Analyzing public attitudes towards the use of autonomous weapons

Weaponization of artificial intelligence presents one of the greatest ethical and technological challenges in the 21st century and has been described as the third revolution in warfare, after the invention of gunpowder and nuclear weapons. Despite the vital importance of this turning point for modern society, legal and ethical practices, and technological development, there is little systematic study of public opinion on this critical issue. Our main objective is to analyze what factors determine public attitudes towards the use of autonomous weapons. To do this, our research will use an innovative methodology of Youth Juries (18-25 years olds) and vignettes that will produce a series of plausible but fictitious scenarios with autonomous weapons that will be presented to a ‘jury’. The jury will consider both problems and future recommendations about the role of AI in military conflict. Rob Wortham will provide technical expertise about the AI and robotics. Elvira Vallejos will design and organize the study. Eugene Miakinkov will contextualize the study in the fields of modern conflict and militarization of technology. The value of this research lies simultaneously in its contribution to the emerging field of autonomous weapons and in generating recommendations that can influence government policy-makers, industry chiefs, and public discourse. This study is thus vital for a critical understanding of public perceptions of AI in armed conflicts and its implications for the future policy and industry decisions. The outputs and dissemination for our project include a workshop at University of Nottingham in April 2017, engagement with a wider public through blogs, radio, and popular press, as well as an academic publication summarizing our findings for the specialist community. The project will take 8 months and cost £5000. Principal Investigator: Eugene Miakinkov (Political and Cultural Studies, Swansea University)
Investigators: Elvira Perez Vallejos (HORIZON Digital Economy Research, University of Nottingham) and Rob Wortham (Department of Computer Science, University of Bath)