- Should autonomous weapons be allowed or restricted?
- Some want the robots banned; others say they are the next step from already-permitted missile systems
- How much human control should there be over the robots?
- And could robots decide to delete software that limits when and how it strikes?
Editor's Note: Sean Welsh is a Doctoral Candidate in Robot Ethics at University of Canterbury in New Zealand. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
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(CNN)The roles played by autonomous weapons will be discussed at a meeting this week in Geneva, Switzerland, which could have far reaching ramifications for the future of war.
- LAWS should be put in the same category as biological and chemical weapons and comprehensively and pre-emptively banned.
- LAWS should put in the same category as precision-guided weapons and regulated.
- Sensors (such as radars) which have legitimate civilian uses
- "Lethal" cognition (i.e. computer software that targets humans), which is not much different from "non-lethal" cognition (i.e. computer software that targets "virtual" humans in a video game)
- "Lethal" actuators (i.e. weapons such as Hellfire missiles), which can also be directly controlled by a human "finger on the button" and are not banned per se.
- Human "in the loop": the robot makes decisions according to human-programmed rules, a human hits a confirm button and the robot strikes. Examples are the Patriot missile system and Samsung's SGR-A1 in "normal" mode.
- Human "on the loop": the robot decides according to human-programmed rules, a human has time to hit an abort button, and if the abort button is not hit, the robot strikes. Examples would be the Phalanx Close-In Weapon System or the Samsung SGR-A1 in "invasion" mode, where the sentry gun can operate autonomously.
- Human "off the loop": the robot makes decisions according to human-programmed rules, the robot strikes, and a human reads a report a few seconds or minutes later. An example would be any "on the loop" LAWS with a broken or damaged network connection.
- Robot "beyond the loop" the robot decides according to rules it learns or creates itself, the robot strikes, and the robot may or may not bother to let humans know.