Ethical and social issues in the design of weapon control computer interfaces


Conference Paper

With the ubiquitous presence of computing, the impact of computer-control on a user's sense of autonomy and moral responsibility and the responsibilities of designers when building such systems, especially those that directly impact human life, have become topics of considerable ethical interest This paper will examine the ethical and social issues surrounding the design of human-computer interfaces that are designed for weapon control systems using the development of a computer interface for the U.S. Navy's Tactical Tomahawk missile as a case study. Faced with the task of designing an interface for a weapon like the Tactical Tomahawk that can be retargeted in flight with the click of a mouse, the designing engineer must understand the social and ethical implications of both critical design elements as well as decision biases that are introduced through both cognitive and social sources. It is possible that designing "user-friendly" interfaces for the sole purpose of destruction and death can afford a moral buffer that diminishes controllers' sense of responsibility and autonomy, which could allow people to make decisions more quickly and without proper consideration of all the consequences. When designing a human-computer interface for a weapon control system, it is imperative that engineers understand not only what physical and cognitive human limitations exist, but also how human behavior can compromise both the system's mission and a sense of moral responsibility. © 2003 IEEE.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Cummings, ML

Published Date

  • December 1, 2003

Published In

  • 2003 International Symposium on Technology and Society: Crime Prevention, Security and Design, Istas/Cpted 2003 Proceedings

Start / End Page

  • 14 - 18

International Standard Book Number 10 (ISBN-10)

  • 0780383176

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780780383173

Citation Source

  • Scopus