We have started using unmanned drones in Libya. Or to put it in a more alarming way “Terminators to Tripoli!” (note: exclaimation point added for obnoxiousness)
I know these vehicles are a problem for those on the right and on the left. I can kind of understand this, because basically everyone has seen The Terminator and we all “know” that the robots are out to destroy us (see here, here, here and just about every major science fiction film of the last twenty years).
I can understand this, but keep in mind: these aren’t robots. They are remote controlled vehicles. They are under human control flown by human pilots in a room in, I believe, Missouri. This is no different than a human pilot flying an airplane over enemy territory except, oh, wait, you don’t have that human pilot’s life in danger.
To me that is an important thing. While I don’t want us to have the hugely bloated military that we have right now, I do want the people in it to be as safe as possible. This is why I haven’t any problem ethically we us using these remote controlled vehicles. Why should I? I’m quite happy that we have a way to fly missions that doesn’t endanger the lives of the people flying them. I think that’s a good thing.
Now I know these things are a PR nightmare and have accidentally killed civilians. But that happens when we have real pilots and when we have people on the ground who have been known to even accidentally kill people on our side from time to time (side note: god, I’ve always thought that hat looks so stupid). Accidents happen in wartime no matter who is behind the controls. But frankly if we can at least keep our side safe, I’m happy with that.
Now I suppose the next question is: what if we do develop autonomous robots that can engage in combat? Should we send them into battle? Is the Pope a Catholic who covered up decades of child rape by priests? Yes. So yes. As long as there is oversight by a human, why not? This not only eliminates the physical danger to our troops, it also lessens the psychological nature and, frankly, makes the conflict just that much more terrifying for whomever we are fighting, thus making them more likely to surrender sooner and saving their lives, too.
The use of robotic devices and remote controlled vehicles in warfare is likely to only increase, and I’m just fine with that. Saving the lives of our soldiers is more important than giving into the fears of people who think those movies and TV shows linked to above are documentaries.