Boston Dynamics, makers of mobile robots like BigDog, Spot, Atlas, and Handle, and some other leading robotic engineering companies, pledged to no weaponise their robots.
According to an open letter opposing weaponisation of general-purpose robots, the companies said that adding weapons to robots increases the risk of harm and other serious ethical issues.
The letter was signed by other industry leaders such as Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree Robotics.
“As with any new technology offering new capabilities, the emergence of advanced mobile robots offers the possibility of misuse. Untrustworthy people could use them to invade civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate others,” the letter reads in part.
The letter aims to address the increasing public concern caused by some people who go out of their way to weaponise commercially available robots and share the results online.
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“Weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society. For these reasons, we do not support the weaponization of our advanced-mobility general-purpose robots,” the group of companies assured the public.
In addition to not directly creating weapon-carrying robots, the companies also said that they are working on ways to reduce the risk of buyers building on their creations. They conceded that policymakers also need to cooperate with them to stop the misuse of their tech.
In conclusion, the age-old argument arose, are technological advancements worth the risk they ultimately bring? The group believes so, saying that the benefits of robotics to humanity strongly outweigh the risk of misuse. There is doubt that everyone agrees with this sentiment.
As we have come to learn, most of the technological advancements we enjoy these days have military backing. The Verge noted that Boston Dynamics itself benefited from US military funding in its early days. However, the company now claims to be focused on commercial-friendly robots.
Additionally, several robot technologies are already being tested in the field by the US military. And while many of them are restricted to surveillance and patrol duties, Ghost Robotics products have been fitted with guns.
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