Here is an excellent TED talk by P.W. Singer, author of Wired for War. I'm just fascinated and frightened by all of this. I like Singer's analogy of these robots of war with the atomic bomb. This is the time to think about the moral and ethical issues in the development of these robotic weapons. There needs to be a broader discussion of the implications of robots in war. We also seriously need to update laws regarding the conduct of war. This is not a hypothetical issue. There are increasing number of drone attacks in Pakistan (there was one this morning that killed 13 people). Yes, the Pakistan government has given a silent nod to these (do they have a choice?), but who gets the blame for civilian casualties which accompany almost every strike? In this kind of war, who gets to decide who is a civilian and who is a combatant? All of these questions are aside from assessing the long-term effectiveness of this remote-control war.
The visuals associated with Singer's talk are fascinating. It truly gives an idea of the diversity of weapons being employed. With the level of defense budget here in the US, I shudder to think of the next generation of weapons - the ones that we can't even imagine right now. The last few minutes of the talk touch upon the moral issues - especially on what to do when (not "if") we get to autonomous war machines. He does not provide any answers but others have to address these questions. Then of course, we also have to worry about video-game expert kids flying drones from Nevada that kill people thousands of miles away. Perhaps a perfect time to turn Ender's Game into a movie (related posts: Push-button executions from the skies, and Robots of war). Here is the video (its about 16 minutes long).