Heather Roff is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, Research Scientist at the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University and Fellow in the Cybersecurity Initiative at the New America Foundation. She is presently writing a monograph on the legal, moral and political issues associated with autonomous weapons systems.
In 2002, the Magna Science Centre in South Yorkshire witnessed a surprising event: a two foot tall robot, Gaak, escaped from a gladiatorial experiment with learning robots. The experiment, part of the “Living Robots” project, simulated a predator and pray scenario where some robots searched for food (prey) and others hunted for them (predators). Gaak, a predator, was left unattended for fifteen minutes and, in that time, managed to find and navigate along a barrier, find a gap, move through it and continue across a car park to the M1 motorway. Gaak was found rather quickly when a motorist almost collided with it. This story of robot liberation helps us to understand a simple fact about learning machines: they are unpredictable. …
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