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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Citizen soldier, citizen robot

The American army announced recently that it intends to have armed robots in the field, robots capable of lethal force.

The Pentagon which has long speculated on the development of robotic warriors has committed to a $127-billion project called 'Future Combat Systems' and plans to deploy small tank like bomb disposal robots capable of discharging offensive fire at the rate of 1000 rounds per minute.

Controlled by humans, these robot warriors are just the vanguard of the military's push to field an army of autonomous mechanized soldier specialists in an effort to, "spare human casualties." Military planners say that, in the beginning, robots will take many shapes and perform singular tasks like mine clearing and reconnaissance but, as the technology improves, the robot soldier will evolve to become largely self directed, more problematic and certainly more lethal; the era of the hunter-killer machine will have arrived, perhaps as early as 2035.

"A robot army could never be held morally responsible for committing war crimes," says an Australian ethicist, "and so any wars they fight could be considered unjust."

Dr Robert Sparrow of Monash University, who specialises in the ethics of new technologies, will lay out his argument in the Journal of Applied Philosophy.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine


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