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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.