Ethics by Design?
Practicality, nuance and a new understanding of human control are needed to guide ethical use of robotic and autonomous systems, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies writes in its latest paper.
Current discussions on robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) have sidelined nuances that are critical for deciding on the ethical use of RAS. An AI arms race is brewing among both allied and adversarial states. Meanwhile, cheap electronic kits, open source machine learning tools, and widely available technology such as drones are democratizing RAS for both state and non-state actors. Countries fear falling behind allies as well as adversaries with different ethics using RAS to their advantage.
Systems are becoming more independent. With the capability to perform their own calculations rather than just being bound by a set of rules, the concern for uncontrollable, ‘black box’ robots has arisen. However, the advent of systems matching human intelligence is unlikely to be achieved in the coming decade, so we should redirect our focus to more functional challenges that impact ethical behavior. This paper therefore presents a balanced discussion of key topics of ethical concern arising from the roll-out of RAS: human agency, human dignity, and responsibility.
In assuring agency over (semi-)autonomous systems, the concept of ‘meaningful human control’ has long been a topic of discussion. But what should exercising such control over a system look like? How much control is necessary to assure ethical behavior? Who should have that control?
To address these questions, the paper presents a three-part framework through which to identify human control over a system: the RAS life cycle, RAS sub-system functions, and the OODA loop.
The paper lays out the concerns for RAS under International Humanitarian Law and presents a debate on whether RAS’ impact on human dignity. It further addresses the difficulty in assigning responsibility and assuring accountability with respect to modern complex systems, a pressing issue as the military’s technological research and development is increasingly outsourced.
A number of recommendations are presented for the ethical development and use of RAS. The fundamental principle is to work with ‘ethics by design’: ethical considerations are incorporated in not just the operating of RAS, but all throughout a system’s life cycle. Early inclusion of end users is important for assuring understanding of and control over RAS. For the purposes of public transparency, it is important to have an institutional system of shared accountability and to ensure that people involved throughout RAS life cycles can predict and explain system functions.
For the full paper and recommendations, please see the HCSS wesbite: https://hcss.nl/report/towards-responsible-autonomy-ethics-ras-military-context
For further information, please contact HCSS via email@example.com or + 31 (70) 318 48 40.