Hi-Tech Canadian Robotics company, Clearpath, today issued a statement pledging not to manufacture autonomous weapons systems despite their commercial advantage and they urged other companies to follow suit: “those who might see business opportunities in this technology to seek other ways to apply their skills and resources for the betterment of humankind.”
ICRAC applauds the integrity of a company that says, “despite our continued involvement with Canadian and international military research and development, Clearpath Robotics believes that the development of killer robots is unwise, unethical, and should be banned on an international scale.”
Putting morally right action before profit is an unusual and bold move in today’s hi-tech world and ICRAC wishes them great success in their future business ventures with the added prestige this will give them.
Clearpath is the first entire company to join the growing number of robotics professionals in pointing out that autonomous weapons would be unable to comply with the laws of war into the forseeable future.
Last year nearly 300 roboticists and computer professionals signed an ICRAC petition calling for a ban on autonomous robot weapons systems http://icrac.net/call/
In an open letter, Ryan Gariepy, Co-Founder and CTO of Clearpath Robotics wrote: “would a robot have the morality, sense, or emotional understanding to intervene against orders that are wrong or inhumane? No. Would computers be able to make the kinds of subjective decisions required for checking the legitimacy of targets and ensuring the proportionate use of force in the foreseeable future? No.” And further, “In our eyes, no nation in the world is ready for killer robots – technologically, legally, or ethically”
Surely now the Canadian government will have more reason to think about following Mines Action Canada’s call to ‘keep killer robots fiction”.
Here is the open letter to the public in full:
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (http://www.stopkillerrobots.org/) was launched in April 2013, bringing the topic of “killer robots” under public scrutiny – and for good reason.
To the people against killer robots: we support you.
This technology has the potential to kill indiscriminately and to proliferate rapidly; early prototypes already exist. Despite our continued involvement with Canadian and international military research and development, Clearpath Robotics believes that the development of killer robots is unwise, unethical, and should be banned on an international scale.
How do we define “killer robot”? Is it any machine developed for military purposes? Any machine which takes actions without human direction? No. We’re referring specifically to “lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS)”; systems where a human does not make the final decision for a machine to take a potentially lethal action.
Clearpath Robotics is an organization that engineers autonomous vehicles, systems, and solutions for a global market. As current leaders in the research and development space for unmanned vehicles, making this kind of statement is a risk. However, given the potentially horrific consequences of allowing development of lethal autonomous robots to continue, we are compelled to insist upon the strictest regulation of this technology.
The Double-Edged Sword?
There are, of course, pros and cons to the ethics of autonomous lethal weapons and our team has debated many of them at length. In the end, however, we, as a whole, feel the negative implications of these systems far outweigh any benefits.
Is a computer paired with the correct technology less likely to make rash, stress-driven decisions while under fire? Possibly. Conversely, would a robot have the morality, sense, or emotional understanding to intervene against orders that are wrong or inhumane? No. Would computers be able to make the kinds of subjective decisions required for checking the legitimacy of targets and ensuring the proportionate use of force in the foreseeable future? No. Could this technology lead those who possess it to value human life less? Quite frankly, we believe this will be the case.
This is an incredibly complex issue. We need to have this discussion now and take a stance; the robotics revolution has arrived and is not going to wait for these debates to occur.
Clearpath Robotics strives to improve the lives of billions by automating the world’s dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs. This belief does not preclude the use of autonomous robots in the military; we will continue to support our military clients and provide them with autonomous systems – especially in areas with direct civilian applications such as logistics, reconnaissance, and search and rescue.
In our eyes, no nation in the world is ready for killer robots – technologically, legally, or ethically. More importantly, we see no compelling justification that this technology needs to exist in human hands. After all, the development of killer robots isn’t a necessary step on the road to self-driving cars, robot caregivers, safer manufacturing plants, or any of the other multitudes of ways autonomous robots can make our lives better. Robotics is at a tipping point, and it’s up to all of us to decide what path this technology takes.
As a company which continues to develop robots for various militaries worldwide, Clearpath Robotics has more to lose than others might by advocating entire avenues of research be closed off. Nevertheless, we call on anyone who has the potential to influence public policy to stop the development of killer robots before it’s too late.
We encourage those who might see business opportunities in this technology to seek other ways to apply their skills and resources for the betterment of humankind. Finally, we ask everyone to consider the many ways in which this technology would change the face of war for the worse. Voice your opinion and take a stance. #killerrobots
Ryan Gariepy?Co-Founder & CTO, Clearpath Robotics?