Growing chorus of experts is raising ethical questions about the future of robotics

"Among the signatories was Peter Asaro, an assistant professor at The New School for Public Engagement in New York and co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

The committee believes that making decisions “about the application of violent force must not be delegated to machines.”

Asaro visited Japan in late 2013, and raised his concerns with the director of the arms control and disarmament division at the Foreign Ministry. He’s also troubled by recent defense policy changes in Japan, particularly the decision to reinterpret the Constitution to allow collective self-defense and the lifting of a decades-old ban on arms exports.

“I think there are a lot of people who are not only concerned in general about that shift within the Constitution, but also what that means for robotics in particular,” he says.

Asaro acknowledges that Japan is a leading robotics innovator and producer. If, he says, Japan is able to sell automated weapons systems in a way it hasn’t been able to for 50 years, its perspective on the economic potential of producing them could really change."