In 2020, observing the continued international development of automated weapons systems while anticipating the growing presence of robots in everyday life, the Penn GRASP faculty initiated an effort to explore the social implications of these intersecting technologies. Most roboticists are drawn to their work both by its intrinsic intellectual excitement and challenge as well as its enormous promise of social good. However, we are typically less inclined to consider the potential for social harm arising from our research and the technologies it enables. This initiative aims to explore a broad range of social concerns at the intersection of robotics and weaponry. The goal is to illuminate for our faculty and students the scope of social harm and explore potential remedies associated with such work.
In collaboration with stakeholders in government and industry as well as other disciplinary experts, GRASP has sponsored a series of meetings aimed at the formation of working groups to address these topics. The mandate of these efforts is to consider the role of guidelines for ethical research, including the potential need for and nature of constraints on the development of weaponized robots. A more detailed summary of the motivation for this initiative is presented here. Records of GRASP-sponsored public meetings on this topic are available as follows:
- May 2021 campus-wide symposium on Social Implications of Autonomous MIlitary Systems
- May 2022 IEEE International Conference on Robotics Automation Workshop on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (ICRA’22LAWS)
- Report on ICRA’22LAWS including links to the speakers’ recorded talks (see embedded pdf image of the report below)
More links will be added to this list as the activities associated with this initiative continue.