Killer Robots

SWORDSMetafilter links to a story about the first armed robots in Iraq. They are referred to as “SWORDS,” or “Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System.” According to Thomas Killion, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Army, in an interview with CNET’s News.com, over the next few years, these robots will become more and more autonomous.

A lot of the systems today are tele-operated. That means a soldier has to spend all of his time essentially controlling a system, in terms of things like PackBot and so on. We want to get away from burdening soldiers in that way, and the work that we’re doing largely in support of the FCS program is demonstrating semiautonomous vehicles where they can do a lot of planning and execution on their own and they really only have to essentially call home to a soldier that’s controlling it when it needs additional guidance or is posed with a situation it doesn’t know what to do or it is at a point in the mission where it really needs further direction so it knows exactly what to do next.

I cannot begin to tell you how bad of an idea I think this is. We’re going to give robots guns and the autonomy to kill people.

Who’s responsible when one of these SWORDS kills some innocent Iraqi schoolchildren? What happens when one of our enemies figures out how to feed the SWORDS false instructions?

As a commenter in the Metafilter thread asks, Doesn’t anyone in the military ever consider unintended consequences?

One thought on “Killer Robots