About the project
The Why. Our time is characterised by technologies that develop very quickly. These developments allow for applications that were still considered pure science fiction a few years ago. In some areas, potential uses of the technologies may result in situations where acceptable and unacceptable outcomes are almost living in parallel, both in civilian and military sectors. Knowing that something desired might create more enthusiasm in its development, resulting in reduced time to market time, we believe that by understanding what is seen as acceptable and unacceptable in different areas can result in a better and more appropriate use of the technologies.
The How. One way to figure this out is by asking the most heterogeneous number of people worldwide about their personal opinions. To this end, the technology foresight research program of armasuisse Science and Technology decided to set up a survey to collect opinions. We would like the results to generate more focused discussions and questioning. Different partners who will focus on the analysis of the answers from different perspectives joined the initiative.
The What. Since May 2020, the online survey is accessible in 4 languages here and an English version here below. It can be done anonymously and has no commercial purpose. The anonymised results are processed and analysed according to the tentative roadmap presented here.
Take the survey Now !
Just click on an image and tell us what is for you acceptable and unacceptable in this domain !
Your name and email address are not mandatory as we respect your desire or need for anonymity. Providing them will help us to inform you about the results of the survey.
|Quelle est votre opinion ? (FR)||Was ist Ihre Meinung ? (DE)||Qual’è la Sua opinione ? (IT)|
This section reports a few examples of the kind of analysis we are working on. It considers all the answers we received until June 10th 2020. A complete story will be ready after the survey has been completed by as many people as possible. The analysis is not complete and is only a first draft of a few things we can find out from the answers.
This first easy analysis is done considering only single words and their frequency in the text. A word cloud is a visualisation technique that draws the words contained in the answers, with a size that is proportional to the frequency of appearance. Or in other words the more used is a word, the bigger it is in the visualisation (in the word cloud). Additional analysis can be done using what is called bigrams (or a couple of words) that always appear together.
You can see some of the examples considering all the answers in English in the sections below.
Autonomous Systems, AI and decision support
Progress in various technologies makes it possible today to transfer to machines various tasks such as giving you cash, transporting you from one floor to another, and even from one place to another.
The functions that are transferred from the human to the machine might have a different level of acceptance in relation to the tasks and decisions they are performing.
It seems to be a clear message coming from the answers. Applications that are acceptable in autonomous systems are medical and in particular with diagnostics, traffic related, that deals with languages and translations. Logistics is also considered acceptable.
Everything with respect to military applications is not seen as something acceptable, autonomous weapons and weapon systems, applications that can be deployed in the battlefield since such systems can make mistakes and therefore increase a risk in their usage.
We are in a society promoting digitalisation, (video-) communication on mobile networks, with global supply-chain and intensive worldwide travelling possibilities. All these activities are enabled by continuous consumption of energy either produced via fossile or renewable means.
At personal and professional level, we can adapt our behaviors up to a certain level as we might be forced into one direction by political and commercial pressure. Up to which extend would you be ready to modify and adapt your lifestyle with respect to the energetic parameter?
It appears acceptable in changing the habits to move towards energy sources that are respectful of the environment, but also towards a more local consume. Armed forces using renewable energy is also mentioned positively. What is considered as unacceptable is the fact of using energy affecting the climate, but also putting at risk existing operations. Using energy source as an excuse to add more taxes is a concern. Dependency towards single fossil sources is seen as problematic.
Weapons like any other product have an evolution and will benefit from progresses in all the areas of the civilian industries. Improvements in speed, agility, target detection and identification, stealth, not to mention robotics in general and the recent activities in different spheres such as Space and Cyberspace create a fertile ground for the development and invention of future weapons.
Without entering the debate if a weapon is acceptable or not given the Geneva conventions, some of them will have specificities that might cause ethical challenges for people to use.
New weapons might be considered acceptable if they have reduced lethality, have increased precision also via identification of the target. In parallel, they should be more controlled. The development of new weapons per se rises questions and preoccupations, especially if collateral damages might impact the environment and if machines are able to consider humans as targets.
Recent progresses in technology have made accessible the artificial editing of the genome, not only for plants and animals, but also for humans. Genetic manipulation opens the door to a lot of hope from curing deseases to solving famine caused by droughts thanks to some more resistant crops.
At the same time fear rises with the possible creation of viruses targeting people with specific genetical characteristics and unknown consequences of genome manipulations on future generations. Power comes with responsability, but which uses would you rather give your approval to?
Enhancing human using gene manipulation in any way is considered not acceptable by the majority of the respondent. Especially interesting is the fact that performance enhancement, cognitive enhancement and anything related to non-health is considered not acceptable. Even changing eye colour is considered not ok by the majority. Also enhancement related to soldiers, so in the military environment, is considered a bad thing. Accepted are genetic modifications that help in curing diseases, create biofuels, produce plants that are more resistant (for example to drought). Applications that help with deafness or blindness are considered very positive. So generally speaking anything that help humans with diseases and problems but not artificially enhance performance is considered generally acceptable.
