Countless novels, television shows, video games, and movies have toyed around with the idea of military robots. While the idea seems interesting and invigorating, it has led many of us to wonder, “Will there be a time when robots are used in wars in reality? Will it be ethical? How will it impact the way wars are fought? What are the risks of using robots in combat?”
To answer the questions, we need to look deeper at the various aspects of using robots in combat and wars. Getting a deep understanding of the applications, benefits, outcomes, and other things will help us answer the questions mentioned above. So, let’s begin our search for the answers.
Current State of Robots in Combat Operations
Technology has advanced dramatically in the last decade or so. The rise of computer vision, artificial intelligence, computer vision, drones, and other military-grade technology has helped us develop sophisticated military machines (robots) that can be used in various combat procedures.
For example, we already have autonomous drones or unmanned ariel vehicles (UAVs) and other military weaponry that can autonomously carry out missile attacks precisely. Similarly, we already have armed robotic vehicles (ARVs), autonomous surveillance vehicles, and other forms of robots used in military operations. Moreover, we also have highly advanced robots such as the ones deployed at the South Korean DMZ that can shoot people automatically, regardless of their affiliation.
Thus, we can see that using robots in combat is no longer science fiction or futuristic. It is our reality. Using the robots mentioned above has become a normal state of affairs.
There is no question of ethics associated with using such robots in war. Rather, almost every military in the world has an armory of such robots that have simplified their tasks and are used extensively in daily military operations.
The ethics question comes into play when discussing using robots in combat by completely replacing human soldiers. Imagine a war where two groups deploy their infantry comprising only robotic soldiers. The war’s winner or loser is determined only by the outcome of the war the robots fight. This is where the question of ethics comes up. And in some ways, rightly so.
Why? Let’s take a look.
The Ethics Question to Using Robots in Combat
So, is it ethical to use robots in war? To find an agreeable answer to this question, we must look at the pros and cons of using robots in combat. Let’s start with the pros.
- Robots can act conservatively. They do not need to have self-preservation and can sacrifice themselves if needed.
- Robots are better equipped with technologies needed for battle purposes. They can complete the tasks more efficiently, accurately, and quickly than human soldiers. This can help gain a major advantage over the other party.
- Robots aren’t driven by emotion. So, they are better suited to carry out their operations without fear, anger, or other emotions that can negatively impact their military duties.
- Robots don’t suffer pain similar to humans.
- Robots can avoid the ‘scenario fulfillment’ psychological problem associated with humans. They can make better decisions in stressful situations than their human counterparts.
- Robots can send, receive, process, and analyze more information per second than human soldiers. Even a second can mean the difference between winning and losing in wars.
- In scenarios involving robots and human soldiers fighting together, the presence of robots can reduce human ethical infractions.
- Robot soldiers are faster and cheaper to develop and maintain.
- They are immune to biological and chemical weapons.
- They can enhance mission effectiveness and increase the chances of winning the war.
Now, let’s look at some drawbacks or risks associated with using robots in combat.
- There is no clear guideline or law regarding who to blame if things go awry with autonomous robots. Who is to blame if the robot performs unethical actions of its own will?
- There could be a potential violation of the Jus ad Bellum conditions of just warfare using robotic soldiers.
- The states that have advanced robotic technology will have an unfair advantage. It will be impossible to defeat them in wars.
- Similarly, the states having a high military budget and the resources to develop hundreds of thousands and millions of robotic soldiers will be in a winning position right from the start.
- Wars can’t be done right with robots as they might find it difficult to discriminate between targets. They might even harm innocent civilians in certain cases.
- Robots might carry out certain tasks on their own, ignoring the orders of humans.
- There is a risk of the technology falling into the wrong hands. Militant groups and terrorists might reverse-engineer the technology and cause destruction.
- Finally, there is always a possibility of robots running amok. We have seen this situation being portrayed in various science fiction novels and movies.
So, is it ethical to use robots in combat? Looking at the arguments and counterarguments, we can conclude that it is kind of ethical to use robots in combat and wars. They will help reduce or eliminate human casualties while carrying out military operations with enhanced precision, agility and efficiency.
However, we will need to wait before the technology reaches a level where we can be completely dependent on robots for warfare. We need to ascertain that humans will have the ultimate control over robots, no matter how autonomous, sophisticated, and advanced they get. Moreover, we will need to take great measures to ensure the technology is protected from falling into the wrong hands. Otherwise, it will spell doom for all humankind.
The debate surrounding the use of robots in combat is never-ending. We will always have two factions, one for and one against the use of robots in wars. However, the use of robots in combat is inevitable. They have already made inroads. As technology advances, we can see more applications of robots in combat. It won’t be long before the stuff of science fiction becomes a reality.