether being murdered by a computer without a person as the final decision-maker is consistent with human dignity.

There appears to be something demeaning about being murdered by an AWS that has had minimal human interaction.

Another key worry is the risk aspect, which includes the danger to the user of the technology that if the AWS is taken down (either because to a malfunction or an enemy assault), it will be seized and used against the owner.

Those who oppose the use of AWS are likewise concerned about the concept of just war.

The targeting of civilians by military agents is expressly prohibited under Just War Theory; the only lawful military targets are other military bases or personnel.

However, the introduction of autonomous weapons may imply that a state, particularly one without access to AWS, may be unable to react to military attacks launched by AWS.

In a scenario where one side has access to AWS but the other does not, the side without the weapons will inevitably be without a legal military target, forcing them to either target nonmilitary (civilian) targets or not react at all.

Neither alternative is feasible in terms of ethics or practicality.

Because automated weaponry is widely assumed to be on the horizon, another ethical consideration is how to regulate its use.

Because of the United States' extensive use of remote control drones in the Middle East, this debate has gotten a lot of attention.

Some advocate for a worldwide ban on the technology; although this is often seen as foolish and hence impractical, these advocates frequently point to the UN's restriction against blinding lasers, which has been ratified by 108 countries.

Others want to create an international convention that controls the proper use of these technologies, with consequences and punishments for nations that break these standards, rather than a full prohibition.

There is currently no such agreement, and each state must decide how to govern the usage of these technologies on its own.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

Battlefield AI and Robotics; Campaign to Stop Killer Robots; Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems; Robot Ethics.

Further Reading

Arkin, Ronald C. 2010. “The Case for Ethical Autonomy in Unmanned Systems.” Journal 
of Military Ethics 9, no. 4: 332–41.

Bhuta, Nehal, Susanne Beck, Robin Geiss, Hin-Yan Liu, and Claus Kress, eds. 2016. 
Autonomous Weapons Systems: Law, Ethics, Policy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge 
University Press.

Killmister, Suzy. 2008. “Remote Weaponry: The Ethical Implications.” Journal of 
Applied Philosophy 25, no. 2: 121–33.

Leveringhaus, Alex. 2015. “Just Say ‘No!’ to Lethal Autonomous Robotic Weapons.” 
Journal of Information, Communication, and Ethics in Society 13, no. 3–4: 

Sparrow, Robert. 2016. “Robots and Respect: Assessing the Case Against Autonomous 
Weapon Systems.” Ethics & International Affairs 30, no. 1: 93–116.

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