Speaker: P.W. Singer, Brookings Institute


So it raises the question of things like: Will you have more or less war crimes? On one hand, robots are emotionless; so they don't get angry when their buddy is killed, they don't commit crimes of rage or revenge, which is how a lot of war crimes happen. But robots are emotionless. To a robot, an 80-year-old grandmother in her wheelchair is just the same as a T-80 tank; they're both just a series of zeroes and ones.

And so what we have to figure out is: How do we catch up our 20th century laws of war, that are so old right now that they qualify for Medicare, with 21st century technologies?

That's one of the fascinating things that came out of the meetings I did at places like the International Red Cross or Human Rights Watch, where they're equally flustered on what to do with these systems. In fact, there's a scene in the book at Human Rights Watch where two of the people there actually get into an argument on what should apply and what shouldn't, and they start referencing not the Geneva Conventions but whether the Star Trek Prime Directive applies. It's kind of funny, but it also points to how much at a loss we are with where to take all this.

Transcript of entire lecture

Lecture based on discussion of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century