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Of Men and Machines. What does the Robotization of the Military Mean from an Ethical Perspective? (Koch)

In short by Gertrud Maria Vaske

Armed drones are specifically directed against persons or groups suspected of involvement in terrorism. For many reasons, this practice – known as “targeted killing” – is regarded as being immoral. In his essay, Dr. Bernhard Koch also cites ethical reasons supporting the use of combat drones. The desire to afford one’s own soldiers the best possible protection and avoid deaths makes the use of drones and military robotics technology seem like an obvious choice. These “machines” look particularly attractive in so far as they allow better reconnaissance and more accurate weapons fire while remaining safely out of the enemy’s reach.

The robotization of the military creates the impression of a “risk minimization war”. Koch refers to the British sociologist Martin Shaw, who sees instead the danger of “risk transfer wars”, i.e. that the use of combat drones in warfare will render the conventional containment of combat zones obsolete, and hence create a global risk of violence – especially for civilians.

Koch asks what are the ultimate consequences of the full automation of combat activities, and hence of killing? He calls for an examination of the technological, ethical and international law implications, particularly with regard to responsibility for weapons fire and actually ensuring the protection and safety of civilians.

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