Photo by Eric Krull on Unsplash

How to Solve the Problem of People Weaponizing Robots

The solution is not technical. It’s human.

ScottCDunn
5 min readOct 7, 2022

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We knew that this day would come. Robots with weapons are here. We can find them on YouTube conducting target practice. Some very confused humans are modifying commercially available robots for war and violence.

Our science fiction fantasies in film and TV have plenty of this going on. Kids are being exposed to plots where robots are used as weapons. In our fantasy media, robots carry bombs, rifles, and missiles. And now the robot manufacturers are working double time to stop people from using them as weapons.

I really don’t know the answer to this one. It’s an ethical question. Using robots to harm humans takes human cruelty to an entirely new level. And though I have yet to see a technical solution to robots for war and violence, I believe that there might be a human solution to reduce or eliminate the incentives to repurpose robots for harm to humans.

When a person harms another, the assumption made by the person initiating violence is that harming someone else will solve a problem. There is a line of thinking, a long series of thoughts that precede an act of violence. There is a long history of experience that breeds violence. Implied in every act of violence is the belief that violence will solve a problem.

Robots aren’t smart enough to know this yet. There is an old saying about computers. It’s based on the idea that computers can only do what they are told to do. They don’t have the capacity for ethical judgment. They don’t have anything to lose. They don’t have the urgency to live the way 3.7 billion years of evolution provides to us in our DNA. What was that saying?

Garbage in, garbage out.

We think this only applies to robots. It doesn’t. It applies to us, too. Everything we know about ourselves, we learned from someone else. Our names, our date of birth, where we live, who our parents are, who our friends are, and what they say about us. What we learn from other people instructs us about how to behave with other people, and that includes what we do with robots.

I’ve seen the robots on YouTube. And yes, they are scary AF. They’re laying bricks, hanging drywall, and playing…

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