CRUSER Colloquium (archived)

Thumbnail Image
Date of Issue
Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School
Abstract: Dramatic progress in the science and engineering of robotics, alongside the perceived success of the US’s predator and Reaper drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, has led many commentators to conclude that the wars of the 21st century will increasingly be fought, by industrialised nations at least, using remotely-piloted and autonomous weapon systems (AWS). The new enthusiasm for robots in military and policy circles has been accompanied by increased philosophical and ethical attention being paid to issues surrounding the military uses of robots. In particular, there is now a flourishing literature on the ethics of drone warfare and an emerging literature on the ethics of the development and deployment of autonomous weapon systems. However, the high profile of drones in the public eye — along with the fact that these are the systems that have seen most active service — has led to the latter literature focusing largely on the ethical issues raised by autonomous UAVs and UCAVs. To date there has been comparatively little discussion of the ethical issues raised by the prospect of autonomous submersibles and/or autonomous surface vessels. We believe it is high time that philosophers and military ethicists began to address this possibility, especially given the rapid development and military potential of autonomous Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and Unmanned Submersible Vehicles (USVs). Moreover, we believe that there are a number of ethical dilemmas specific to these technologies by virtue of the distinctive character of war at sea. This paper represents our initial attempt to survey and discuss these issues. We suggest that there are important and complex ethical questions that are likely to arise regarding the applications of autonomous UUVs and USVs involving: whether armed autonomous UUVs and USVs should be understood as vessels or weapons; the sorts of operations autonomous UUVs and USVs might legitimately be tasked with in territorial as opposed to international waters; protecting freedom of navigation in international waters in which autonomous systems are operating; the capacity of autonomous weapon systems to abide by the requirements of distinction and proportionality in naval warfare; and, duties towards persons lost at sea. Several of these issues stand as significant barriers to the ethical deployment of autonomous UUVs and USVs in some roles at least for the foreseeable future.
Web Page Capture
2015-03 CRUSER Colloquium
A CRUSER Sponsored Event. Speaker: Dr Rob Sparrow, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Monash University. Presentation Title: When Robots Rule the Waves. Speaker Bio: Rob Sparrow is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Philosophy Program, a Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, and an adjunct Associate Professor in the Centre for Human Bioethics, at Monash University, where he works on ethical issues raised by new technologies. He has published widely on the ethics of military robotics, as well as on topics as diverse as human enhancement, artificial gametes, cloning, and nanotechnology. He is one of the founding members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. He is a co-chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Robot Ethics and was one of founding members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.
Series/Report No
NPS Report Number
Consortium for Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education and Research (CRUSER)
Distribution Statement
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.