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Autonomous Assassination

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The assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh might have been conducted by a remote-controlled weapon. While this is still a conventional assassination, it does raise the specter of autonomous assassination automatons—assassin bots. In this context, an assassin bot would be capable of conducting its mission autonomously once it was deployed. Simple machines of this kind already exist—one could think of the land mine as an autonomous assassination device—once deployed it “decides” to activate according to its triggering mechanism. But when one thinks of proper assassin bot, one thinks of a far more complicated machine—one capable of seeking and killing its target in a sophisticated manner. Also, it could be argued that a mine is not an assassination machine—while it can be placed in the hopes of killing a specific person, they lack the hallmarks of an assassin. That is, they do not seek a specific human target to kill them. As such, a proper assassin bot would need to be able to identify their target and attempt to kill them. To the degree that the bot can handle this process without human intervention it would be autonomous. The idea of assassin bots roaming about killing people raises moral concerns. While the technology would be new, there would be no new moral problems here—with one possible exception. The primary ethical matters of assassination involve questions about whether assassination is morally acceptable and debates over specific targets, motivations, and consequences. But unless the means of assassination is especially horrific or indiscriminate the means are not of moral concern—what matters morally is that some means is used to kill a person, be those means a punch, a poniard, a pistol, or poison. To illustrate, it would be odd to say that killing Mohsen Fakhrizadeh with a pistol would be acceptable but killing him as quickly and painfully with a knife would be wrong. Again, methods can matter in terms of being worse or better ways to. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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