Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Combat Robots

16 Nov
11/16/2011 - 11:00am to 12:00pm
Distinguished Lecturer Series

Ronald C. Arkin
Georgia Institute of Technology
College of Computing, Mobile Robot Laboratory

Computer Science Building, Room 150/151

Faculty Host: Rod Grupen

Weaponized robotic systems are being introduced into the battlefield at an ever increasing pace. The consequences of this technological progress need to be examined carefully. In this talk, I outline the philosophical basis, motivation, theory, and design recommendations for the implementation of an ethical control and reasoning system potentially suitable for constraining lethal actions in an autonomous robotic system so that they fall within the bounds prescribed by the Laws of War and Rules of Engagement. It is a further contention that an autonomous robot capable of lethal force can ultimately be more humane in the battlefield than human soldiers. Robot architectural design recommendations are presented for (1) post facto suppression of unethical behavior, (2) behavioral design that incorporates ethical constraints from the onset, (3) the use of affective functions as an adaptive component in the event of unethical action, and (4) a mechanism in support of identifying and advising operators regarding their ultimate responsibility for the deployment of such a system. This research was supported under a grant from the Army Research Office.


Ronald Craig Arkin is a Regents' Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Space Planning in the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also the Director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory.

Dr. Arkin's research interests include behavior-based reactive control and action-oriented perception for mobile robots and unmanned aerial vehicles, hybrid deliberative/reactive software architectures, robot survivability, multiagent robotic systems, biorobotics, human-robot interaction, robot ethics, and learning in autonomous systems. He has over 170 technical publications and has written or co-edited several books in these areas. Dr. Arkin is the Series Editor for the MIT Press book series Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Agents.

Professor Arkin was recently elected to the Board of Governors of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology and has served on the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. He is a founding co-chair of the IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Robot Ethics and has co-chaired the Society's Human Rights and Ethics Committee since 2006. He is the IEEE RAS liaison to the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology and also served on the National Science Foundation's Robotics Council in 2001 and 2002. In 2001, he received the Outstanding Senior Faculty Research Award from the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and is a member of AAAI and ACM.

Dr. Arkin received a B.S. in Math and Chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1971, an M.S. in Organic Chemistry from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1977 and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1987. He is the recipient of the 2011 UMass Amherst Computer Science Outstanding Achievement in Research Award.

A reception will be held at 3:40 in the atrium, outside the presentation room.