The Robotics Institute

RI | Seminar | Feb 14 2008

Robotics Institute Seminar, Feb 14, 2008
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Robot Wars: The Ethical Issues



Rob Sparrow

Senior Lecturer
Monash University


Time and Place


Mauldin Auditorium (NSH 1305 )

Time: Noon-1pm




Robotic weapons are likely to play a central role in future wars. Unmanned systems (UMS) for military roles are being developed and deployed by nations including the United States, Russia, Israel, South Korea, Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, China, and India. This presentation aims to offer a comprehensive survey of the ethical issues raised by the use of UMS in warfare, grouped under four headings: ethical issues in the design of military robots; the limits of unmanned systems; the future of robot war; and, the grey zone of robot autonomy. As well as identifying issues, I offer some analysis of their implications and how they might be addressed. The main purpose of the presentation, however, will be to provoke discussion of the ethical issues and allow for audience input into the direction of my future research in the area.


Speaker Biography


B.A. (Hons) (University of Melbourne). PhD. (Australian National University). Dr. Sparrow is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Philosophy and Bioethics at Monash University in Australia. He has published widely in applied ethics and political philosophy. His current research interests include the ethics of military robotics, just war theory, and the ethics of nanotechnology. He is the author of 'Killer Robots', Journal of Applied Philosophy, 2007, 24(1): 62-77; 'Hands up who wants to die?': Primoratz on responsibility and civilian immunity in wartime, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2005, 8(3): 299-319; and, 'The Turing Triage Test', Ethics and Information Technology, 2004, 6 (4): 203-213. He is currently in the US working on an Australian Government funded research project, 'Good Soldiers and Ethical Soldiers'.


Speaker Appointments


For appointments, please contact Jean Harpley(

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.