Renowned roboticist to give public talk at UC

30 March 2015

A renowned roboticist who says robots in war could save soldiers' lives and ultimately reduce civilian casualties will give a public lecture on killer robots at the UC.

Renowned roboticist to give public talk at UC

Doctoral student Sean Welsh with one of the university's Nao research robots.

A renowned roboticist who says robots in war could save soldiers’ lives and ultimately reduce civilian casualties will give a public lecture on killer robots at the University of Canterbury on Tuesday.

Professor Ron Arkin is concerned how technology impacts the world and with how the application of technology can improve it. His talk on campus will focus on lethal autonomous robots and the plight of non-combatants.

His research interests include behaviour-based control and action-oriented perception for mobile robots and UAVs, robot survivability, multi-agent robotics, human-robot interaction, robot ethics and learning in autonomous systems.

Professor Arkin, from the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a central figure in current debates on military applications of robots. His visit is being organised by the university’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITLab) which studies robots and human interaction with technology.

HITLab doctoral student Sean Welsh says the United Nations has considered the many issues surrounding the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems from a variety of legal, ethical, operational, and technical perspectives.

“The latest to emerge from military technology are unmanned weapon systems; remote controlled robots that are replacing human soldiers in war.  We know robots have the ability to significantly reduce civilian casualties in battle. This can lead to a moral imperative for their use due to the enhanced likelihood of reduced non-combatant deaths.

“If the use of killer robots is not properly addressed or is hastily deployed, it can lead to serious problems in the future. Ron’s talk will encourage people to think of ways to approach the issues of restraining lethal autonomous weapons systems from illegal or immoral actions in the context of international humanitarian and human rights law, whether through technology or legislation.”

“The introduction of robots in war changes the premises of warfare and radically redefines the soldiers’ experience of going to war.

“Robots could do better than humans as war-fighters because they provide better sensors, such as seeing through walls. They have an absence of self-preservation emotions. They have an ability to re-compute scenarios in the light of fresh data and most importantly they can have a complete focus on the strictures of military duty and the rule of international humanitarian law.

“When the United States military went into Iraq in 2003, it employed only a few robotic planes, so called drones. Today, thousands of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV’s) are being used in mainly Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan and lately for the military intervention in Libya.

“Most robots are unarmed and used for surveillance, reconnaissance, or destruction of mines and other explosive devices. However, in the past years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of armed robots in combat. New technology permits soldiers to kill without being in any danger, further increasing the distance from the battlefield and the enemies.”

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications 
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz

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