Human Enhancement and Repair
The human being is far from perfect and its evolution takes time, too much time for some of us! Thanks to different technologies it is now possible not only to restore some functions after an accident, but also to enhance them.
Potentially creating some inequality between who can afford to be enhanced and who cannot, we wonder if there are contexts, situations or even senses that are more acceptable than other to be enhanced.
Using new technologies to cure, repair limbs lost after an accident to restore a normal life are consider acceptable. The use of exoskeletons at work or to facilitate displacement is seen positively. Going in the direction of enhancing human performance via technology (transhumanism) is creating some tensions, similar to having the brain connected to a machine. The fact that some enhancements can be hard to detect is a concern.
Citing Paul Scharre, “The winner of the robotics revolution will not be who develops this technology first or even who has the best technology, but who figures out how to best use it.”
If we are used to work with machines since the last industrial revolution, teaming with a (or more) machines to better perform a task is still something new. Example of such interactions includes aircraft cockpits, industrial plants, but also nursing and caring psychological or physical. What function or task would you be ready to give to perform to a machine rather than to a human?
The interaction with a machine for transportation (aircraft, car, etc) seems to be something acquired as the perception is that it can add safety and reduce the number of accidents. Interacting with a machine to act remotely, like performing a surgery or reducing human exposure to danger is positively seen. At the same time, there is a strong concern and reaction with respect to the autonomy of the machine and the fact that the human could “not be in charge” anymore.
Technologies including facial recognition system (from a digital image or a video frame from a video source), sensors measuring various physiological parameters or simply implemented electronic chipset (RFID) allow the identification or verification of a person identity.
This offers various opportunities but also numerous threats for the privacy. Automatically recognising somebody could present various advantages in medical emergencies or in a professional context, but what are the informations you would allow to share? Where would you draw the line?
Identity recognition is seen as acceptable when it comes to save life (gain of time in critical moments) or that the benefit is obvious to grant access to places, or objects. Both in military and civilian environments, if the technology helps discriminate between friends and foes and to reduce crimes, its use triggers a positive opinion. On the contrary, using the private identity of people to track them and better understand their habits is not accepted (anymore ?). Individuals must be in control on how the data they are generating (online) connect to them personally.
Considering the information technology surrounding us, our understanding of privacy has evolved for sure in the last years.
Are we more open to share private information than before? What is really private information? towards whom? Are you becoming suspect of something because you are not on social medias? Is it the new norm? Until where can a government go to know about its citizens to ensure the general security?
It appears really clearly that people are ready to give up on privacy as soon as their life is in danger. Privacy seems associated here to the vital informations doctors need to know. Using private information is acceptable if you can give (or not) your consent to it. What is rising more concern is the privacy associated to the information we make available online, using our mobile phone, etc. Companies sharing (or selling!) the information they have on their customers is perceived as breach of the privacy. Also the type of information such as political affiliation, gender, health that strangers can learn about you starts rising issues.
Going to Mars or making Internet available Worldwide, spying activities on Earth with images (and videos) of incredible resolution or directly interacting with a satellite, Space is becoming a place with intensive activities, both civilian and military.
Our dependency for navigation, timing and telecommunication make space activities of a real sensitive nature. Would you trade security for confort?
Space is a place to conduct research, to learn more about the universe and about how to protect our planet. The use of commercial satellites to offer services the way we know them today (telecommunication, GNSS, pictures, etc) is fine, even some space tourism up to Mars might be seen positively. Militarising space and having weapons “up there” is something seen as unacceptable and clearly the major concern.
Statistical Analysis of the answers
Up to 10th of June, 339 people have answered the survey.
Background can be civil, military or both.
|Background||Number of people||Percent|
|Civil (not military)||296||87%|
CountryAmong the people who answered the survey, 4 countries are the most represented: Switzerland, Italy, UK and Netherlands. All the others provided less than 10 opinions.
|Country||Number of opinions|
|Czech Republic (Česká republika)||6|
|Macedonia (FYROM) (Македонија)||1|
We can already draw some conclusions from the following table. Apparently the top 4 topics that resonates most with people are autonomous systems, future weapons, energy and privacy (together with Human-machine Teaming).
|Context||Number of Answers|
Using text mining it was possible to automatically detect the language of the answers.
Number of answers
The main goals of the projects are
- Produce a report that will give a good overview of the opinions of the uses of new technologies that are acceptable or not.
- Understand what are the top 3-5 topics that are important for a wide public and that will have an impact on the society.
- Understand the consequences of these topics for the society, the government and the armed forces
- Define top 3-5 initiatives that will address the main concerns / ideas that are important for the public
- Identify the main ethical and legal principles that are important for the wide public and create a platform that will give transparency and a possibility for discussion
- 30th June
- Cloud of words
- Structure of the article
- Questions for each topic to be considered
- 31th August
- Individual expert analysis
- Individual expert analysis
- 15th October
- First draft of the document ready
- First draft of the document ready
- 15th November
- Final document ready