Applying AI on the Battlefield: The Ethical Debates

Book chapter

Reichberg, Gregory M. & Henrik Syse (2021) Applying AI on the Battlefield: The Ethical Debates, in Robotics, AI, and Humanity: Science, Ethics, and Policy. Cham: Springer (147–159).

Read the chapter here (Open Access)

Because lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) are designed to make targeting decisions without the direct intervention of human agents (who are “out of the killing loop”), considerable debate has arisen on whether this mode of autonomous targeting should be deemed morally permissible. Surveying the contours of this debate, the authors first present a prominent ethical argument that has been advanced in favor of LAWS, namely, that AI-directed robotic combatants have an advantage over their human counterparts, insofar as the former operate solely on the basis of rational assessment, while the latter are often swayed by emotions that conduce to poor judgment. Several counter arguments are then presented, inter alia, (1) that emotions have a positive influence on moral judgment and are indispensable to it; (2) that it is a violation of human dignity to be killed by a machine, as opposed to being killed by a human being; and (3) that the honor of the military profession hinges on maintaining an equality of risk between combatants, an equality that would be removed if one side delegates its fighting to robots. The chapter concludes with a reflection on the moral challenges posed by human-AI teaming in battlefield settings, and how virtue ethics provides a valuable framework for addressing these challenges.

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