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Columbia Science and Technology Law

This ethical governor is one component of the overall architecture, whose responsibility is to conduct an evaluation of the ethical appropriateness of any lethal response that has been generated for the robot prior to its being enacted. It can be largely viewed as a bolt-on component between a hybrid deliberative-reactive robot architectural system [Arkin 98] and the robot’s actuators, intervening as necessary to prevent an unethical response from occurring. The term governor was inspired by Watts’ invention of the mechanical governor for the steam engine, a device that was intended to ensure that the 1 The principle of proportionality of means, a tenet of Just War Theory, refers to ensuring that acts of war should not yield damage disproportionate to the ends that justify their use. 2 The Principle (or Doctrine) of Double Effect, derived from the Middle Ages and a component of modern Just War Theory, asserts “that while the death or injury of innocents is always wrong, either may be excused if it was not the intended result of a given act of war” [Norman 95, Wells 96]. As long as the collateral damage is an unintended effect (i.e., innocents are not deliberately targeted), it is excusable according to the LOW even if it is foreseen (and that proportionality is adhered to). 5 mechanism behaved safely and within predefined bounds of performance. As the reactive component of a behavioral architecture is in essence a behavioral engine intended for robotic performance, the same notion applies, where here the performance bounds are ethical ones