Robots, Trust and War

Philosophy and Technology 24 (3):325-337 (2011)
Putting robots on the battlefield is clearly appealing for policymakers. Why risk human lives, when robots could take our place, and do the dirty work of killing and dying for us? Against this, I argue that robots will be unable to win the kind of wars that we are increasingly drawn into. Modern warfare tends towards asymmetric conflict. Asymmetric warfare cannot be won without gaining the trust of the civilian population; this is ‘the hearts and minds’, in the hackneyed phrase from counter-insurgency manuals. I claim that the very feature which makes it attractive to send robots to war in our place, the absence of risk, also makes it peculiarly difficult for humans to trust them. Whatever the attractions, sending robots to war in our stead will make success in counter-insurgency elusive. Moreover, there is ethical reason to be relieved at this conclusion. For if war is potentially costly, then this does much to ensure that it will be a choice only of last resort, in accordance with the traditional doctrine of jus ad bellum. In this instance, morality and expediency— fortunately— coincide.
Keywords Robots  Trust  War  Counter-insurgency
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DOI 10.1007/s13347-011-0030-y
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References found in this work BETA
Norbert Wiener (1961). Cybernetics. New York: M.I.T. Press.
Robert Sparrow (2007). Killer Robots. Journal of Applied Philosophy 24 (1):62–77.
Richard Holton (1994). Deciding to Trust, Coming to Believe. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 72 (1):63 – 76.

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