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Killer robots: should we be afraid?

4 episodes
  • 1
    Is the use of autonomous weapons inevitable?
  • 2
    Automation, the third revolution in warfare
  • 3
    Can we justify the rise in military robots?
  • 4
    Military ground robots: a technological shift?
Épisode 1/4
Richard Robert, Journalist and Author
On November 9th, 2021
3 mins reading time

Key takeaways

  • Certain NGOs and governments have attempted to obtain a ban on killer robots in campaigns such as Stop Killer Robots.
  • Arguments include dehumanisation, algorithmic bias, and lack of understanding by machines of the consequences of their actions.
  • However, rapid spread of these weapons systems would seem to have side-lined these discussions, leading to a robotic arms race.
  • Nevertheless, the idea that some form of human control is required, remains central to current discussions.
Épisode 2/4
Richard Robert, Journalist and Author
On November 9th, 2021
3 mins reading time

Key takeaways

  • Some experts consider autonomous weapons to be the third revolution in warfare technology, after gunpowder and the nuclear bomb.
  • The automation of weapon systems began decades ago. Advances in mobility and the interpretation of environmental information now give them a high degree of autonomy.
  • Development of drones is still ahead of “infantry” robots, which face considerable technical challenges.
  • In their armed version, these systems are mainly used on physical targets. Their use for lethal means is driving ethical debates, but the arms race has already begun.
Épisode 3/4
Richard Robert, Journalist and Author
On November 9th, 2021
4 mins reading time
Alan Wagner
Alan Wagner
Assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute

Key takeaways

  • In theory, robotic soldiers don’t get emotional, or revengeful, or angry. But the possibility of an accident raises issues of responsibility and liability, which are of great importance in military matters.
  • Increased autonomy thanks to AI, as well as maximised lethality, raises a philosophical problem: is the prospect of human soldiers facing bloodless, incredibly efficient machines acceptable?
  • But future autonomous systems might be perfect at targeting, so such a “precise” war would be less bloody.
  • Advances in precision warfare might also drive a new kind of dissuasion.
Épisode 4/4
Richard Robert, Journalist and Author
On November 9th, 2021
3 mins reading time
David Filliat
David Filliat
Professor at ENSTA Paris (IP Paris)

Key takeaways

  • Ground robots pose specific technical challenges, especially in the field of mobility.
  • Full autonomy on the battlefield is out of reach for the moment.
  • But progress is rapid, particularly because these are dual technologies, which are not developed specifically for the military.

Contributors

Richard Robert

Richard Robert

Journalist and Author

Editor of Telos and author, Richard Robert teaches at Sciences Po. He directed the Paris Innovation Review from 2012 to 2018. Latest books: Le Social et le Politique (dir., with Guy Groux and Martial Foucault), CNRS éditions, 2020, La Valse européenne (with Élie Cohen), Fayard, published in March 2021.