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Humanitarian Algorithms: A Codified Key Safety Switch Protocol for Lethal Autonomy

NCJ Number
Nyagudi Musandu
Date Published
February 2014
14 pages
This paper proposes a protocol for lethal autonomous weapons (e.g., unmanned drones, tactical missile systems, and some classes of naval mines) that initiates lethal action by such weapons only upon verification that the targeting complies with the Laws of War, Rules of Engagement, and the ethics and ideology of the weapon's owner.
This paper first reviews some theories proposed for managing robot "behavior." They generally advocate concepts such as the deployment of the highest legal and professional standards in weapons design; the enabling of robots to discriminate between intended and unintended targets; and setting appropriate parameters and controls for a robot's autonomy. The current paper proposes that robots have sufficiently sensitive sensors and processing systems, which involves research on a wide range of algorithms. The protocol has 10 steps that would be used in lethal autonomous weapons in the processes of observation, orientation, decision, and acting (OODA). First, the weapon would activate its target acquisition and designation based on programmed learning capabilities. Second, a target is identified and its characteristics acquired by the weapon. Third, the target is labeled as neutral, friendly, or hostile; and if determined to be hostile, an appropriate lethal response is immediately selected. Fourth, the weapon is switched on and engages the target. Fifth, the system conducts a battle damage assessment via acquisition of new target characteristics. Sixth, if the target is still hostile, steps three and five are repeated. Seventh, the mission is accomplished or other autonomous lethal weapon systems collaborate to complete the mission. Eighth, the system learns more about targeting with data and auto-configuration capabilities. Ninth, new inspection and constraining methods for lethal action are brought into the system during servicing/maintenance. Tenth, the system is re-activated and initiates the target searching process. 12 references