Human-Robot Interaction and the U.S. Military

April 15, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: design, human factors, robots 

P.W. Singer gave an interesting talk at TED2009 entitled “Military robots and the future of war.” Many of the concerns he described were also discussed in his article, “Robots at War: The New Battlefield,” that was recently published in the Winter 2009 issue of The Wilson Quarterly.

The article highlights several potential ethical issues that will need to be addressed in future wars that include greater robot involvement, including:

  • “This is leading some of the first generation of soldiers working with robots to worry that war waged by remote control will come to seem too easy, too tempting.”
  • “Robotics ‘will further disconnect the military from society.  People are more likely to support the use of force as long as they view it as costless.'”
  • “…a new kind of voyeurism enabled by the emerging technologies will make the public more susceptible to attempts to sell the ease of a potential war.”
  • “Technologies such as unmanned systems can be seductive, feeding overconfidence that can lead nations into wars for which they aren’t ready.”

Moreover, it brings up several human factors related issues, including:

  • “…how will humans remain masters of weapons that are immeasurably faster and more ‘intelligent’ than they are?”
  • “…the human is becoming the weakest link in defense systems.”
  • “What happens to the human role in war as we arm ever more intelligent, more capable, and more autonomous robots?”
  • “…what it means to have humans ‘in the loop’ of decision making in war is being redefined, with the authority and autonomy of machines expanding.”
  • “To achieve any sort of personnel savings from using unmanned systems, one human operator has to be able to ‘supervise’ (as opposed to control) a larger number of robots.  Researchers are finding that humans have a hard time controlling multiple units at once…”
  • “…the human use of robots in war will evolve ‘to more of a team approach.'”
  • “To work together well, robots and human soldiers will need to have confidence in each other.”

Given the talk and article, I’m interested to learn how he expounds upon these topics in his book “Wired for War.”

Update 1: Here’s a recent interview with P.W. Singer at the Abu Muqawama blog.

Update 2: Singularity Hub blog has posted (War 2.0 – Rise of the Robots) on the future of robots in warfare.

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