Putting “ethical governors” on killer robots

Drone warfare makes some people squirm for the ethical issues it raises, but right now drones are still controlled by human beings.  The upcoming technology, though, would make them autonomous, allowing them to make their own “decisions” about whether or not to kill.  To meet the moral objections in giving machines the option to kill human beings, some techies are proposing tacking on separate software they are calling  “ethical governors” that could automatically run the decisions through international law protocols before going lethal.

What do you think about this?  Can there be “artificial morality’” just as there is “artificial intelligence”?  (After the jump, a defense of killer robots that goes into these issues.) [Read more...]

Never-ending war

Drones that can zap our enemies from above like Zeus throwing down thunderbolts would seem like a great anti-terrorism technology.   But we probably won’t like them as much when other countries–and terrorists–use them to assassinate people on our soil.

But whatever you think of drone warfare, I was struck by a news story reporting on a bipartisan commission studying the issue in which one consequence is said to be a state of “never-ending war.” [Read more...]

Medal for drone warriors

The military has instituted a new medal, the Distinguished Warfare Medal, to honor great deeds performed by those who operate drones and other high-tech military systems operated from afar (such as, presumably, cyberwarfare).  The problem is that in the hierarchy of medals, the Distinguished Warfare Medal outranks the Bronze Star (which is given for valor in combat) and the Purple Heart (which is given for getting wounded).  The new medal has sparked outrage and ridicule from troops on the ground who have to face getting shot at, as well as veterans who had to put their lives on the line, unlike drone warriors.  As a result of the uproar,  military brass are reviewing the ranking. [Read more...]

American factions are coming together over drones

It has been said that America is polarized politically, but now an issue has emerged that is uniting conservatives and liberals, rightists and leftists, tea party activists and occupy Wall Street types:  Concern about drones.

Virtually all of these factions are praising Rand Paul’s filibuster protesting the Attorney General’s ruling that American citizens on American soil are subject to being zapped from above by drone technology.  All are opposing establishment-types from both parties who hail the new military technology.

Might this herald a new political consensus around civil liberties?  How about a Bill of Rights agenda, which would uphold the conservative causes of religious freedom and gun rights AND the liberal causes of freedom of speech and expression?

Are there other issues that might serve as a similar rallying point? [Read more...]

The drone filibuster

Attorney General Eric Holder said that drones could be used against American citizens on American soil.  So libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) staged a 13-hour filibuster–a real one, in which the Senator actually occupies for the floor rather than just threatening to–in protest.  Eventually, Holder said that drones would not be used against unarmed Americans, just terrorists in an emergency.

Some Republicans were annoyed with Paul’s “stunt,” as Sen. John McCain called it, and defend an aggressive use of drones.  Some of them were lunching with President Obama when Paul was filibustering, sparking some observers to see a changing of the Republican guard (to borrow an Iranian phrase), with a new generation of Republicans challenging the traditional GOP practice of giving a blank check to anything military and championing instead civil liberties.

What do you think? [Read more...]

How to dodge a drone

Al-Qaeda is circulating a list of 22 techniques to thwart drone attacks–ones experts say are effective–showing how terrorists keep adapting to efforts to counter them.  I give the list after the jump. [Read more...]


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