In the not-too-distant future, the U.S. military may turn more combat roles over to robotic soldiers, NPR reports.
The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) started robotics trials last December with the ultimate goal of creating robots that can perform advanced functions such as driving cars, manipulating everyday objects, and having a free range of motion.
While the robots are being developed with the altruistic goal of providing disaster relief, prominent roboticists are concerned that advances in robotics sponsored by DARPA can be shifted to military use.
Roboticist Illah Nourbakhsh warned NPR:
If researchers set out to build a robot that can drive a regular car, climb a ladder and operate a jack hammer, “That means that that robot can manipulate an AK-47. That means that robot can manipulate the controls of all the conventional military machines as well,” he says.
The overall concern with the gradual shift towards replacing soldiers with autonomous robots, which Nourbakhsh believes is a likely outcome, is who will be held accountable for the robots’ actions.
There is also a very real concern that if wars are waged by robots, humans may become more comfortable with the thought of killing.
Former U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal told BBC’s Today Program, “There’s a danger that something that feels easy to do and without risk to yourself, almost antiseptic to the person shooting, doesn’t feel that way at the point of impact.”
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