Tuesday, April 9, 2024

A group of robotics firms pledges not to weaponize their robots

The US company Boston Dynamics does not want to have its robots, which could be used as armed units, transformed into weapons of war. The robotics company and five other industry leaders issued an open letter condemning the weaponization of general-purpose robots.

In addition to Boston Dynamics, the non-binding, open letter is signed by Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree Robotics.

Spot and other advanced mobile robots are not only more capable in a wide range of environments than previous generations, but they are also more accessible, more adaptable, and easier to operate. Advances in mobile robots will provide tremendous benefits to society.

However, in recent months, a small number of people have threatened public trust in this technology with makeshift efforts to weaponize commercially available robots, such as the armed robot dog from Ghost Robotics, increasing public concern.

“We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues,” the group wrote. “Weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society.”

In response, these six companies and three continents pledge to “not weaponize our advanced-mobility general-purpose robots or the software we develop that enables advanced robotics, and we will not support others to do so.” Also, they will not allow their customers to subsequently weaponize any platforms they were sold, when possible.

“We also pledge to explore the development of technological features that could mitigate or reduce these risks. To be clear, we are not taking issue with existing technologies that nations and their government agencies use to defend themselves and uphold their laws,” the group continued.

As the commitment alone is not enough to fully address these risks, they also call on policymakers to work with them to promote the safe use of these robots and to prohibit their misuse. In addition, the group call on every organization, developer, researcher, and user in the robotics community to make similar pledges not to build, authorize, support, or enable the attachment of weaponry to such robots.

“We are convinced that the benefits for humanity of these technologies strongly outweigh the risk of misuse, and we are excited about a bright future in which humans and robots work side by side to tackle some of the world’s challenges.”