If you're sweating bullets after seeing Terminator Salvation, Professor Ronald Arkin from Georgia Tech is working on some software that may ease your fears. Or make them worse, you know — either one.
Arkin is working on what's being called an "ethical governor" for combat robots, which will be a software package that informs the 'bots on how to act following the same kind of guidelines human soldiers use — sometimes better than the meatbags themselves.
"Ultimately these systems could have more information to make wiser decisions than a human could make," Arkin told Discovery News, "Some robots are already stronger, faster and smarter than humans. We want to do better than people, to ultimately save more lives."
The success of Arkin's program will probably come down to how flexible and versatile it is in a real combat situation. After all, modern soliders are constantly finding themselves in new and evovling situations, when the rules of engagement aren't always clear. Humans can be held accountable for their actions and brought to justice. Robots? Well, I don't know if "faulty programming" is going to be much of a consolation if something goes wrong.
Either way, even with Arkin's software we probably won't see combat drones operating in the theater of war without human oversight.