Weaponised robots are already a dystopian factor of todays reality. With countries like Russia already having access to RPG-toting weaponised dogs, the public is rightfully worried about the future of robotics.
In response to this trend, leading robot manufacturers such as Boston Dynamics are pledging not to weaponise robots. However, the damage may already be done.
Boston Dynamics won’t weaponise
Reported by NPR, six leading manufacturers in the robotics industry have pledged against weaponisation. These include: Boston Dynamics, Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree.
In the letter, the robotics companies claimed that the weaponisation of robotic tools poses “serious ethical issues”. The letter claims: “Untrustworthy people could use them to invade civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate others.”
“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 letter reads.
The collective claimed that they will actively turn away weaponisation of their tools. This means that they will not participate in adding weapons or weapon-controlling software to their machines. However, it’s already happening via a third party.
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It’s already happening
Despite being part of this collective, Unitree’s Robot Dog hardware has already been weaponised. In a viral video, a Russian engineer used one of the company’s robots to aim and fire a rifle at a target range.
Yes, this weaponisation was not done by Unitree itself. On the other hand, the open source, tinkering nature of these robots means anyone can weaponise them as soon as they buy them. With the right know-how, of course.
Weaponised robots are also in development by other countries, some working with the US government. Last year, Ghost Robotics revealed a robot dog with a huge enclosed rifle on its back.
There has been some work by hackers to mitigate the danger of these robots. One hacker created a tool that could remotely disable any Unitree robot within range. These tools could be used by response forces if a remote controlled robot is ever used for crime.