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Science & Technology

UN urged to ban autonomous killing machines

By T.K. Randall
April 11, 2015 · Comment icon 32 comments

Will weapons one day decide for themselves who to kill ? Image Credit: US Navy
A new report has urged the United Nations to ban 'killer robots' before countries start to develop them.
As the sophistication of weapon systems increases, so too does the risk that we will one day live in a world where machines can not only operate autonomously but decide for themselves, without human intervention, whether someone lives or dies.

Such a future has already been explored in depth in science fiction books and movies, but now thanks to the advent of increasingly advanced computers and ever-more capable robots and drones such a concept might not be as far away as we think.

In a new report published on Thursday by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School the dangers of autonomous killing machines have been laid bare for all to see - in particular the fact that existing laws would exempt programmers, manufacturers and military commanders from all liability in the event that an automatic platform was to decide that someone should be killed.
The report comes ahead of an international meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems due to be held by the United Nations in Geneva on April 13th and calls for a complete ban "on the development, production and use" of such weapons via an international, legally binding agreement.

"Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist," the report authors wrote. "But technology is moving in their direction, and precursors are already in use or development."

"While traditional weapons are tools in the hands of human beings, fully autonomous weapons, once deployed, would make their own determinations about the use of lethal force."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (32)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #23 Posted by mynameisachu 9 years ago
her's a tip you ban them Russia will mass produce them and kill us all when they start what ever they are planing, and they shouldn't be kidding themselves Russia is already just as powerful as lets say america and if they become batter armed its game over
Comment icon #24 Posted by Father Merrin 9 years ago
her's a tip you ban them Russia will mass produce them and kill us all when they start what ever they are planing, and they shouldn't be kidding themselves Russia is already just as powerful as lets say america and if they become batter armed its game over Russia has the capability to kill us all without investing billions in creating "TERMINATORS"
Comment icon #25 Posted by XenoFish 9 years ago
The future of law enforcement.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Leonardo 9 years ago
The development of autonomous weapons is simply the abrogation of the responsibility of taking another's life. Yes, it is terrible that people kill other people in war - but war is meant to be terrible so we have to consider very, very carefully before engaging in it. Making war 'simple' and removing ourselves from the horror of it will only mean we become accustomed to it and treat war as 'just another thing we do'.
Comment icon #27 Posted by AstralHorus 9 years ago
i doubt very much russians would be a serious threat. Accounting for all the money our country puts into the defense budget. which is like, pretty much all of it.
Comment icon #28 Posted by Gingitsune 9 years ago
"As the sophistication of weapon systems increases, so too does the risk that we will one day live in a world where machines can not only operate autonomously but decide for themselves, without human intervention, whether someone lives or dies." Isn't this the very definition of low tech land mine?
Comment icon #29 Posted by aquatus1 9 years ago
Nah. At least, not traditional ones. Land mine don't decide whether someone lives or dies. They just blow up when triggered, friend or foe alike. Weapons of this kind are referred to as "non-discriminatory". There is a new generation of "smart" mines, but their efficacy is questionable.
Comment icon #30 Posted by theotherguy 9 years ago
Hollow-point bullets, napalm, chlorine, mustard gas... I can see self-directed weaponry being added to this list. How about an autonomous robot that fires hollow-point bullets filled with chlorine gas and set on fire? All the cool evil overlords will have one.
Comment icon #31 Posted by bubblykiss 9 years ago
Hollow-point bullets, napalm, chlorine, mustard gas... I can see self-directed weaponry being added to this list. How about an autonomous robot that fires hollow-point bullets filled with chlorine gas and set on fire? All the cool evil overlords will have one.
Comment icon #32 Posted by Father Merrin 9 years ago
i doubt very much russians would be a serious threat. Accounting for all the money our country puts into the defense budget. which is like, pretty much all of it. Russia is by far the single biggest threat the Western world has, and tensions have been running high since 1947,they have as much heavy firepower and more available soldiers than USA, Russia has as many "declared" nuclear weapons as the USA, but is thought it may hold more than all the nuclear countries usable nuclear weapons combined 5000+, not that that would matter though as any more than 500 (tamper material dependent) high yiel... [More]


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