Robotics Firms Sternly Bid Customers Not to Weaponize their Products

November 11, 2022

For anyone troubled by visions of armed robots roaming the streets, patrolling our workplaces, or invading our homes, rest assured robotics firms are addressing the concern. Can they implement some sort of failsafe? Well, no. ZDNet reports, “Boston Dynamics: We Won’t Weaponize our Robots and Neither Should our Customers.” So there. That lukewarm declaration should dissuade anyone inclined to MacGyver weapons onto an innocent machine, right? Reporter Liam Tung writes:

“Boston Dynamics, the formerly Google-owned firm behind the Spot robot dog and its humanoid equivalents, has published an open letter vowing to counter attempts by buyers to weaponize its products. The company released the pledge, saying it was worried by recent ‘makeshift efforts’ by people to weaponize commercially available robots. Several other robotics firms have signed the commitment.

The firm doesn’t mention which efforts it is worried about, but one example of this trend, as Vice reported in July, is shown in a video on YouTube, where a robot dog is rigged up with a gun and is shooting at targets. ‘Robots should be used to help, not harm. We prohibit weaponization, while supporting the safe, ethical, and effective use of robots in public safety,’ Boston Dynamics said in a blog post. The company’s open letter highlights that consumers’ trust in robots has waned after seeing weapons combined with autonomous and remotely controlled robots. Other companies that have signed the commitment are Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree Robotics.”

Great! Or it might be if these companies had any way to enforce this mandate stronger than the threat of a voided warranty. Besides the basic threat to humanity, robotics firms seem to have an even greater concern: The public might question the wisdom of unleashing their products on the world. Oh, are there wars underway?

Cynthia Murrell, November 11, 2022


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