On Thursday, Boston Dynamics and other robotics companies pledged not to create robots that could kill people. Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree were also part of the pledge.
Furthermore, other robot manufacturers have been urged to do the same.
“We are some of the world’s leading companies dedicated to introducing new generations of advanced mobile robotics to society. These new generations of robots are more accessible, easier to operate, more autonomous, affordable, and adaptable than previous generations, and capable of navigating into locations previously inaccessible to automated or remotely-controlled technologies,” wrote the robot makers in the introduction to their pledge.
They said their robots might significantly serve society as coworkers in industry and companions in people’s homes. Still, they also warned of the prospect of illegal use of this technology.
“As with any new technology offering new capabilities, the emergence of advanced mobile robots offers the possibility of misuse. Untrustworthy people could use them to invade civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate others. One area of particular concern is weaponization. We believe that adding weapons to remotely or autonomously operated robots, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raise new risks of harm and serious ethical issues,” they explained.
They continued by stating that they oppose the weaponization of their advanced-mobility general-purpose robots and that armed uses of these newly capable robots will undermine public confidence.
They added that they felt forced to speak out and pledge to protect their robots because some people had publicly disclosed their improvised attempts to weaponize commercially accessible robots.
“We pledge that we will not weaponize our advanced-mobility general-purpose robots or the software we develop that enables advanced robotics, and we will not support others to do so. When possible, we will carefully review our customers’ intended applications to avoid potential weaponization. We also pledge to explore the development of technological features that could mitigate or reduce these risks,” further added the companies.
The companies made it clear that they have no issues with the technologies now used by government organizations to protect their interests and maintain the law. However, to keep robots safe for humans, they did ask for aid from other organizations.
“We understand that our commitment alone is not enough to fully address these risks, and therefore we call on policymakers to work with us to promote the safe use of these robots and to prohibit their misuse. We also call on every organization, developer, researcher, and user in the robotics community to make similar pledges not to build, authorize, support, or enable the attachment of weaponry to such robots,” added the letter.
The companies concluded their message by saying that people and robots may eventually collaborate to address some of the world’s difficulties since the benefits of robotics to humanity far outweigh the risk of misuse.