December 19, 2011

IEET Fellow Patrick Lin briefs CIA on drone ethics

Last month, philosopher and futurist Patrick Lin delivered this briefing about the ethics of drones at an event hosted by In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture-capital arm. It's a detailed and provocative survey of what it might mean for the intelligence service to deploy different kinds of robots.

1 comment:

Jay Dugger said...

Thank you for posting the link. I treat the IEET very sceptically. How reassuring to learn they remain capable of good work!

Lin's piece indulges in speculation more than I'd like. It continues to blur the line between an independently operating machine robot and a remotely operated machine. Perhaps that suited its intended audience, but it ignores an important semantic distinction with practical consequences, and it ignores the continuum of increasingly independent weaponry in which drones and robots exist.

That continuum has at one end, a thrown rock, which acts independently of the pitcher after release. At the other, a human in a conflict can act in principle with complete freedom of action. Neither extreme has very much military use. Arrows and organized combatants lie slightly closer in from the extremes. You could arrange diagrams along axes such as moral agency, range, lethality, accuracy, cost, etc. Perhaps someone's already done so in the literature. I've not read Arkin's recent work or any recent military journals. Perhaps such a diagram and the context it would provide have less use than I imagine. :)

I again found no mention of the use of military animals as an analog or precedent for the military use robots in Lin's piece. This continues a severe oversight which we've discussed in the past. Dogs, horses, pinnipeds, and cetaceans all have been used for military purposes. A good military historian could probably add something valuable to the debate by discussing previous moral debates on animals in war.