Intending to err: the ethical challenge of lethal, autonomous systems
- First Online:
- 408 Downloads
Current precursors in the development of lethal, autonomous systems (LAS) point to the use of biometric devices for assessing, identifying, and verifying targets. The inclusion of biometric devices entails the use of a probabilistic matching program that requires the deliberate targeting of noncombatants as a statistically necessary function of the system. While the tactical employment of the LAS may be justified on the grounds that the deliberate killing of a smaller number of noncombatants is better than the accidental killing of a larger number, it may nonetheless contravene a reemerging conception of right intention. Originally framed by Augustine of Hippo, this lesser-known formulation has served as the foundation for chivalric code, canon law, jus in bello criteria, and the law of armed conflict. Thus it serves as a viable measure to determine whether the use of lethal autonomy would accord with these other laws and principles. Specifically, examinations of the LAS through the lenses of collateral damage, the principle of double effect, and the principle of proportionality, reveal the need for more attention to be paid to the moral issues now, so that the promise of this emerging technology—that it will perform better than human beings—might actually come to pass.
KeywordsBiometrics Lethal autonomy Tolerance for error Right intention
- Augustine. (1986). Concerning the City of God against the Pagans. New York: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
- Bellamy, A. J. (2006). Just wars, from Cicero to Iraq. Malden, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Bloom, A. D. (Trans.) (1991). The republic of Plato, 2nd edn. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Department of the Army/US Marine Corps. Headquarters Department of the Army/Marine Corps Combat Development Command (2006). FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5—Counterinsurgency. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
- Finn, P. (2011, September 15). A future for Drones: Automated killing. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/a-future-for-drones-automated-killing/2011/09/15/gIQAVy9mgK_story.html.
- Heinz, M. H., Jette, B., Smith, T. B., & Department of the Army, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology). (2012). Tactical non-cooperative biometric systems. Fort Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center.Google Scholar
- Johnson, J. T. (1975). Ideology, Reason, and the Limitation of War, Religious and Secular Concepts, 1200–1740. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- McChrystal, S. International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Tactical Directive dated 6 July 2009.Google Scholar
- Orend, B. (2006). The morality of war. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.Google Scholar
- Reichberg, G. M., Syse, H., & Begby, E. (2008). The Ethics of War, Classic and Contemporary Readings. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Schaff, P. (1886). Letter CXXXIII, to Marcellinus. In T. Perrine (Ed.), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series I, Vol. 1. New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf101.vii.1.CXXXIII.html.
- Schaff, P. (1887). Book XXII, 76, Reply to Faustus the Manichæan. In T. Perrine (Ed.), Nicene and post-Nicene fathers series I, Vol. 1. New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf104.iv.ix.xxiv.html.
- Shaw, P. M. (1997). Collateral Damage and the US Air Force. Informally published manuscript, School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Air University, Montgomery, Alabama USA.Google Scholar
- Sullins, P. (2006). When is a robot a moral agent? International Review of Information Ethics, 6(12/2006), 24–29. Retrieved from http://www.i-r-i-e.net/inhalt/006/006_Sullins.pdf.
- Walker, R. J., & Minister of National Defence, Directorate of Land Concepts and Design. (2009). Duty with discernment: CLS guidance on ethics in operations. Ottowa, Canada: Directorate Army Public Affairs.Google Scholar
- Walzer, M. (1977). Just and unjust wars (3rd ed.). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar