Boston Dynamics and five other robot makers pledge not to weaponize their robots

The benefits for humanity of robots strongly outweigh the risk of misuse.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A Boston Dynamics robot.
A Boston Dynamics robot.

Boston Dynamics 

Boston Dynamics and other robot companies signed a pledge on Thursday not to make any robots that can harm humans. The other firms were Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree.

In addition, more robot makers have been encouraged to follow suit.

Warning of nefarious use of robotics

“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 added that their robots could provide great benefit to society as co-workers in industry and companions in people’s homes but warned of the possibility of nefarious use of this technology by ill-intentioned actos.

“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 robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues,” they explained.

Boston Dynamics and five other robot makers pledge not to weaponize their robots
Robots are used in a variety of settings.

They then continued to say that weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will harm public trust for these reasons and more they do not support the weaponization of their advanced-mobility general-purpose robots. They added that, due to a number of people who have visibly publicized their makeshift efforts to weaponize commercially available robots, they felt an urgency to speak up now and pledge to secure their 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.

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Calling for help

However, the firms were clear that they did not take issue with existing technologies that nations and their government agencies use to defend themselves and uphold their laws. They did however call on other organizations to aid them in their mission to keep robots safe for humanity.

“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 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 indicating that the benefits for humanity of robots strongly outweigh the risk of misuse, and humans and robots could work side by side to tackle some of the world’s challenges in the future.

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