Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 125–135 | Cite as

Framing robot arms control

  • Wendell Wallach
  • Colin Allen
Original Paper


The development of autonomous, robotic weaponry is progressing rapidly. Many observers agree that banning the initiation of lethal activity by autonomous weapons is a worthy goal. Some disagree with this goal, on the grounds that robots may equal and exceed the ethical conduct of human soldiers on the battlefield. Those who seek arms-control agreements limiting the use of military robots face practical difficulties. One such difficulty concerns defining the notion of an autonomous action by a robot. Another challenge concerns how to verify and monitor the capabilities of rapidly changing technologies. In this article we describe concepts from our previous work about autonomy and ethics for robots and apply them to military robots and robot arms control. We conclude with a proposal for a first step toward limiting the deployment of autonomous weapons capable of initiating lethal force.


Military robots Moral machines Machine ethics Operational morality Robot arms control Autonomous weapons 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Technology and Ethics Research GroupYale University Interdisciplinary Center for BioethicsNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Program in Cognitive Science, Center for the Integrative Study of Animal BehaviorIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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