The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law


The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law
Volume 13, May 24, 2013, pages 1-19
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Advanced Robotics: Changing the Nature of War and Thresholds
and Tolerance for Conflict - Implications for Research and Policy

Daniel Howlader and James Giordano

Introduction: From Fiction to Fact
The idea of robotic warriors is not new; depictions in popular media such as the Cylons from the Battlestar Galactica television shows, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic character from the Terminator series of films  have kept discussions largely fictional, and not oriented toward the possible realties that might necessitate meaningful discourse on scientific, technological, ethical and policy issues. However, the construction and iterative designing of evermore-advanced robotics for both military and non-military purposes emphasizes the need and importance of such meaningful address to address the realistic potential and problems of current, and near future technology. For example, the introduction and growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in both reconnaissance and combat scenarios over the last decade  has prompted deeper speculation, and more probing questions about how such advanced technologies, including robots, could and will affect the nature of twenty-first century warfare. In light of these developments and possibilities, this essay will examine the concept of advanced robotics and how the introduction and widespread adoption of robotic technologies by military forces, specifically those of the United States, may affect both the conduct of warfare, and the tolerance and threshold for engaging in conflict.

Herein, we provide a brief discussion about distinctions between current science and technology (S/T; e.g. drones or unmanned systems), and future robotics, including a differentiation of the levels of agency that may be applied to, and obtained by military robots. From this, we address the current uses of drones as an exemplar of possible ways that more advanced robotics could be used in the near future. Various scenarios that depict the engagement of decisionally capable military robotics will be presented, and we conclude with a set of recommendations for forecasting, guidelines, and policies to direct and govern the use of military robotics in particular circumstances.

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