Military Robots and the Question of Responsibility

International Journal of Technoethics 5 (1):01-14 (2014)
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Abstract

Most unmanned systems used in operations today are unarmed and mainly used for reconnaissance and mine clearing, yet the increase of the number of armed military robots is undeniable. The use of these robots raises some serious ethical questions. For instance: who can be held morally responsible in reason when a military robot is involved in an act of violence that would normally be described as a war crime? In this article, we critically assess the attribution of responsibility with respect to the deployment of both non-autonomous and non-learning autonomous lethal military robots. We will start by looking at the role of those with whom responsibility normally lies, the commanders. We argue that this is no different in the case of the above mentioned robots. After that, we will turn to those at the beginning and the end of the causal chain, respectively the manufacturers and designers, and the human operators who remotely control armed military robots from behind a computer screen.

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Peter Olsthoorn
Netherlands Defence Academy

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