Sunday, August 05, 2007

3 Laws (of War) Safe

Kenneth Anderson's Law of War and Just War Theory Blog has an excellent article on applying the laws of war to robots. At this stage of development military "robots" are just remote-controlled armed fighting vehicles but Anderson makes it explicit: "That post was about machines with the capability to act independently, independent of human control." He also quotes an article in The Economist.
For me, of course, the money quote from Anderson's post is this:
The most striking part of the project is that I do not see that the attempt to translate ethical decisionmaking into machine terms involves genuinely novel questions of ethics as such. On the contrary, what we seek to do is not to establish novel ethical principles, but rather to create, or re-create, hypothetically ideal or perfect ethical decisionmaking and conduct as we would imagine it for a hypothetically ideal or perfect human soldier but do so within a machine, a robot. The problems are in translation, not the creation of new problems or new solutions. In that sense, one could say that however interesting or important a task of ethical translation, it poses no new tasks in fundamental ethical theory. (Italics mine.)

He then goes on to provide an interesting and well-thought-out discussion of the current state of just-war theory...which (surprise, surprise) hasn't advanced in any discernable way since I first read Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars thirty years ago.
ObCit: "3 Laws Unsafe" by the Singularity Institute, and a "Prognosis: Terminal" by David McDaniel, may God rest his beautiful soul!