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Robotics The Military

Ethical Killing Machines 785

ubermiester writes "The New York Times reports on research to develop autonomous battlefield robots that would 'behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans.' The researchers claim that these real-life terminators 'can be designed without an instinct for self-preservation and, as a result, no tendency to lash out in fear. They can be built without anger or recklessness ... and they can be made invulnerable to ... "scenario fulfillment," which causes people to absorb new information more easily if it agrees with their pre-existing ideas.' Based on a recent report stating that 'fewer than half of soldiers and marines serving in Iraq said that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect, and 17 percent said all civilians should be treated as insurgents,' this might not be all that dumb an idea."
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Ethical Killing Machines

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  • Re:Ethical vs Moral (Score:4, Informative)

    by neuromanc3r ( 1119631 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:04PM (#25890433)

    "The New York Times reports on research to develop autonomous battlefield robots that would 'behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans.'

    Maybe I'm being a bit pedantic here, but "ethics" is a professional code

    I'm sorry, but that is simply not true. Look up "ethics" on wikipedia [] or, if you prefer in a dictionary.

  • Re:Humane wars (Score:3, Informative)

    by Beyond_GoodandEvil ( 769135 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:16PM (#25890647) Homepage
    I remember that episode of star trek TOS A Taste of Armageddon [] or perhaps the future you describe would be more like the movie Robot Jox []
  • Re:Silly nonsense x2 (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:22PM (#25890741)
    This month's issue of National Defense Magazine [] lists some 'hits' and 'misses' in defense technology. 'Gun-toting robots' are judged a 'miss'. I've also sat and listened to Colonels and Generals unambiguously declare that they do not want armed robots. They think it's a bad idea tactically, logistically, legally, and morally.

    So if the commanders don't want them, and industry thinks they're a bust, why are these researchers pushing the technology?
  • Re:Ethical vs Moral (Score:3, Informative)

    by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:27PM (#25890815) Journal

    Maybe I'm being a bit pedantic here, but "ethics" is a professional code - for instance, it is completely ethical by military codes of ethics to kill an armed combatant, but not to kill a civilian.

    You're not being pedantic, you're being imprecise. Codes of ethics are one thing, but "ethics" is most certainly not limited to a professional code. Look up the word in a dictionary. I also don't know why you got modded to +5 insightful.

    From the OED: ethics: "The science of morals; the department of study concerned with the principles of human duty." That's the primary definition that's listed.

  • Re:Ethical vs Moral (Score:4, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:30PM (#25890845) Homepage Journal

    It appears that language has evolved (or rather devolved) once again. I looked it up last year and "ethics" and "morals" were two separate things; ethics was a code of conduct ("It is unethical for a govenmnet employee to accept a gift of over $n, it is unethical for a medical doctor to discuss a patient's health with anyone unauthorized).

    The new Miriam Webster seems to make no distinction.

    As to Wikipedia, it is not an acceptable resource for defining the meanings of words. Looking to wikipedia when a dictionary [] is better suited is a waste of energy.

    Wikipedia's entry on cataract surgery still has no mention of acommodating lenses. Any time someone adds the CrystaLens to wikipedia, somebody edits it out. Too newfangled for wikipedia I guess, they only just came out five years ago (there's one in my eye right now).

    Morality may have gone out of style, but as it's needed they apparently brought it back under a more secular name. So now that "ethical" now means what "moral" used to mean, what word can we use for what used to be "ethics", such as the aformentioned doctor breaking HIPPA rules (ethics) which would not be immoral or unethical for me to do?

    Of course uncyclopedia has no ethics, but it does have morals [], virtue [], and medical malpractice [].

  • by lgarner ( 694957 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:31PM (#25890859)

    Right... Star Trek.

    It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it. (Robert E. Lee)

  • by ahankinson ( 1249646 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:21PM (#25891645)

    On a smaller level, societies where people own guns are usually more peaceful ones. Why? Because people can see them. Just the threat of being shot is enough to deter people from starting shit.

    [citation needed]

    Here's mine - From: []

    "...In a cross-border comparison for the year 2000, Statistics Canada says the risk of firearms death was more than three times as great for American males as for Canadian males and seven times as great for American females as for Canadian females.

    Because more of the U.S. deaths were homicides (as opposed to suicides or accidental deaths), the U.S. rate of gun homicide was nearly eight times Canada's, the agency says. Homicides accounted for 38 per cent of deaths involving guns in the United States and 18 per cent in Canada."

  • by the_other_chewey ( 1119125 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:26PM (#25891715)

    On a smaller level, societies where people own guns are usually more peaceful ones.

    [[citation needed]]

    Just as anecdotal evidence against it: The USA's murder rate vs. France, Germany, the skandinavian countries, ...
    pretty much every country where gun ownership is heavily regulated. []

  • Re:Ethical vs Moral (Score:5, Informative)

    by spiffmastercow ( 1001386 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:30PM (#25891777)

    Arg.. Why does everybody post this shit without actually looking it up?

    Once again class, this is the distinction: Ethics, the branch of philosophy that deals with what is right, what is wrong, and how to distinguish the two. There are a lot of different ethical theories out there (utilitarianism, Kantian, virtue ethics, etc.). Ethical views tend to differ between individuals, but most ethical theories (the exception being Relativism and all its branches) state that the ethical code should apply to all people in all walks of life. Example: Kant said to a.) treat all people as an end, not merely as a means, and b.) act only in a way that could be applied as a universal maxim (i.e. if its okay for me to steal, its okay for everyone to steal, all of the time).

    Morals, on the other hand, are culturally based. For instance, in the Jewish and Islamic cultures, it is immoral to eat pigs. In the Christian culture, it is not. Morals are a standardized code of conduct. The major differences here are that a.) morals are culturally based, whereas ethics are universal, and b.) morals are prescribed, where ethics are up for debate.

