Boston Dynamics has joined several other prominent robotics firms in promising not to weaponize its creations.
When you see footage of increasingly advanced robots walking, running and even jumping just like a human, it’s not difficult to imagine future battlefields dominated by agile, intelligent and heavily armed robotic soldiers or autonomous weapons platforms capable of taking out targets with ease.
Many science fiction movies, such as The Terminator, depict this idea in devastating detail, leading some to question the wisdom of developing technology that could one day lead us down a similar path.
Now, though, leading robotics firm Boston Dynamics has joined a number of other robotics companies in signing an open letter committing to never allowing its creations to be armed with weapons.
The move is likely to have been at least partially influenced by the release of footage showing a Russian inventor attempting to strap a submachine gun onto the back of a robotic dog.
“We pledge that we will not weaponize our advanced-mobility general-purpose robots or the software we develop that enables advanced robotics and we will not support others to do so,” the letter states.
“We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues.”
While the pledge is certainly encouraging, it doesn’t stop third parties from adapting robots or writing new software to enable them to carry or shoot weapons.
That said, it is likely that there will be a considerable increase in efforts by international bodies such as the United Nations to make it illegal to build or use weaponized robots – especially autonomous ones – for any purpose, in the years to come.
The last thing we want is for something like the T-800 to become a reality…