Boston Dynamics and others make anti-gun pledge • The Register

Boston Dynamics and five other robot manufacturers have promised in an open letter that they will not allow their machines or their customers to be armed.

Yes, not to mention robotics companies upgrading their gear for militaries and other organizations, some people are trying to modify commercial robots by attaching their own weapons, said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics.

“We are concerned by the recent surge in makeshift efforts by individuals attempting to arm commercially available robots,” he told Axios on Thursday. “For this technology to gain wide acceptance in society, the public needs to know they can trust it.

The five other organizations along with Boston Dynamics are pledging not to arm their machines and prevent buyers from hacking together their own killer robots are: Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Unitree Robotics, and the nonprofit Open Robotics.

“We promise that we will not arm our general purpose robots with advanced mobility or the software we are developing that enables advanced robotics, and we will not assist others in doing so,” the robotics companies wrote in their open letter.

“Where possible, we will carefully consider our customers’ intended applications to avoid potential arming. We are also committed to studying the development of technological features that could mitigate or reduce these risks. To be clear, we do not confront the existing technologies these nations and their governmental agencies use to defend themselves and uphold their laws.”

That could be a DRM measure that some of us can get behind: preventing customizations that add weapons and other harmful things to robots. We also can’t help but think of being smacked in the face by a Boston Dynamics bot, which would require little to no hardware modifications and would rather be, uh, life-altering for the victim. How to mitigate that doesn’t seem trivial.

Remember, no matter how fancy they dance and move, Boston Dynamics’ robots are ultimately controlled by remote operators. The machines have built-in software and hardware to perform the calculations needed to walk, run, jump, crawl, etc. in real-time in uneven environments and conditions, and can be trained for more complex movements, but they are not advanced AI systems . They go where they are told and hit whoever they are supposed to hit.

The six robotics organizations also urged other companies, developers, researchers and netizens not to build, support or facilitate the development of armed robots and urged governments to introduce policies to regulate the industry. These makeshift weapons could be misused by individuals or authorities to violate civil liberties, they argue.

“We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely controlled or autonomously operated, are widely accessible to the public, and are able to navigate to previously inaccessible places where people live and work introduces new risks of harm and serious ethical issues entails,” the group wrote.

The letter argues that arming will erode trust in these new technologies, and negative public perception could hamper future development and prevent companies from working on robots that benefit society.

“We believe that the benefits of these technologies to humanity far outweigh the risk of misuse, and we look forward to a bright future where humans and robots work side by side to tackle some of the world’s challenges,” concluded you. ® Boston Dynamics and others make anti-gun pledge • The Register

Rick Schindler

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