Books  |    |  May 27, 2009

Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots

Book by Ronald Arkin.
Published by Chapman and Hall/CRC.
256 pages.

Expounding on the results of the author’s work with the US Army Research Office, DARPA, the Office of Naval Research, and various defense industry contractors, Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots explores how to produce an “artificial conscience” in a new class of robots, humane-oids, which are robots that can potentially perform more ethically than humans in the battlefield. The author examines the philosophical basis, motivation, theory, and design recommendations for the implementation of an ethical control and reasoning system in autonomous robot systems, taking into account the Laws of War and Rules of Engagement.

The book presents robot architectural design recommendations for

  • Post facto suppression of unethical behavior,
  • Behavioral design that incorporates ethical constraints from the onset,
  • The use of affective functions as an adaptive component in the event of unethical action, and
  • A mechanism that identifies and advises operators regarding their ultimate responsibility for the deployment of autonomous systems.

It also examines why soldiers fail in battle regarding ethical decisions; discusses the opinions of the public, researchers, policymakers, and military personnel on the use of lethality by autonomous systems; provides examples that illustrate autonomous systems’ ethical use of force; and includes relevant Laws of War.

Helping ensure that warfare is conducted justly with the advent of autonomous robots, this book shows that the first steps toward creating robots that not only conform to international law but outperform human soldiers in their ethical capacity are within reach in the future. It supplies the motivation, philosophy, formalisms, representational requirements, architectural design criteria, recommendations, and test scenarios to design and construct an autonomous robotic system capable of ethically using lethal force.

  • Discusses how robots can ultimately be more humane than humans in the battlefield
  • Presents the controversial yet well-received research of the author on embedding ethics into robotic systems
  • Addresses the issue of autonomous robots having the potential to make life-or-death decisions
  • Provides a well-founded scientific approach, including mathematical formalisms, design recommendations, prototype architectural implementation, and preliminary results
  • Serves as supplementary material for a computer/technology and society ethics course, which is an ABET requirement

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Trends toward Lethality
  • Human Failings in the Battlefield
  • Related Philosophical Thought
  • What People Think: Opinions on Lethal Autonomous Systems
  • Formalization for Ethical Control
  • Specific Issues for Lethality—What to Represent
  • Representational Choices—How to Represent Ethics in a Lethal Robot
  • Architectural Considerations for Governing Lethality
  • Design Options
  • Example Scenarios for the Ethical Use of Force
  • A Prototype Implementation
  • Epilogue
  • References
  • Appendix A: Relevant Laws of War
  • Appendix B: Table of Acronyms
  • Appendix C: Notation

About the Author
Ronald Arkin is a Regents’ Professor in the School of Interactive Computing, College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology.