Survey: Should robots make life/death decisions? – UN discusses lethal autonomous weapons Apr. 13-17, 2015

(Photo by Paul Ridgeway)

(Photo by Paul Ridgeway)

The Open Roboethics initiative has been leading surveys and polls on a number of different roboethics related issues over the past year. From dilemma problems involving autonomous cars to care robots, we have been exploring different issues that the rapidly developing robotics technologies bring with them.

Of the many elements of robotics that make roboethics issues interesting is the element of autonomy — i.e., what kind of decisions are we comfortable outsourcing to autonomous machines? and what decisions should or should not always remain in the hands of humans?

Should robots be allowed to make life/death decisions?

In fact, autonomy is the very thing that will drive some heated discussions at the United Nations (UN) Palais des Nations in Geneva next week (April 13-17th, 2015). As part of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), experts from all over the world will gather at the UN “to discuss questions related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems“(CCW/MSP/2014/9, Paragraph 36).

On topics as sensitive as decisions on human life, use of autonomous robotic weapons in war,  we believe it is important to engage the public and understand what the public thinks about the issues. In fact, part of the international law includes something called the Martens Clause, which explicitly gives room for the public to have a say in what should be deemed permissible internationally:

“Recalling that, in cases not covered by the law in force, the human person remains under the protection of the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience.” (Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions)

We think it is really important to make sure that the public’s voice from all over the world is heard by experts and decision makers as part of the international debate. That is why ORi will be attending the CCW meeting this year to present what the public thinks about this topic. That is also why we’ve put together a multi-lingual survey to better understand the latest public opinion on this topic.

Help us inform the discussion with your voice by participating in and distributing our multi-lingual survey.

They are available in:

The survey will remain open after the meeting as well. So please do feel free to pass it along to people all over the world.

Also, for those of you who’d like to follow the discussion throughout next week, there will be livetweets via the hashtag #CCWUN.

Leave a Reply