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Essay: Do human rights activists have a right to concern over developments in robotics inc AI

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  • Subject area(s): Human rights essays Information technology essays Philosophy essays
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  • Do human rights activists have a right to concern over developments in robotics inc AI
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Human rights and the fight for human rights has occurred since the very existence of man. Nelson Mandela very famously quoted,” To deny people their human rights is a violation of being a human.”(Mandela 1994) Firstly what are human rights? Human rights is defined by (Hutchings 2010) as,” The rights that we as human beings are entitled to no matter race, gender, religion, age or socio economic background.” An activist for human rights again is described by (Hutchings 2010) as,” an individual involved in the fighting for rights of an issue which they believe to be wrong and a sign of ill practice.” Nelson Mandela himself as stated above was a human rights activist. Another famous activist was Ghandi who said,” Domination of one nation over another is unacceptable practice.”(Chakrabarti, 1997). In this essay I will be looking at why are human rights activists have a right to be concerned about the modern technological developments in robotics along with artificial intelligence and also will be providing my own opinion on what I believe are the key issues in terms of robotic warfare.

Robotics and Artificial intelligence are defined as the ability of finely tuned mechanical machines to do things that would be considered dangerous. In terms of surveillance it is an opportunity to watch over the enemy and gather intelligence. (Jackson, 1974) The first reason I believe it is a growing concern is the improvement of technology in the past particularly 10years. This wouldn’t have presented a problem 20/30 years ago as technology was still not developed to the scale that it is today. According to the (New York Times, 2005),”The rise of robots and technology is at such a fast rate by the year 2050 George Washington believes that the whole of the Militaries around the world will be all robots.” This is what concerns many human rights activists is the sheer rise in the use of robots within the military. These statistics however could prove to be false as it states in (Gills, 2013) article it states that,” over a period of less than 7 years DARRA expects the fields of robotics to undergo a huge historic transformation that could drive innovation for robots in defence.” This is a very scary statistic and we as civilians should be very concerned. The rise of technology is also not just happening on the field of battle (Arkin 2009) states that,” it is being used at land, air and sea.”

An ethical issue arising from this is that some people believe that robots will be able to apply for moral status the same moral status in which we as humans are entitled to. Many people today believe that robots with moral status and have a moral obligation to treat them with care and abstain them from neglect and not being used properly. But if these robots are able to constantly watch the enemy they also have the ability to constantly watch fellow army members. This would I believe make the soldiers very uneasy and may start to dislike them. In the army working in a team is certainly the key to success this loss team spirit if a member believes he is being spied on by his peers can cause a strained relationship. There have been cases of spying on each other an example would be the case in the American army in Iraq in 2008. According to (Bing 2011) “The defendant claimed that he was only keeping a close eye on his fellow teammate in case of an emergency however the victim understandably did not agree.” In this example we can clearly see surveillance technology not being used in the correct manner. Then why should we as individuals give them moral status?

Another issue which concerns human rights activists is that these robots will be designed not to identify non-combatants. As (Gubard 2007) says in his book,” advances in computer technology, artificial intelligence and robotics may lead to a vast expansion in the development and use of such weapons in the near future.” The Public is also very strongly against the use of killer robots again as they are unpredictable and will not be able to identify civilians as well as humans are able to. (Gubard 2007) goes on to say that,” public opinion is strongly against the use of killer robots and the main reason that the battle for robotic warfare is occurring is known simply as an arms race this has been ongoing since the cold war.” These are just some of the reasons why robots I believe should not be involved in war and what is very worrying is the sheer rise of these robots and the effects it could bring to our society if robots were solely an army. As summed up perfectly by (Gubard 2007) “these weapons pose a serious threat to global peace and security.

The key issue for human rights activists however is that if this technology were to be used would it be breaking international law? But we must remember that some modern technology used in war can help save lives also example robots can be used to detonate potentially dangerous bombs this will save the lives of many humans. But as explained by (Wright 2007),”The use of technology can have a detrimental effect in the process of trying to achieve peace in a war stricken society.” An example I can provide would be the war between the United States of America and Vietnam war between these two nations perhaps could be hailed as the beginning of a vast array of technology being used. The American used an operation known as “rolling thunder” this is when a series of bombs were dropped in the Vietnamese jungle in order to attack the opposition. Described as a “monumental defeat” for the Americans despite having all the modern technology and equipment this still did not remove communism from Vietnam. This goes to show that despite having all of this equipment it still does not guarantee success. So the real question is, is it really worth dropping bombs risking killing civilians if success is not guaranteed?