    The problem is that people get 'ethics' confused with 'applied ethics', which are actually moral codes that are to be applied certain professions (doctors, teachers, lawyers, etc.). In fact, because any breach of an applied ethics code is typically punishable by law, its more a legal code than anything else. The Hippocratic Oath could be considered a moral code, but doctor/patient confidentiality is definitely a legal code. Applied ethics are somewhere between moral and legal, depending on what you're talking about.

    I realize someone somewhere probably told you the opposite was true. That person was wrong, and made you wrong. Deal with it and learn from it.

  • by Repossessed ( 1117929 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:34PM (#25891837)

    "If you have 1 maniacal individual order a platoon of soldiers to slaughter a village, the individual human soldiers may refuse to follow the order."

    Yes, that saved all the people at My Lai in fact.

  • Re:Ethical vs Moral (Score:3, Informative)

    by lennier ( 44736 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:49PM (#25892051) Homepage

    "As far as I know (being an ignorant foreigner), the US Army does not include any torture instructions in its manuals."

    You mean apart from these? []

  • by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:33PM (#25892663) Journal

    If people own guns, people will be killed by guns. If people have no guns, they can't kill their family by mistake when thinking being in presence of a criminal or when being drunk. If people have no guns, children can't take them at school and kill other students.

    "He who lives by the sword will die by the sword." You make it sound like that if we get rid of guns, none of these particular violent scenarios could ever take place, yet we know they took place many times over the millenia before the first gun was invented. In addition, violence still happens in many countries where guns are heavily regulated, such as Britain.

    I always get fed up with these anti-gun arguments quickly. There are fewer gun-owners in the northern US than in the south and you can see the difference. In the northern cities, the criminals own guns and use them to keep the people in a bondage of terror to protect their profits and deter witnesses from testifying against them, such as with the infamous Stop Snitchin' campaign. I can't imagine that happening in the south, where more regular people have guns. The whole idea is actually laughable. If gangsters tried that in the south -- threatening witnesses with getting shot -- they'd be the ones who got shot. Probably before they even finished making the threat. Hell, I live in Kentucky and I can't imagine anything like that happening here.

    By the way, most states regulate gun ownership, some quite heavily. It has done very little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. This is probably not what you thought was going on over here, as so many people outside the US seem to have this mythical vision of the US in which everyone owns a gun and has shot someone at least by the age of 13. The problem is that we live in a violent culture, one that has been getting more violent ever since World War II, it seems. Hey, come to think of it, it was after World War II that the US military became involved in every conflict around the world, often against the wishes of the common people or large portions of them, culminating into outright invasions by the 90s. Maybe there's a correlation there; violent government and military and violent culture.

  • Re:Ethical vs Moral (Score:3, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:41PM (#25892759) Homepage Journal
    Why do you think DARPA gave funding for the self-healing minefield, which basically replaces land mines with robots that are in a bluetooth network? The two big things those robots give you are- they can be turned off, and if a Dutch minesweeping truck drives through the field, the little robots can move back into position, healing the breach.
  • what a dumb idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chryana ( 708485 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @07:15PM (#25893173)

    Based on a recent report stating that 'fewer than half of soldiers and marines serving in Iraq said that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect, and 17 percent said all civilians should be treated as insurgents

    I cannot fathom how could anybody think that the conclusion to draw from this report is to develop AI to take ethical decisions. I dare say that no one who knows anything about AI research would hazard a guess about when such an elaborate project could come to fruition. What is needed is some sensitivity training for soldiers sent overseas... What do the people who answered this survey think would happen to their wives and daughters if an invading army came in the US with the same ideas about the dignity and respect of noncombatants?

  • Re:Parent is wrong! (Score:3, Informative)

    by redhog ( 15207 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @07:47PM (#25893549) Homepage

    This world is seriously fucked.

  • On Plagarism (Score:5, Informative)

    by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @09:34PM (#25894531) []

    A while ago, I posted a little essay called "Why the Gun is Civilization". It was pretty well received, and got me a lot of positive comments from a variety of people. Some folks asked for permission to reprint and publish the essay in various newsletters and webzines, and I gladly granted it every time, only asking for attribution in return. Recently, I have noticed my essay pop up on the Internet a lot in various forums, most of which I do not frequent. This in itself causes me no grief, but the reposts are almost invariably attributed to someone who is not me. Some are attributed to a Major L.Caudill, USMC (Ret.), and some are merely marked as "forwarded" by the same person. Others are not attributed at all, giving the impression that the person who posted the essay is also its author. In school, we call reproduction without attribution "plagiarism". It's usually cause for a failing grade or even expulsion in most college codes of conduct. In the publishing world, we call the same thing "intellectual property theft". Now, my little blog scribblings are hardly published works in the traditional sense, nor do I incur any financial damage from this unattributed copying, but it's still a matter of honor. I did, after all, sit down and type up that little essay. It may not make it into any print anthologies, but it's mine, and seeing it with someone else's name on the byline is a little annoying. Call it ego, call it vanity, but there it is. In the end, I guess I should probably shrug it off and tell myself that I can produce something that's worth stealing.

  • by gblfxt ( 931709 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @01:26AM (#25896117)

    uh switzerland? every male has a freaking machine gun in their house!

    for one, yes they have more murders with guns per capita than UK: []

    for two, they have alot less murders overall per capita than UK: []

    put that in your idiot pipe and smoke it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @06:18AM (#25897589)

    That is NOT by Maj. L. Caudill, USMC (Ret). It has been misattributed since it hit mailing lists, but the original author is Marko. His essay repository can be found here [] and the essay itself here []

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"