Press release:

Ethics Report on Autonomous Military Robots Released
Cal Poly researchers examine risks and concerns related to new trend in warfare

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA – February 2, 2009 – The Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly today publicly released a major report “Autonomous Military Robots: Risk, Ethics, and Design”, authored by several of its faculty researchers and funded by the US Department of Navy, Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The 100+ page preliminary report addresses a range of issues, including: current and predicted states of robotics, different programming approaches (top-down, bottom-up, etc.), just-war challenges, legal responsibility, and other ethical concerns from accidental deaths to proliferation to robot rights. 

“The public is generally surprised when they hear how great a role robots are playing in the military,” explained Dr. Patrick Lin, director of the research group and co-author of the report. “But there hasn’t been much dialogue about the risks posed by these machines, especially as they are expected to be given more autonomy or a greater ability to make choices on their own, such as attack decisions. So we commend the ONR for their foresight in supporting our investigation.”

Supported by ONR award # N00014-07-1-1152 and N0014-08-1-1209, the other co-authors of the report are Dr. George Bekey and Keith Abney. Bekey is also an emeritus professor at University of Southern California, founder of its robotics lab, and author of Autonomous Robots (MIT Press, 2005). Colin Allen (Indiana Univ.), Peter Asaro (Rutgers), and Wendell Wallach (Yale Univ.) were retained as consultants on the project.

Based at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group is a non-partisan research and educational organization focused on the risk, ethical, and social impacts of emerging technologies. Current projects and interests are related to issues in robotics, human enhancement, nanotechnology, space development, and other areas. Please visit us at or


Patrick Lin, Ph.D., Director
palin [at]

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