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Friday, January 19, 2018

Why banning autonomous killer robots wouldn’t solve anything

Susanne Burri and Michael Robillard
aeon.com
Originally published December 19, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

For another thing, it is naive to assume that we can enjoy the benefits of the recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) without being exposed to at least some downsides as well. Suppose the UN were to implement a preventive ban on the further development of all autonomous weapons technology. Further suppose – quite optimistically, already – that all armies around the world were to respect the ban, and abort their autonomous-weapons research programmes. Even with both of these assumptions in place, we would still have to worry about autonomous weapons. A self-driving car can be easily re-programmed into an autonomous weapons system: instead of instructing it to swerve when it sees a pedestrian, just teach it to run over the pedestrian.

To put the point more generally, AI technology is tremendously useful, and it already permeates our lives in ways we don’t always notice, and aren’t always able to comprehend fully. Given its pervasive presence, it is shortsighted to think that the technology’s abuse can be prevented if only the further development of autonomous weapons is halted. In fact, it might well take the sophisticated and discriminate autonomous-weapons systems that armies around the world are currently in the process of developing if we are to effectively counter the much cruder autonomous weapons that are quite easily constructed through the reprogramming of seemingly benign AI technology such as the self-driving car.

The article is here.
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