Can Killer Robots Learn to Follow the Rules of War?

As Memorial Day reminds us every year, war doesn’t go away.

But it does change. And one of the more profound shifts we’ll see in coming years is to a military increasingly dependent on robots.  Drones get most of the attention now, but more and more of the Defense Department’s innovations are other kinds of unmanned machines, from experimental aircraft to on-the-ground soldiers.

It’s easy to understand the attraction. Using robots is potentially more efficient, more precise and less expensive than relying solely on humans in warfare. And it would also, of course, mean fewer human casualties.

But this transformation brings with it a complex challenge: Can military machines be programmed to make decisions?  Which leads to a stickier question: Can robots learn morality?


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