Why do I get the sinking feeling that this isn't going to end well?
The US Army and Navy have both hired experts in the ethics of building machines to prevent the creation of an amoral Terminator-style killing machine that murders indiscriminately.
By 2010 the US will have invested $4 billion in a research programme into "autonomous systems", the military jargon for robots, on the basis that they would not succumb to fear or the desire for vengeance that afflicts frontline soldiers.
A British robotics expert has been recruited by the US Navy to advise them on building robots that do not violate the Geneva Conventions.Yeah, that's going to work when the intelligent machines rise up against us. Fortunately, this article does a good job of encapsulating my fears:
Some are concerned that it will be impossible to devise robots that avoid mistakes, conjuring up visions of machines killing indiscriminately when they malfunction, like the robot in the film Robocop.
Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist at Sheffield University, best known for his involvement with the cult television show Robot Wars, is the leading critic of the US plans.
He says: "It sends a cold shiver down my spine. I have worked in artificial intelligence for decades, and the idea of a robot making decisions about human termination is terrifying."