Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Combat Robots

September 22, 2011
3:00 pm - 4:15 pm
Nelson Auditorium


Weaponized robotic systems are being introduced into the battlefield at an ever increasing pace. The consequences of this technological progress need to be examined carefully. In this talk, I outline the philosophical basis, motivation, theory, and design recommendations for the implementation of an ethical control and reasoning system potentially suitable for constraining lethal actions in an autonomous robotic system so that they fall within the bounds prescribed by the Laws of War and Rules of Engagement. It is a further contention that an autonomous robot capable of lethal force can ultimately be more humane in the battlefield than human soldiers. Robot architectural design recommendations are presented for (1) post facto suppression of unethical behavior, (2) behavioral design that incorporates ethical constraints from the onset, (3) the use of affective functions as an adaptive component in the event of unethical action, and (4) a mechanism in support of identifying and advising operators regarding their ultimate responsibility for the deployment of such a system. This research was supported under a grant from the Army Research Office.

Bio: Ronald C. Arkin received the B.S. Degree from the University of Michigan, the M.S. Degree from Stevens Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1987. He then assumed the position of Assistant Professor in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he now holds the rank of Regents' Professor and is the Director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory. He also serves as the Associate Dean for Research and Space Planning in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech since October 2008. During 1997-98, Professor Arkin served as STINT visiting Professor at the Centre for Autonomous Systems at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden. From June-September 2005, Prof. Arkin held a Sabbatical Chair at the Sony Intelligence Dynamics Laboratory in Tokyo, Japan and then served as a member of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Group at LAAS/CNRS in Toulouse, France from October 2005-August 2006.