Canadian Robotics Manufacturer is World's First Robotics Company to Pledge Not to Make 'Killer Robots'
(Kitchener, ON, Canada - August 13, 2014) Canadian-based robotic vehicle manufacturer, Clearpath Robotics, is the first robotics company to sign on with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, "an international coalition of non-governmental organizations working to ban fully autonomous weapons." Clearpath Robotics will continue to work with military clients, but has vouched to not manufacture weaponized robots that remove humans from the loop. The Company, in turn, has chosen to value our ethics over potential future revenue.
Clearpath Robotics Co-Founder and CTO, Ryan Gariepy, has written an open letter to express the company's stance on the issue. It appears below.
An open letter to the public -
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (http://www.stopkillerrobots.org/) was launched in April 2013, bringing the topic of "killer robots" under public scrutiny - and for good reason.
To the people against killer robots: we support you.
This technology has the potential to kill indiscriminately and to proliferate rapidly; early prototypes already exist. Despite our continued involvement with Canadian and international military research and development, Clearpath Robotics believes that the development of killer robots is unwise, unethical, and should be banned on an international scale.
How do we define "killer robot"? Is it any machine developed for military purposes? Any machine which takes actions without human direction? No. We're referring specifically to "lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS)"; systems where a human does not make the final decision for a machine to take a potentially lethal action.
Clearpath Robotics is an organization that engineers autonomous vehicles, systems, and solutions for a global market. As current leaders in the research and development space for unmanned vehicles, making this kind of statement is a risk. However, given the potentially horrific consequences of allowing development of lethal autonomous robots to continue, we are compelled to insist upon the strictest regulation of this technology.
The Double-Edged Sword
There are, of course, pros and cons to the ethics of autonomous lethal weapons and our team has debated many of them at length. In the end, however, we, as a whole, feel the negative implications of these systems far outweigh any benefits.
Is a computer paired with the correct technology less likely to make rash, stress-driven decisions while under fire? Possibly. Conversely, would a robot have the morality, sense, or emotional understanding to intervene against orders that are wrong or inhumane? No. Would computers be able to make the kinds of subjective decisions required for checking the legitimacy of targets and ensuring the proportionate use of force in the foreseeable future? No. Could this technology lead those who possess it to value human life less? Quite frankly, we believe this will be the case.
This is an incredibly complex issue. We need to have this discussion now and take a stance; the robotics revolution has arrived and is not going to wait for these debates to occur.
Clearpath Robotics strives to improve the lives of billions by automating the world's dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs. This belief does not preclude the use of autonomous robots in the military; we will continue to support our military clients and provide them with autonomous systems - especially in areas with direct civilian applications such as logistics, reconnaissance, and search and rescue.
In our eyes, no nation in the world is ready for killer robots - technologically, legally, or ethically. More importantly, we see no compelling justification that this technology needs to exist in human hands. After all, the development of killer robots isn't a necessary step on the road to self-driving cars, robot caregivers, safer manufacturing plants, or any of the other multitudes of ways autonomous robots can make our lives better. Robotics is at a tipping point, and it's up to all of us to decide what path this technology takes.
As a company which continues to develop robots for various militaries worldwide, Clearpath Robotics has more to lose than others might by advocating entire avenues of research be closed off. Nevertheless, we call on anyone who has the potential to influence public policy to stop the development of killer robots before it's too late.
We encourage those who might see business opportunities in this technology to seek other ways to apply their skills and resources for the betterment of humankind. Finally, we ask everyone to consider the many ways in which this technology would change the face of war for the worse. Voice your opinion and take a stance. #killerrobots
Co-Founder & CTO, Clearpath Robotics
About Clearpath Robotics
Clearpath Robotics, a global leader in unmanned vehicle robotics for research and development, is dedicated to automating the world's dullest, dirtiest, and deadliest jobs. The Company serves robotics leaders in over 35 countries worldwide in academic, mining, military, agricultural and industrial markets. Recognizing the value of future innovation, the Company proudly supports programs that facilitate growth within the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Clearpath Robotics, winner of the 2012 Robotics Business Review Game Changer Award, provides robust solutions that are engineered for performance and designed for the customer - we are your unmanned experts. Visit Clearpath Robotics at www.clearpathrobotics.com, follow us on Twitter @clearpathrobots or like us on Facebook.