Autonomous weapons and ethical judgments: Experimental evidence on attitudes toward the military use of "killer robots"

Accepted for publication in Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology

30 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2022

See all articles by Ondřej Rosendorf

Ondřej Rosendorf

Charles University in Prague

Michal Smetana

Charles University in Prague

Marek Vranka

Prague University of Economics and Business

Date Written: January 6, 2022

Abstract

The advent of autonomous weapons brings intriguing opportunities and significant ethical dilemmas. This article examines how increasing weapon autonomy affects approval of military strikes resulting in collateral damage, perception of their ethicality, and blame attribution for civilian fatalities. In our experimental survey of U.S. citizens, we presented participants with scenarios describing a military strike with the employment of weapon systems with different degrees of autonomy. The results show that as weapon autonomy increases, the approval and perception of the ethicality of a military strike decreases. However, the level of blame towards commanders and operators involved in the strike remains constant regardless of the degree of autonomy. Our findings suggest that public attitudes to military strikes are, to an extent, dependent on the level of weapon autonomy. Yet, in the eyes of ordinary citizens, this does not take away the moral responsibility for collateral damage from human entities as the ultimate “moral agents”.

Keywords: autonomous weapons, killer robots, survey experiment, public attitudes

Suggested Citation

Rosendorf, Ondřej and Smetana, Michal and Vranka, Marek, Autonomous weapons and ethical judgments: Experimental evidence on attitudes toward the military use of "killer robots" (January 6, 2022). Accepted for publication in Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4068122

Ondřej Rosendorf (Contact Author)

Charles University in Prague ( email )

Celetná 13
Praha 1, 116 36
Czech Republic

Michal Smetana

Charles University in Prague ( email )

Celetná 13
Praha 1, 116 36
Czech Republic

Marek Vranka

Prague University of Economics and Business

Czech Republic

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