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Thoughts on Killer Robots

Pyropyro

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When Dallas police used a bomb-carrying robot to kill a sniper, they also kicked off an ethical debate about technology’s use as a crime-fighting weapon.

We were discussing if AI /robots should have rights a few days before and I found this interesting tidbit after the Dallas incident (I think that's another topic that should be discussed in its own thread).

Robots as weapons bring a lot of questions to the already muddled field of gun control. By the way, the robot used in the killing of the Dallas sniper was designed to save lives.

IMO:
The current tech robots deployed as weapons, shouldn't be banned although regulation/rules of engagement must be in place to reduce the danger to the user and to avoid collateral damage.

Using sentient or perhaps more intelligent robots as weapon is a bit more complex. Weapons should only have a simple AI that can carry out their lethal task through a remote pilot that is guiding their operation. If the robots are already sentient then they should have the right to chose whether or not they want to be used for lethal operations. They should also have a right to defend themselves and those they hold dear with their weaponry.

What's your opinion on lethal bots?
 

Pyropyro

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it's not the robot, it's the cops.
acab
:( But they were also getting killed. It was an ingenious way of taking down a sniper. They neither have artillery nor a counter-sniper during that time.
 

Interdimensionist

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So long as the robot doesn't have consciousness I feel it would be best to utilise AI for these scenarios in order to avoid the trauma that can follow from an intense combat situation/firefight with a criminal/criminal group or even in a war zone which is where I imagine this type of tech would be most useful, although in an ideal world it would be preferable if this kind of conflict didn't take occur in the first place. This tech is being used on the battlefield already in the form of drones etc. however, I can see how it may be possible for compassion to be eliminated entirely when you're sat behind a screen controlling a robot and we've already seen examples of this in the callous way the US government brushes off instances where drones have mistakenly targeted civilian areas but then that sort of thing has gone on for as long as war itself so...more about human nature really and it's capacity for evil.

It would be interesting if we could program the robots to be able to identify and differentiate between civs and enemies but still have a human pulling the strings and making combat decisions, eliminate the need for boots on the ground and also the potential for war crimes as the robot would override the human controller if they tried to pull any shady shit.

I also think that it would be preferable to put a cold, hunk of metal wiring in harm's way over a flabby human therefore reducing loss of life.

It seems to me though that asking whether a killer robot with no sentience should have rights is akin to asking the same of your laptop or mobile, should they be chucked when they come to the end of their lifespan or put in some sort of retirement home for old tech? The question is just absurd, no consciousness=no need for rights because it's not aware of anything happening to it in the first place and if we were to reach a stage where machines had consciousness, why on earth would you bother programming a killer robot to have it? Because you're a sadist or something?

Better for all involved if these particular robots are controlled remotely by their programmers 'cos last thing we need is an uprising-well depending on the side they choose....

Really I think the potential for error could be catastrophic if the robots had the ability to think for and defend themselves, imagine one of those things with a bug or malfunctioning in some way and going AWOL identifying everything in the vicinity with a pulse as a threat. Doesn't make for fun times.
 

Kuu

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it's not the robot, it's the cops.
This. The problem isn't (non-AI) robots, it's the people behind the remote controls.
It's not like the US military hasn't been droning people to death for years...

Generally speaking, the robotization of warfare seems a net negative for humanity. The lower risk of loss of life to "friendlies" also means a lowering of the "moral cost" of war, and with remote control more destructive power can rest in fewer, more detached hands. This means war is more likely to happen.

Giving this power to police forces deepens the dehumanization of the population and encourages violence. This will also turn the police forces into (more) dependent tools of weapons manufacturers, turning them into something more like private armies.

The only limit is cost, but that keeps dropping every year while robots become more capable. Those boston dynamics bots are impressive and creepy.

Seems we're steadily building the cyberpunk future the 80s lost sleep over...
 

Hadoblado

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In general, I think such robots should be used not to kill, but to capture. I don't know about the circumstances surrounding this particular incident, they may have been in a tight spot. But moving forward, if there are intentions to use robots like this, why did it need to be a lethal bomb instead of sleep-gas? Even teargas would render a sniper ineffective.

We should not trust robots to do our killing for us. We should use them to capture, then hold trial.

I very much agree with Kuu in that robot soldiers lowers the moral cost of war, and increases its likelihood. A truly expendable army allows nations to throw surplus at enemies instead of the people they rely on for votes. A non-committal oppression with little personal consequence. If such robots could be limited to defensive purposes that's an entirely different question however.
 

