Autonomy of humans and robots

Authored by: Thrishantha Nanayakkara

Routledge Handbook of War, Law and Technology

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  May  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138084551
eBook ISBN: 9781315111759
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315111759-11

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Abstract

It is often argued that mobility is an essential ingredient of intelligence. 1 Reasonably advanced robots are beginning to join humans in various fields including the military, with rapid advances in solving basic problems to do with mobility. With these developments, debates on the definition of a robot, its autonomy, how they are related to humans, and how robots should be forced to be safer are gaining public participation like never before. While such debates are healthy for the public’s engagement with the field of robotics, and can even contribute to its advancement, if misconstrued they can also delay the benefits that robotics can offer to society. In this discussion, I will briefly mention some of the advancements of robotic mobility in three main modes – legged locomotion, flight, and swimming – to emphasise the important role played by fundamental knowledge about locomotion in the advancement of autonomous robots. I will then raise several questions about the notion of autonomy of human body and mind, followed by a discussion on autonomy in robots. Then I will share some thoughts on how bounded autonomy should be addressed when humans and robots are involved in lethal force, and the question of how developed nations can engage with advances in the developing world in the area of autonomous robots to ensure a safer world. Finally, I will highlight some future challenges that should be addressed by multidisciplinary groups involving roboticists and war studies experts.

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