Thursday, February 19, 2009

Aye Robot?

Just in case we didn't have enough to worry about, The Times of London and the U.S. Office of Naval Research brings this to the table:
Autonomous military robots that will fight future wars must be programmed to live by a strict warrior code or the world risks untold atrocities at their steely hands.
The stark warning – which includes discussion of a Terminator-style scenario in which robots turn on their human masters – is issued in a hefty report funded by and prepared for the US Navy’s high-tech and secretive Office of Naval Research.
The report, the first serious work of its kind on military robot ethics, envisages a fast-approaching era where robots are smart enough to make battlefield decisions that are at present the preserve of humans. Eventually, it notes, robots could come to display significant cognitive advantages over Homo sapiens soldiers.
Under the "Legal Challenges" heading, the 112-page report has this to say, in part:
To whom would we assign blame—and punishment—for improper conduct and unauthorized harms caused by an autonomous robot (whether by error or intentional: the designers, robot manufacturer, procurement officer, robot controller/supervisor, field commander, President of the United States...or the robot itself?...The law offers several precedents that a robotics case might follow, but given the range of specific circumstances that would influence a legal decision as well as evolving technology, more work will be needed to clarify the law for a clear framework in matters of responsibility…The situation becomes much more complex and interesting with robots that have greater degrees of autonomy, which may make it appropriate to treat them as quasi‐persons, if not full moral agents some point in the future.
Click here for the full text of the report.

Appeals Court Blocks Release of Detainees

Reversing a ruling by a lower court judge, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has determined the the 17 ethnic Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs must stay in jail at the Gitmo Naval Base, at least for now:
A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ruling that 17 Chinese Muslims who have been held for years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba must be freed in the United States. The appeals court ruled that a federal judge did not have the authority to order the U.S. government to bring the members of the Uighur ethic group to the United States for their release. It said only the executive branch, and not the courts, could make such immigration decisions.
Writing for the majority, Judge Raymond Randolph explained that:
For more than a century, the Supreme Court has recognized the power to exclude aliens as “‘inherent in sovereignty, necessary for maintaining normal international relations and defending the country against foreign encroachments and dangers – a power to be exercised exclusively by the political branches of government’” and not “granted away or restrained on behalf of any one.” The Chinese Exclusion Case, 130 U.S. 581, 609 (1889). Ever since the decision in the Chinese Exclusion Case, the Court has, without exception, sustained the exclusive power of the political branches to decide which aliens may, and which aliens may not, enter the United States, and on what terms.
The case is Jamal Kiyemba v. Barack Obama, No. 08-5424. The president could use his executive authority to free the men; Attorney General Holder is scheduled to visit Gitmo next week.