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Professor Noel Sharkey Speaks On the Advances and Ethics of Unmanned Drone Technology (Video)

Noel Sharkey, PhD is a noteworthy in the fields of psychology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering and robotics. Best known to the public as a robot expert, his current research passion is on the ethics of robot applications including care, policing, military, crime, sex, transport and medicine.

In his TED talk (above), Sharkey speaks on his lifelong love of robotics. And he brings up the ethics and realities modern society faces in deploying automated/remotely-controlled combat robots (e.g. drones) that allow us to kill from a distance; enabling so-called bloodless wars. But are “bloodless wars” really bloodless? Not for everybody; especially not for the folks who are ultimately killed by unmanned drones! What about when the “drone arms race” gets underway… and we have robot armies fighting each other? Anyone else see a HUGE risk for “collateral damage” and loss of innocent life (more so than already)?

What happens when we start using drones for civilian applications? Sharkey has predicted that – like drones programmed to make life/death decisions on the battlefield autonomously – in peacetime, drones could be carrying out tasks that include asking for ID… even tasering and arresting suspects, as well as crowd control, with no human say-so required. But do we really want  that?

Picture 1A robotics enthusiast, Sharkey knows that we will soon have machines “intelligent” enough to carry out military/policing actions with very little human interaction/oversight.

“Robots will have reasonable speech perception and be able to ask questions and respond to answers. What is your ID number? What are you doing here? Move along. They may work in teams of tracked robots with non-lethal weapons (e.g. Tasers or nets) and be on call for diffusing difficult situations and arresting people.”

Noel Sharkey, PhD

But the moral argument has not advanced as fast as our tech has. Sharkey declares that we need to slow our robo-tech advances… NOW. Think about it: Maybe the cops that hassled you during that Spring Break were jerks, but at least they had a childhood. At least they might understand ‘kids will be kids’ and take it easy. Do you think a robot could ever truly be programmed to have such a sensitivity ‘on the job?’ Are we, as a society, willing to take that chance? How about it ED209?

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