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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Machine ethics: The robot’s dilemma

Working out how to build ethical robots is one of the thorniest challenges in artificial intelligence.

By Boer Deng
01 July 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Advocates argue that the rule-based approach has one major virtue: it is always clear why the machine makes the choice that it does, because its designers set the rules. That is a crucial concern for the US military, for which autonomous systems are a key strategic goal. Whether machines assist soldiers or carry out potentially lethal missions, “the last thing you want is to send an autonomous robot on a military mission and have it work out what ethical rules it should follow in the middle of things”, says Ronald Arkin, who works on robot ethics software at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. If a robot had the choice of saving a soldier or going after an enemy combatant, it would be important to know in advance what it would do.

With support from the US defence department, Arkin is designing a program to ensure that a military robot would operate according to international laws of engagement. A set of algorithms called an ethical governor computes whether an action such as shooting a missile is permissible, and allows it to proceed only if the answer is 'yes'.

In a virtual test of the ethical governor, a simulation of an unmanned autonomous vehicle was given a mission to strike enemy targets — but was not allowed to do so if there were buildings with civilians nearby. Given scenarios that varied the location of the vehicle relative to an attack zone and civilian complexes such as hospitals and residential buildings, the algorithms decided when it would be permissible for the autonomous vehicle to accomplish its mission.

The entire article is here.

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