Interdimensionist

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If the sniper was a piece of shit targeting innocents what's the point in capturing him to hold a trial? Better to have Omnibot roll in and blow the perp than waste resources incarcerating yet another drain on society.

edit: Blow as in blow up, don't be dirty.
 

Hadoblado

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It's not about the guilt of the perp. It's about making sure that law enforcement doesn't skid on the soap at the precipice of a slippery slope. Setting a precedent now may allow all sorts of nasty shit to follow. This particular incident is just the shallow face of a potentially much larger problem.
 

Interdimensionist

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We could say that a precedent has already been set and that America has already begun the transition into total police state, just look at the Sterling & Castile shootings. Even here in the UK the police don't give a shit.

I got picked up trying to walk home drunk after a house party and understandably got pretty stressed upon being surrounded by loud officers all barking questions at me and flashing lights, I tried to explain that I'm not good with over-stimulation and that they were just exacerbating things and making me panicky

To an outsider I'd say, yeah I probably came across as a little unstable and freaked out especially by refusing to give out my details on the basis that I hadn't actually committed a crime, unless you count being pissed as a crime, but I certainly wasn't acting in a way that justified being thrown to the floor and pinned resulting in massive bruises on my arm and back and pain for weeks after.

If they had just listened to me and allowed me to sit down and compose myself then I would have stopped freaking out and eventually would have told them my address so they could take me home but no, instead they have to follow their guidelines and perceive everyone as a threat and I end up in a drunk tank for the night with a traumatic experience and a caution to boot.

If only our officers could actually assess situations on an individual basis and think for themselves then we'd have much less of this bullshit, unfortunately low level officers seem to be for the most part poorly trained or of not so stellar intelligence therefore they end up doing a lot more harm than good in some cases where a negative outcome could have been avoided altogether had they adopted a more tactful approach.

Sorry about the rant, had to get that one off my chest. Whoever is in charge of these robots needs extensive testing is my point, like Cicada 3301 level before they can touch so much as an operations manual.
 

The Gopher

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You have to be careful using the slippery slope argument though, you'll never know where that'll lead.
 

Cognisant

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It's a moral high-ground victory for the police if they can capture a criminal alive, it's not a problem with the robots the problem is with the people using them.
 

Pyropyro

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@Kuu Yes, the dehumanization of war is an interesting angle. It's easier to use a bot to napalm a platoon to submission rather than doing it via a helicopter. That might actually make countries more easily convinced to go to war and cause more damage in the long run. After all, it's easier to delete a chunk of your enemy's military statistics than kill people personally.

@Hado I think capture wasn't an option vs. the Dallas sniper. The dude has the discipline and balls to kill armed officers. I'm pretty sure it's safe for the police to assume that he can counter chemical warfare.

@Cog Yeah, capturing the sniper might have given plus points on the police but if I were the commanding officer back there, I won't sacrifice time or my people's lives to capture him. It would be a victory, yes but a Pyrrhic one.

@Interdimensionist that incident sucks. I hope you're feeling better and hopefully you got off from that brush with the law.
 

Blarraun

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It's not news at this point. US used drones since the 2nd Gulf War. They will continue to upgrade and apply them to a broader range of environments.

The biggest problem I see with robots is the threat assessment algorithms and overall threat estimation which is flawed and always will be. Sniper on the roof scenario is clean-cut, but after similar precedents they will try to use them in more ambiguous situations, sooner or later there will be cases of controversial nature, with evidence to support misuse or hasty reaction from the drones.

With humans doing the enforcement there's at least a degree of responsibility behind their decisions, once this duty is moved to bots there will always be the argument that it was its independent decision. Evidence of misuse as always will be hidden away or countered by fabricated one.

Adding to what Kuu said. It is a very dangerous thing to pool control resources under one mindless button. Who knows when this button will be pressed and if justifiably. Will it happen to quell riots? To skirmish enemy troops? Raid and bomb countries?

As long as the public doesn't receive and doesn't understand the truth about the actual application of such means it will be possible to commit horrible atrocities. As long as media and military secrecy keep the data from leaking out (most people won't care or understand raw data unless someone brings their attention to it, explains it and tells them how their direct interest will be endangered if they don't react), the public will remain complacent and bots won't have second thoughts or share their secrets the way traumatised soldiers could (though for highly questionable operations there are men who will do everything and they are already identified by the brass during psych assessments and analysis).
 
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