Monday, July 15, 2013

Are Corporations Responsible for Drone Killings?

[Part of the series: 10 Questions to Spur the Drone Debate]

Shouldn't the onus be on companies supplying drones/robots to abide by rules that assure the public is safe?

USR and MM 1996 "ROBOT"
Fully automatic RB Series
U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Inc.
Schenectady, New York 12309

I've proposed that this issue be debated, and that the robot literature created by Isaac Asimov has already posed numerous big question that can guide the debate.

I was struck by this sentence in one of the first of the Asimov robot stories I read:
"You are perfectly well acquainted, I suppose, with the strict rules against the use of robots on inhabited worlds." ("Evidence," p. 138)
A major theme in the literature is that the public has the power to bring about an outright ban. Food for thought . . . .

I was also struck by this statement:
"You are also aware that all positronic robots are leased, not sold; that the Corporation remains the owner and manager of each robot, and is therefore responsible for the actions of all." ("Evidence," p. 138)
Well, of course! Of course the corporation that makes the drone/robot should be responsible for its actions. (I wonder if General Atomics considers itself liable for the consequences of every drone strike?)

General Atomics Headquarters

The drone systems being used by the U.S. military and other parts of the U.S. government are already plenty complex. How about as they become even more complex? Are we to expect a vast industry of contractors to manage those systems? (The vast surveillance contractor world, brought to the public's attention by the Snowden disclosures, come to mind.) Which of them are responsible for what the drones/robots do? All of them? None of them?

How's this for a governing policy?  

Drones shall be banned from use anywhere on Earth; AND their use 
in other places shall be governed by the "Three Laws of Robotics" 
-- including "(1) A robot may not  injure a human being or, 
through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." 

Providers of drones will have legal liability for abiding by these rules.

Let's start debating the drones now. (Here are nine more questions to guide the debate.)

(Page references are to the 1990 Byron Preiss Visual Publications edition of Robot Visions.)

Related posts

We can now entrust all the dirty work -- including war -- to robots. (Or can we?)

(See A Modest Proposal: Debate the Drones )


Isn't the time fast approaching when Boeing recognizes that it's not just one or another of their weapons systems -- or weapons systems customers -- that's the problem? Isn't Boeing's entire defense systems division "bad Boeing"?

(See BOEING: "Breaking Up Is (Is Not) Hard to Do" )

It is time now to turn to the dirty secret of American life and the primary dilemma of the antiwar movement: the military money that flows to EVERY Congressional district, and in particular the "good jobs" that members of Congress think they are protecting when they vote for ever-higher levels of military spending.

(See Drones, Permawar, and the Problem of "Good Jobs")