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October 17, 2007


Michael Weiksner

It's not an original question, but I worry about the ethics of robotic war. We already care precious little about casualties of other nationalities and other collateral damage, so robots seem to only make war even more remote and dehumanized. I imagine that the creators of these devices don't care much about this concern and would answer something like "I am technologist - I just build the machines to spec."

Sorry I don't have anything better to contribute. I do like reading your blog, though, so I figured I take a swag to give you feedback given this rare opportunity.

Tim Oren

It should be clear that the Urban Challenge is devoted to developing autonomous logistics vehicles - you might call them 'drones'. There are no weapons in the program. The only 'weaponized' bots of which I'm aware - Predator UAV and the armed Packbot - have the offensive functions completely under remote human control. I see little ethical problem in a program that has the effect of taking our guys out of harm's way.

As far as '...care precious little about casualties... and collateral damage...", our guys have taken considerable casualties due to restraint in their rules of engagement, and frequent reluctance to 'go kinetic' when the situations might otherwise warrant it. If you're looking for a sneer at our armed forces, you've come to the wrong address.

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