Boston Dynamics and a half-dozen other manufacturers have signed an open letter pledging not to build war robots or weaponize their platforms. Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree Robotics all joined Boston Dynamics in the agreement.
The group wrote, “We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues. Weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society.”
Where do we draw the line between tool and robot? Do we stop at guidance systems? Do we stop at package delivery? Do we build defensive robots, but not use them offensively when attacked? No one wants to live in a world where swarms of tiny, disposable, autonomous “stinger” drones can identify you and kill you from behind, but… is there a need for a 50 cal. sniper rifle mounted on a quadrupedal remote controlled robot with AI-assisted targeting capability? This writing inspires a long list of questions that deserve thoughtful, well-reasoned answers.
This open letter is eerily reminiscent of the letter Albert Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt in 1939 warning that it might be possible to construct an atom bomb and use it as a weapon of war. We should heed its warning, although I fear that doing so is a practical impossibility.
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.