'Robot Arms Race' Underway, Expert Warns

"I still find the video of that event disturbing," says Arkin, "I hope an autonomous system could realise that man was clearly incapacitated, effectively a prisoner of war and should not have been killed."

"One of the fundamental abilities I want to give [these systems] is to refuse an order and explain why."

Yet Arkin does not think battlefield robots can be made a smart as human soldiers. "We cannot make them that generally intelligent, they will be more like dogs, used for specialised situations," he says

But he is so far concentrating his research scenarios involving armies. "For those situations we have very clear cut guidance from the Geneva Convention, the Hague and elsewhere about what is ethical," he explains.

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