Monday, February 2, 2009

What's Next? Robot Rights for Battlefield 'Bots?

From The Danger Room:

There's something about warbots that makes people go from the hyper-rational to the science-fictional, quicker than you can say "Cylon."

A report released today by the Ethics + Emerging Technologies Group at Cal Poly and funded by the Office of Naval Research is the latest in a growing cottage industry of academics and non-profits sorting out the ethical implications of increasingly sophisticated military robotics.

The report explores concrete issues, like how the laws of wars might have to be adapted to account for all these tele-operated planes and infantrymen. Then it strays into Galactica turf, getting into the issue of 'robot rights.'

For now, robots are seen as merely a tool that humans use, morally no different (except in financial value) than a hammer or a rifle ‐‐ their only value is instrumental, as a means to our ends. But as robots begin to assume aspects of human decision‐making capabilities, the question may arise of their intrinsic value: do they deserve moral consideration of their own (beyond their financial or tactical value), and at what point in their evolution will they achieve this intrinsic value (as human lives seem to have)?

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