Noel Sharkey: Armed Robots at War | Press Releases | DW | 18.03.2009
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Noel Sharkey: Armed Robots at War

British robot expert will be taking part at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum from June 3-5, 2009, discussing the topics related to the use of robotos in warfare.


Noel Sharkey

The British robot expert Noel Sharkey estimates that there are 4,000 to 6,000 military robots currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are being controlled by people – but that could change in the future. Sharkey suggests that in conflicts like these, autonomous robots can’t differentiate between civilians and combatants.

“Leaving them with the decision about who to kill or not would come into conflict with the essential ethical principles of a ‘fair war’, that were established by the Hague and Geneva conventions, as well as by other guidelines for the protection of civilians, wounded soldiers, the sick, mentally disabled and prisoners,” said the Professor from the University of Sheffield. “There are no systems that are optically or sensory capable of mastering these challenges.” He went on to say that further dissemination of armed robots will change the nature of conflicts dramatically. Sharkey pointed out that this development also proves that there is a need for international guidelines and norms in place for the protection of innocent bystanders.

Sharkey will highlight these and other aspects in the ethical handling of robots and the implications for public safety and human rights at this year’s Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum from June 3-5. His workshop “From joysticks to body count: Ethical aspects of modern warfare” will draw attention to the deployment of autonomous battle robots in warfare and the related ethical questions.

The Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum from June 3-5 in Bonn will focus on “Conflict Prevention in the Multimedia Age”. A range of renowned computer and Internet experts have already confirmed their participation in this year’s event.

Sharkey is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield. His main research interests are now in artificial intelligence and robotics. He has worked as a professor and researcher at universities in England and the USA on a range of different topics like engineering, philosophy, cognitive processes, linguistics, artificial intelligence and IT.

The Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum is a media conference with an international and interdisciplinary focus. It offers podium discussions and workshops, interactive presentations and exhibits, networking and side events, developed with the help of renowned partners. It takes place at the World Conference Center Bonn – in direct proximity of Deutsche Welle’s headquarters.

Co-host of the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum is the Foundation for International Dialogue of the Sparkasse in Bonn. The convention is also supported by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, the government of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Bonn, DHL, The Economist, Intermedia, KD Deutsche Rheinschifffahrt AG and the dpa group companies news aktuell and picture alliance.

March 18, 2009

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