Human activists have a strong belief that the use of autonomous robotics such as bombs make it somewhat effortless for a nation to participate in a war. This is because it is simply too easy to eliminate soldiers on the ground. A reason why human rights activists are against this is because it is an infringement of jus ad bellum. Jus ad bellum is defined by (Hill 2002) as,” the laws and conditions in which a nation can take part in warfare.” The use of robots during warfare violates the ethical use of force against the enemy. This is very appealing to nations as it will reduce soldier deaths while also increasing the deaths of the enemy. However following this method will increase the death of civilians. A key issue which arises from the use of robots in war is that does it again follow the just war theory which states according to (Hill 2002) “that it should be fought as a last resort.” However many people believe that as robots become more intelligent will these machines be able to make life changing decisions? As quoted by (Alexander 1907) ‘It is well that war is so terrible, or we would grow too fond of it’. “If war and everything that goes with it were not so terrible—say, with robots and enhanced machinery on the frontline that can more quickly achieve victory with fewer friendly casualties—then we lose an important reason to engage in war. This means that the argument between the two countries would still continue. This seems to be supported by human psychology that we respond to positive and negative influences depending on how the person is feeling prior to the event (Skinner 1953).”

A problem with this argument, though, is that is suggesting that war should be as bloody and dangerous as possible in order for it to be known as a last resort (Lin et al. 2008). Taken to the extreme, the argument seems to imply that we should increase the barriers of war, to make fighting as gruesome and as brutal as possible, again referring to Vietnam when they used operation agent orange when napalm was dropped into the Vietnamese jungle burning anyone/anything that came in contact with it. However, we must remember that this would only suit the richer nations and those nations who are lower economically developed countries may not want to take part in this war. Therefore we must wonder what the best way to go about war is. How should two nations or multiple nations approach it in the future with the influence of robotics certainly on the rise?

With many people believing that robotic warfare is the best ethical option as with airstrikes it can produce precision airstrikes on the enemy. Ultimately claiming to save lives however how do we know that these airstrikes are going to be “pinpoint” these attacks could be instead killing many innocent people. According to (Wright 2007)”these machines may not take into account environmental factors.” Will these robots however be able to distinguish between injured soldiers or soldiers who have surrendered? This again is another key ethical issue.
One of the most commonly asked questions about any sort of military machinery is,” what would happen if it had a system malfunction?” The consequences described by (Wright 2007),” would be catastrophic.” Although this is a very rare occurrence it is important to remember that anything is possible. This is why there is a definite element of risk involved when using robots. Even though there are constant and rigorous checks it’s important to remember that all it can take is one lapse in judgement to cause a disaster. An example would be the case in South Africa. (Ball 2007) goes on to say that the death of 14 people was simply caused by a robotic malfunction…engineers all over the world were stunned that this was caused by simply a robotic malfunction.

When we look at the case of drones to spy on the enemy. Some experts describe operating a drone as a “Game mentality.” This basically meant that they believed the operator of these drones didn’t really consider the damage that these drones can cause to people on the ground otherwise known as virtual reality. One of the key issues with these people is that they believe the operator of these drones were not trained to the correct level. An example of this could be one of the multiple attacks which occurred in Afghanistan example a military drone falsely identified non-combatants and killed 12 innocent civilians in the process. This again shows just how dangerous a lapse in judgement these military drones can be in terms of their impact.

Overall to conclude I believe that the robotics industry is rapidly advancing and already giving rise to a great many additional questions in society of a non-military nature: example, should we allow robots to look after the elderly and our children? It ultimately will depend on how the military use the technology and how ethically they will use it. The problem however for human activists is that the disadvantages of robotic warfare certainly outweigh the advantages. A clear disadvantage is that the use of robots will simply make war too easy and when used incorrectly the consequences are so severe. However in terms of clear advantages when used correctly it can lower deaths on the ground. If robotic warfare is to be used effectively I personally believe that the operators need more training and only to use it when absolutely necessary.

Bibliography

C.Arkin (2009) Robotic warfare , 1st edn., University of Florida : P.27-31
B.Ball (2007) www.BBC.co.uk/Machinery/SouthAfrica
A.Bradley (2014) \’Warfare \’, New York Times , , p. 38.
M. Chakrabarti (1997) The socio aesthetic role of non violence,P.62-65
A.Gill (2013) \’Warfare and the effects on society \’, Global Warfare ,2(), p. 63-65.
M. Gubard (2007) Total war, 1stedn, Ohio P.46-48
D.Hill (2002) Global war ethics, 1st edn, America P.10-13
K.Hutchings (2010) Global ethics , 1st edn., America : p.12
R.Lee (1999) War times, London P.63-64
Lin.et.al (2008) www.War.co.uk/future/robotics/threat
D.Skinner (1953). Psychology effects of war and decision making., London P.62-63
B.Walzer (1977) Just war, 1stedn , Columbus P.24
W.Wright (2007), War Machinery, Texas, P.22

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