Several robotics companies have signed a memorandum in which they pledge not to support using their developments as weapons. They encourage everyone else to follow their example.
At first, robots, like drones, were developed for purely peaceful purposes and rescue operations, but as time has shown, it is quite easy to turn them into combat.
Manufacturers believe installing weapons on autonomous or remotely controlled robots will only create new risks and ethical problems for people. The signatories pledged not to add weapons technology to their models and not to support others. They also plan to analyze their existing customer bases. This will make it possible to avoid the ones who plan to use robots as weapon carriers.
In addition to Boston Dynamics, five other firms signed the pledge — Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree Robotics.
Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Plater said, “We are concerned about recent attempts to arm commercial robots… For this technology to be widely accepted in society, people need to know that it can be trusted. And that means we need a policy that prohibits the abuse of it.”
In their letter, the organizations also state that they would work to prevent their customers from subsequently weaponizing any systems sold to them. Given the lengthy and famous history of weaponry like the Toyota Technical, ex-Hilux trucks transformed into improvised assault vehicles employed in the 1980s war.
Such good intentions can only be approved, but many legitimate questions arise. For example, how is it possible to control the use of a civil robot already acquired and transferred to third parties? Who will be doing this?
History shows that many peace declarations and memorandums have remained just letters on a piece of paper.