1st Edition

Ethics and Security Automata Policy and Technical Challenges of the Robotic Use of Force

By Sean Welsh Copyright 2018
    230 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Can security automata (robots and AIs) make moral decisions to apply force on humans correctly? If they can make such decisions, ought they be used to do so? Will security automata increase or decrease aggregate risk to humans? What regulation is appropriate? Addressing these important issues this book examines the political and technical challenges of the robotic use of force.

    The book presents accessible practical examples of the ‘machine ethics’ technology likely to be installed in military and police robots and also in civilian robots with everyday security functions such as childcare. By examining how machines can pass ‘reasonable person’ tests to demonstrate measurable levels of moral competence and display the ability to determine the ‘spirit’ as well as the ‘letter of the law’, the author builds upon existing research to define conditions under which robotic force can and ought to be used to enhance human security.

    The scope of the book is thus far broader than ‘shoot to kill’ decisions by autonomous weapons, and should attract readers from the fields of ethics, politics, and legal, military and international affairs. Researchers in artificial intelligence and robotics will also find it useful.


    Chapter 1: Concepts

    Chapter 2: Method

    Chapter 3: Requirements

    Chapter 4: Solution Design

    Chapter 5: Development – Specific Norm Tests

    Chapter 6: Development – Knowledge Representation

    Chapter 7: Development – Basic Physical Needs Cases

    Chapter 8: Development – Fairness and Autonomy Cases

    Chapter 9: Moral Variation

    Chapter 10: Testing

    Chapter 11: Production


    Sean Welsh obtained his undergraduate degree in Philosophy at the University of New South Wales and underwent postgraduate study in Robot Ethics at the University of Canterbury. He has worked in extensively in software development for British Telecommunications, Telstra Australia, Volante e-business, Fitch Ratings, James Cook University, 24 Hour Communications and Lumata. He also worked for a short time as a political advisor to Warren Entsch, the Federal Member for Leichhardt in Australia. Sean’s articles on robot ethics have appeared in the Conversation, CNN, the Sydney Morning Herald, the New Zealand Herald and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

    "A timely and unusually readable contribution to machine ethics – the project of making moral decisions in machines – Ethics and Security Automata provides an accessible overview as to how machines might make foundational moral decisions that affect human beings in a range of situations in war and peace. It is remarkable for its clarity and its ethical even-handedness. A book that is both technically and ethically interesting. Highly recommended." - Dr. Jai Galliott, Lecturer in Cyber Security, The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy

    "This book is a "must read" for anybody responsible for programming, supplying and deploying autonomous military and security robots. It is also recommended for a general audience. With clear and comprehensible discussion and detailed case analyses, Sean Welsh presents issues that many view as impenetrable, or scary, in a practical, constructive and highly enlightening manner. As James Moor, a pioneer of robot ethics, once said, machine ethics forces us to do a better, clearer, programmable ethical theory: Ethics and Security Automata is a fine example of this project carried out in practical detail." - Dr. Peter Boltuc, Professor of Philosophy, University of Illinois Springfield