The Gun Control Debate is at a Stalemate. Can Smarter Weapons Help to Solve it?

The Gun Control Debate is at a Stalemate. Can Smarter Weapons Help to Solve it?

August 20, 20192 min read

The gun control debate is at a stalemateAmerica seems incapable of finding common ground on background checks, waiting periods, weapons registries and restrictions or bans on select weapons. Shooting after shooting has resulted in decades of debate but little substantive change.

But Professor Selmer Bringsjord from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who recently weighed in on the issue, presented a concept that could turn the entire topic on its head by using artificial intelligence.

Bringsjord accepts that America won’t get rid of its guns – so why not just make our guns smarter?  Ethically AI-enabled weapons can put American politicians back to work by shifting the debate from the weapons we should ban, to the targets we will accept. Do we allow guns to kill school children, shoppers, concert-goers? The technology of ethical AI changes the conversation.  

His idea was just recently published in the Times Union:

“Yet there is a solution, a technological alternative to the fruitless shouting match between politicians: namely, AI — of an ethical sort. Guns that are at once intelligent and ethically correct can put an end to the mass-shooting carnage.

Consider the rifle apparently used by the human killer in the El Paso Walmart shooting. But now suppose that time is turned back to before his shots were fired on Aug. 3, and that his rifle, radically unlike the stupid one that killed, is both intelligent and ethical. This alternate-future rifle would know that it's approaching the Walmart by car and would accordingly know that it has no business being used anytime soon. Move forward in time a bit; the rifle is now in the hands of the aspiring, ear-muffed killer outside his car; but his weapon has fully disengaged itself and is locked into a mode of utter uselessness with the finality of a sealed bank vault. On the other hand, the guns in the hands of law enforcement officers who have dashed on scene know in whose hands they rest, and accordingly know that if they are trained on the would-be killer, they have every right to work well, if this criminal reveals some new threat.

Notice: If people who don't actually pose a threat sufficient to warrant being shot by police can't be shot by smart, ethical guns, a fact that could lead to the welcome evaporation of a different but also vitriolic political shouting match.” -Times Union, August 16, 2019

Could AI be the answer to America’s gun problem? It’s truly a new perspective on an old issue. If you are a reporter covering this topic, let our experts help with your story.

Dr. Selmer Bringsjord is the Chair of the Department of Cognitive Science expert in logic and philosophy, specializing in AI and reasoning. Dr. Bringsjord regularly speaks with media about AI and is available to speak about the concept of intelligent, ethical guns. Simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.

Connect with:
  • Selmer Bringsjord
    Selmer Bringsjord Director, Rensselaer AI & Reasoning Lab; Professor, Cognitive Science and Computer Science

    Expert in logic and philosophy, specializing in AI and reasoning

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