Military drone with no human control…(Calling Sarah Conner!)
By Christie Nicholson
A new aircraft from Northrop Grumman might make the idea of “robot overlords” seem uncomfortably real. The X-47B is a completely unmanned drone. Meaning, not only no pilot but no human control from the ground. Its missions are initially planned by humans but once these things are airborne they are guided and controlled by on-board computers.
Unmanned military drones, as we’ve come to know them, are controlled by pilots from a chair maybe halfway around the world. It might seem video-game like, providing such a great distance between the pilot and the reality of dropping bombs on real places and people. But at least there’s a human at the controls somewhere, giving the order to fire. Now with the X-47B it will be the decision of an algorithm based on perceived threats that are described by sensors. So it begs the question, where is the accountability if something goes horribly wrong?
From the L.A. Times:
“Lethal actions should have a clear chain of accountability,” said Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist and robotics expert. “This is difficult with a robot weapon. The robot cannot be held accountable. So is it the commander who used it? The politician who authorized it? The military’s acquisition process? The manufacturer, for faulty equipment?”
Sharkey and others believe that autonomous armed robots should force the kind of dialogue that followed the introduction of mustard gas in World War I and the development of atomic weapons in World War II. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the group tasked by the Geneva Conventions to protect victims in armed conflict, is already examining the issue.