The Artificial Conscience of Lethal Autonomous Weapons: Marketing Ruse or Reality?

1 Law and the Digital Age 1-17, 2018

17 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2020

Date Written: February 19, 2018

Abstract

There are two interwoven trends in cyber-counter-terrorism. On the one hand, countries such as Israel and Russia announce the deployment of lethal autonomous weapons. Such weapons constitute the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms. On the other hand, researchers try and embed ethics into the design of these weapons (so-called artificial conscience or "ethics by design"). The contention of this paper is that artificial conscience is a mere marketing ruse aimed at making the deployment of lethal autonomous weapons and other autonomous robots acceptable in society. Whereas there are strong reasons to object to this trend, some solutions to the pitfalls of ethics by design have been presented. However, they do not seem viable in a military context. In particular, the so-called customized-ethics approach is applicable only to commercial and civil machines. When deciding whether to kill 600 civilians in order to hit 14 al-Qaeda leaders, which set of values should be implemented? This is a compelling argument for banning lethal autonomous weapons altogether.

Keywords: lethal autonomous weapons, ethics by design, artificial conscience, killer robots, ethics, laws of war, human rights

JEL Classification: K33, K42

Suggested Citation

Noto La Diega, Guido, The Artificial Conscience of Lethal Autonomous Weapons: Marketing Ruse or Reality? (February 19, 2018). 1 Law and the Digital Age 1-17, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3607035

Guido Noto La Diega (Contact Author)

University of Stirling ( email )

Pathfoot Building
Stirling Law School
STIRLING, Stirling FK9 4LA
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.guidonotoladiega.com

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