Boston Dynamics and other robotics companies have come together to both pledge the non-weaponization of robots, but to also apply pressure to the industry to not weaponize the immerging technology. In a report by Axios, the open letter which included companies such as Open Robotics, ANYbotics, Agility Robotics, Unitree Robotics, and Clearpath Robots signed a commitment to shy away from weaponizing robots.
This is an interesting time for leading firms in robotics to turn their attention and technology away from arms. For over a decade, unmanned aerial vehicles, or just “drones” for short, have been popularized in both urban combat and strategic strikes, with most famously the United States first harnessing the technology in its conflicts within the Middle East. But as the years have gone by, other nations followed suit, as Turkey, Israel, Russia, and others have also utilized the technology for their own wartime production and even sold it in the arms market.
Removing the human element in war has been a long ethical question on the minds of both philosophers and leaders as the consequences of it are still unknown. But now, it seems that well-known firms are taking the issue head-on and at the very least stalling the advancement of robotic fighters in the battleground. In the letter, it highlights the primary reasoning behind this stand is the concern of the public not trusting robots and the technology if they are allowed to be used in war.
The letter states in part, “We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues.” The pledge doesn’t only apply to their own projects by not adding weapons to their technology, but they also pledged to not support any firm who decided to move forward with weaponizing the technology.
In an email statement to Axios, CEO of Boston Dynamics Robert Playter said, “We are concerned about recent increases in makeshift efforts by individuals attempting to weaponize commercially available robots… For this technology to be broadly accepted throughout society, the public needs to know they can trust it. And that means we need policy that prohibits bad actors from misusing it.”
By pledging to both not develop their own robotic weapons programs and not assisting any firms who are, Boston Dynamics and other firms are looking to increase consumer confidence in the technology while at the same time attempting to keep others from opening Pandora’s Box which is a future where war has no human fighters, and loses the human element.